Meanwhile back at the ranch

Duane performs: \’Meanwhile Back at the Ranch\’

Those of you who go back to the days of cowboy shows on the radio may remember that phrase. The Lone Ranger, Hopalong Cassidy, or some other straight shooter would be chasing bad guys on their latest adventure. Then to thicken the always thin plot, the announcer would take us back to the ranch for the sub plot developing there.

That would be The Three D’s scenario. Even when we were on the road performing, we were not as Willie Nelson sings, “like a band of gypsies going down the highway.” We were husbands and fathers enjoying our work, but also earning money to pay the bills, and constantly calling home to find out how things were going “meanwhile back at the ranch.”

As an entertainer and writer I have had and still have world class support. Diane didn’t just manage the home front while I was gone. She poured her love over our 15 children, the neighbors, and strangers. And, as Kenny Rogers sang it, “She believed in me.” After she died of cancer, I was privileged to marry Sharon., wonderful wife, marvelous mother and now grandmother, to our 52 and counting. As a bonus blessing She has a beautiful singing voice and talented fingers on the keyboard.

And incredibly our children always behaved with complete obedience and maturity. I firmly believe this. I also firmly believe that our goats never jump the fence and prune the neighbors’ landscaping, and that any child’s squabble in our family was always the other person’s fault. Under the tutelage of my children I almost believe that “F” on a report card means fine, “D” means dandy, and “I” stands for incredible.

So I was taken aback somewhat by some stories our children related this summer at our annual family conference. They agreed to share after I agreed that the statute of limitations had run out on all childhood mischief.

One of the rules our family grew up under was that you could watch anything on television. All you had to do was get it approved, and schedule it. We never had to worry about approving because nobody ever scheduled anything, ever. Except me; as a public service I scheduled Brigham Young University football and basketball games. This was to show other members of the family that television can be an educational and uplifting experience. If BYU wins. Otherwise the television set can make us grumpy for days. It could possibly even experience a shoe through its picture tube if we fumble on the one yard line.

I thought our children understood and supported this enlightened view of managing the television set until Sharon and I came home one night. As usual the children were reading, conversing, and studying, as uplifting music softly played in the background. But for some reason, two scenes popped through my mind, one was Jack Palance, one of my favorite gritty actors. In a war movie titled “Attack.” Sergeant Jack looks down on a small German town, turns to his patrol and mutters, “Quiet down there. Too quiet.” It was.

The second scene was from the old Lone Ranger radio shows I mentioned above. LR and his faithful companion Tonto were always riding up on an outlaw camp only to find the bad guys had left. Trail wise Tonto would leap off his pony, feel the ground under the ashes and report, “Not long gone Kimo Sabe. Campfire still warm.”

So Tonto-like, I felt the top of the TV and announced to the children, “Not long turned off Kimo Sabe. TV still warm.”

That solved the problem. After that, the TV was always cool on top when we came home. “Cool here, too cool,” I should have realized. “Campfire cold Kimo Sabe. Like maybe they left last winter.” Turns out, I learned from our family conference story times, that the children would still watch unscheduled TV when we were out, but they would put an ice cube tray on top of the TV to cover their tracks. The famous law of unintended consequences had kicked in. I was teaching obedience. They were learning creativity.

And I was learning that whatever important outside business we may be involved in, nothing is as important as what goes on “meanwhile back at the ranch.”

What’s in a name?

Duane Hiatt performs \"What\'s in a name?\"

“The Three D’s; that’s the corniest name I’ve every heard.” So spake our producer at Capitol Records when we signed with them.

“We’re thinking, something more hip and folk sounding, like “The Salt City Three.”

“Doesn’t pop on the marquee or the newspaper,” our agent in Las Vegas told us when we played there with Sandi Griffiths and Sally Flynn two beautiful and talented BYU coeds who later starred on the Lawrence Welk TV show for many seasons.

Our Vegas man suggested, “Because of your image and your show the papers are calling you, ‘Purity Playhouse.’ The swingers in Vegas have a saying when they when they score with a good looking woman they call it, ‘good clean fun.’ We should name your group that, then people can take it either way they want to” he said with a wink and a smirk. We decided that idea, could as they say, “stay in Vegas.”

Instead we performed as “The Three D’s and Sandi and Sally;” not shocking or sophisticated, but accurate.

Admittedly our name was not as cute as The Beatles, as rootless as The Rolling Stones, as exotic as The Kingston (Jamaica) Trio, as homey as The Mamas and Pappas or as startling as Bare Naked Ladies. But The Three D’s has been a very serviceable name. It’s short. We can spell it. Nobody else seems to want copy it. It’s a work plug of a name, not a thoroughbred.

Some people told us The Three D’s evoked memories of watching movies through cardboard glasses. Others asked us if we copied it off our school report card, or if it stood for “dumb, dumber, and dumbest or “duh, duh, and duh.”

The name was born more of desperation than inspiration. Dick, Denis and I had thrown around and out many names in the beginning. None of them stuck. Hey it’s hard to come up with a name. As Dave Berry said about the title of his newest book, “Titles are hard to come by. Most of the best ones have already been taken like ‘Thirty Days to Thinner Thighs, and The Bible.”

Then one night a nervous mc insisted we had to give him a name so he could introduce us. Richard Davis and I grew up together in a little wide-place-in-the-road town in Utah named Payson. His mom called him Richard. To the rest of us he was Rick. Watching the uncomfortable mc I searched for something he could call us. I thought, “Hmm, Denis, Duane both start with ‘D’. Three D’s has implications of dimensions. That’s a concept we could build on since we do a variