Creekbank Blog

The writing blog of Curt Iles and Creekbank Stories. Our mission: To connect hearts to God by using stories of encouragement and inspiration.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Sign Phantom of Dry Creek

See the real shocking picture below.

Dry Creek Camp is doing a great job of hosting Southern Gospel groups in the Tabernacle. They recently hosted the legendary Dixie Echoes.

However, they left the sign intact the following week and April Fool's Night was too big a temptation for the Sign Phantom (see blog below for the full story and history.)

So with the changing of a few letters, a new concert was "scheduled."

The conservative Baptist Camp got quite a few calls on this one.

This sign brought to mind the famous "Dry Creek Sign Phantom."
To learn more and see pictures, read below.

A complete list of the signs are below.

The Sign Phantom of Dry Creek
From the book, The Old House, by Curt Iles

It all began in the Spring of of 1974, just prior to my graduation from high school. A rainy April had kept the local streams flooded in “Dry Creek.” (The world’s most overworked cliché, “Well, how wet is it in Dry Creek?”)
One afternoon I went down to the green “Dry Creek” sign that informs the northbound traveler that they are entering our community. Over the “Dry” in Dry Creek I taped a white poster board sign saying “Wet.” It now read, “Wet Creek.” It was widely noticed and laughed at by everyone.
The Lake Charles American Press even ran a picture of the sign, in a story commenting on our wet spring. The caption read in part, “The Highway Department is looking for the ‘wag’ that placed this sign, in defiance of regulations prohibiting the defacing of public signs.” This kind of caused me to lay low on my sign authorship. But for some reason, everyone in Dry Creek knew I’d done it.
Shortly after that, I placed another sign. This sign (to appease my humor-challenged highway department friends) was tied by hay string to the signposts below the Dry Creek sign. It read:
Fun City, U.S.A.

This sign was meant as a final tribute to my soon to be former home as the prodigal left “the sticks” for bigger and better things in college. To understand this sign, you must know something about Dry Creek- both the stream and the community.

To some, the name Dry Creek conjures up a small community in southwestern Louisiana. Others think of the church camp of the same name that has been in existence there for over seventy-five years. Then, some folks think of one of our three churches or two crossroads stores

The creek called Dry Creek is a small, muddy, steep-banked stream that meanders through the southeast corner of Beauregard Parish. It is not very wide, deep, or pretty. It was first named by the Indians. One old timer related as to how he’d been told the Indians really called it “Beautiful Creek,” but the English translation got messed up and came out as “Dry Creek.” Others claim the more traditional story of its name coming from the fact that the creek dries up in places in very dry weather.
Then, there is the geographical area known as Dry Creek. To call the community of Dry Creek a “town” is a gross exaggeration. Nestled among pine uplands and hardwood creek bottoms, Dry Creek is simply an intersection of two highways. We have a post office, a church Camp, two stores, and some really good churches, but very little in the way of commerce or industry.
This still happens to me from time to time: A first time visitor will stand in the Post Office parking lot across from Foreman’s Grocery and innocently ask, “Now, where is the actual community of Dry Creek located?” It’s always fun to answer with a smile, “Friend, you’re now standing right in the middle of downtown.”

Not much exciting has ever happened exciting in our community. Growing up I only remember two really big events- Once, when a crop-dusting airplane crash-landed on the highway, and the other when the post office was robbed. Therefore, to call Dry Creek, “Fun City, U.S.A.” was to make light of what most anyone would agree is a quiet and boring community.
Later during the fall of 1974, I returned home from college, and was informed that “my signs” had continued to appear. My pleas of innocence were met with knowing smiles and winks. According to local folks, these signs had continued to appear at the same location poking fun at our community with such gems as:
“Hee Haw Filmed Here,”
“Airport Next Exit,”
and “Famous for Nothing.”

Even though no one believed my repeated denials, I had a good idea who the real sign phantom was. Later that year on another visit home, I saw a new sign and both the humor and handwriting gave it away. This sign related to the predicted “swine flu” epidemic that was of grave concern in 1975. Doctors were advising many people, especially the elderly to receive vaccines. This new sign read:

“We ain’t gonna give our hogs no flu shots.”

I immediately knew my father was the sign phantom. My dad, a lifetime highway department worker and church deacon, reluctantly admitted to me that he had continued the sign tradition. In the coming months when I would be home, he would enlist my help accompanying him to help put up his signs.
I’d always know, even without seeing him, when he was preparing a sign by the sound, from the back room, of him laughing softly as the squeaking of the magic marker announced a new sign was on the way.
We’d leave out late at night to put up the signs. His signs at this time continued on their themes of small town life and country values such as:
“Shop our Modern Mall,”
“It Sure Ain’t Heaven,”
and “Toll Bridge- One Mile Ahead.”
Our longtime postmaster, Kat King, told of a stranger stopping at the post office for directions on how to avoid the toll bridge. A female driver wanted to know how to get to the nearby mall.
The signs continued and the legend of the Sign Phantom grew. I was still the number one suspect and no manner of denying could stop folks from believing it. All of my alibis about my being away from Dry Creek were not believed. At that time, I don’t believe anyone even suspected my quiet and respectable dad.
Even though our community is small, many travelers pass through Dry Creek on their way to DeRidder or Bundick Lake. The story of the signs at the Dry Creek bridge began to spread throughout southwest Louisiana. Folks would stop in at the store to comment on the signs, and even complain about their absence, if no sign was up. (Some signs, especially those controversial, never stayed up very long. Any sign, commenting on hunting, religion, or Edwin Edwards, were quickly ripped down.) But this never bothered the Sign Phantom of Dry Creek, who never seemed to have writers’ block or run out of new ideas.
One lady from Westlake, who traveled our way weekly to her fishing camp, sent a letter addressed to the Dry Creek Chamber of Commerce. For anyone to think we had a Chamber of Commerce really tickled us. Her letter had many questions about the signs. She said that each week her entire family began leaning forward in their seats to see what the latest sign said. She listed these as her favorites:
“We Have a Fine Sense of Rumor,”
“Crossroads to Nowhere,”
and “First Annual Fire Ant Festival Next Week.”

Many times the Sign Phantom commented on current events:
“Wedding Saturday Night Baptist Church- Bo and Hope” (From the soap opera Days of our Lives),

“Herb Lives in Dry Creek” (From the famous Burger King Ad series)

“Killer Bees- Death Awaits You Here” (As the dreaded killer bees approached Texas)
and “Protected by Patriot Missiles” (During Operation Desert Storm).

Additional social comments were made on signs such as:
Gun control- “Our wives, maybe. Our guns, never!”
The lottery- “Waiting for the lottery to make us all rich.”
Hunting- “Do not shoot squirrels that wave or smile at you.”
And even professional wrestling- “Don’t tell us that wrestling is fake!”
One of my personal favorites concerned an event that took place about fifteen years ago. Up in a bay in Washington State, three whales were trapped and could not swim out due to the shallow water at the bay entrance. For several weeks, the national news media kept Americans informed as the plight of the whales. Volunteers from groups, such as Greenpeace, stayed at the bay attempting to help the whales.
That same week, a sign appeared on the Dry Creek sign:
“Help save the three gar trapped in Bundick Lake.”

Through the years people never believed it was my dad making these signs. I eventually began answering all inquiries with the plain truth, “It’s my daddy doing them, not me.” Usually they just laughed as if I was the world's greatest liar.
All in all, the hundreds of signs that were posted at the bridge were a commentary about our world during the 70s and 80s... and Dry Creek’s (or more specifically, my dad’s) reaction to it.
Some of the signs were not understood by Dry Creek natives. The meaning of a sign in 1990 was questioned by one older resident. “Clayton,” this man asked my dad, “What does that sign ‘We Dance with Coyotes’ mean?’” Evidently, he hadn’t been to the movies in a while, and didn’t even know who Kevin Costner was.
As I think of the many signs over the years, I recall my all time favorite. It can best be appreciated by an outsider driving through our community:
“Don’t laugh. Your daughter may marry a Dry Creek Boy”

I bet my mother-in-law up in north Louisiana, and many other parents who’ve lost a daughter to a Dry Creek boy, can really appreciate that sign penned by the Sign Phantom of Dry Creek.
Sometimes during the early 1990’s, the Highway Department came and moved the Dry Creek sign away from the bridge and closer to the community. They placed it right across from Turner’s Grocery. That is when Daddy quit putting up his signs. He said the resident’s dogs barked too much when he went to this new location at night. However, the legend of the Sign Phantom still lives on in the community of Dry Creek, Louisiana, better known as “Fun City, USA.”

Signs of the Sign Phantom 1974-1992

Everyone’s favorite story from my previous book, The Old House, was “The Sign Phantom.” It told of my dad’s hilarious roadside signs as you entered the community of Dry Creek. The following is a list of all the signs as he remembered them. You may not understand them all.
(You would have needed to have been there on some of them.) But they are representative of his neat sense of humor:
Flag burner - you have been warned!
Peacocks At Large
Caution - Adults at Play
Register for free Ford Torino
Home of the Bionic Dog
Airport next exit
No diving from this bridge
Toll Bridge - one half mile
Shop our modern mall
The original Sign Phantom work (circa 1974)

Gateway to Doodle Fork
Going on vacation? - visit Reeves
Famous for Nothing
It sure ain’t heaven
We have a great sense of rumor
Stay at our “no-tell” motel
Danger - Skylab landing area
Welcome to Fantasy Island
Get rid of ugly fat - divorce him
One horse town with a sick horse
Equal rights for men rally Saturday
Stop in and make an enemy
Just opened - Tattoo Parlor

Annual Sideburn Pageant
Nude Bathing at Morrow Bridge
Hee Haw filmed here
Now open: Massage Parlor
The Shah will not spend Christmas in Dry Creek
Billy Carter would like Dry Creek
Crossroads to nowhere
Hunters get help - join doe shooters anonymous
Welcome Cuban refugees
Our wives: Maybe, Our guns: Never
Under quarantine: Sleeping sickness
Just happy primitive people here
Move the Olympics to Dry Creek
We ain’t gonna give our hogs no flu shots
Satellite capital of the world
Herb lives in Dry Creek (from the famous Burger King ad)
Night Hunters - look out for Rudolph
Remember what happened to Grandma
Wedding Saturday night, Baptist Church - Bo and Hope

Our sex symbol: Alan Tumey
(referring to a well known nerdy KPLC-TV reporter)

Evidently, Alan is still proud of "his sign" as he sent this to a friend several years ago.

Deep in the heart of taxes
Protected by Patriot Missiles
“Stormin' Norman” could not control this place
On this site in 1901: Nothing Happened
Yield right-of-way to fire engines
First annual fire ant festival next weekend
Daddy's signs at election time never stayed up long:
Ban all elections*
Shame on you, Edwin* (Edwin Edwins, our longtime governor)
Come back, Treen*
Gov. Edwards crapped out*
What election?*
* Daddy loved to poke fun at politics and elections, especially anything that involved Edwin Edwards.
We dance with Coyotes
Don’t tell us wrestling is fake
J.R. would have a ball around here
Winter home of Bigfoot
Welcome Patty Hearst
Deer Hunters: Bambi – No/Bambi’s mother – Never!
Bo don’t know Dry Creek
Home of the Ugly Trucks
Killer bees, death awaits you here
River boat gambling on Whiskey Chitto
Come back Charley Mac
Do not shoot squirrels that wave or smile at you
Our deer are armed and trained to shoot back
Waiting for the lottery to make us all rich
Opening here soon - Dr. Red Duke’s medical center
Free the 3 gar trapped in Bundick Lake
Welcome to Saturday Night Dead
Boyhood home of Spuds McKenzie
1064 - The combined IQ of everyone in Dry Creek
Entering the time tunnel
Beware of Rabid squirrels
Home of “Black” Iles - tour guide dog
Since we gave up all hope - we feel lots better
Khadaffy wouldn’t last 30 minutes here
No bungee jumping off Dry Creek Bridge
Where caterpillars grow on trees - not money
Latest gossip just ahead
2 - Live Crew in concert here Saturday
Do not pet or tease our coyotes
We miss you Boss Hogg
Take a stray dog to lunch
Don’t laugh your daughter may marry a Dry Creek boy!


Tuesday, April 01, 2008

A Brighter Day for Louisiana

I've been a "Louisianian" (doesn't that word roll off your tongue well) for all of my life. In those fifty plus years, I've never been prouder to say this is my state than now. (I've always been proud, have chosen to live here, raise my family, and cast my lot as a citizen.)

I believe we are at a wonderful crossroads of opportunity for our state. New state leadership, our continuing recovery from the storms, and a fresh wind of change blowing across Louisiana have me excited.

I've decided to make a personal list of five (5) things I will do to continue being part of making our state better. These 5 steps are simple, but what I can-- and will--do.

1. I will speak positively about our state. Sure, I'll laugh and enjoy the jokes, but I will be serious about sharing the beauty, benefits, and benevolence of Louisiana.

2. I will keep the roadsides near my home litter-free. I live on a state highway and the trash accumulates quickly. Our litter is a blight on the state and drives off business and gives such a negative impression to visitors.
So I'll do what I can-- Keep my section of La. 394 clean.
One of my childhood friends, who now resides in Oregon, told me of how different litter is in the Northwest. All carbonated bottles/cans have a nickel deposit. If they can do it, why can't we in Louisiana?
When we clean up our trash problem (and we can) we will be a much better state.
I've chosen to be part of that solution along La. 394.

3. I'll be personally involved in helping with the education of our children. As a former teacher/principal I know how a good education benefits everyone.
As a writer, I will seek out opportunities to be at schools and among young people reading, telling stories, and encouraging learning. We must do better on education if Louisiana is to be better. We can do it, but everyone must help.

4. I will look for ways to help the less fortunate. The days after Katrina and Rita reminded me of how good-hearted our citizens are. The way that my area, SW Louisiana, opened its arms, homes, and hearts to Katrina evacuees, and then responded pro-actively to our own storm, Rita, still moves me deeply. (A shameless plug: My book, Hearts across the Water, is about the good done by our citizens after the Asian tsunami and hurricanes. )
Our citizens are always generous and giving. I'll not wait until a future disaster to care about my neighbor.

5. Finally, I'll positively share that there is a spiritual answer for every situation, need, and problem. Without being preachy, I will point others to what I've found to be the answer to every need I have: "On Christ the solid rock I stand. All other ground is sinking sand." When folk's hearts are changed, families, cities, and a state can be changed.

Well, I'll end this sermon/post/blog. I'd better get out to the highway, there's plenty of trash waiting for me.

Let's make Louisiana the best it can be. Together, we can.

Curt Iles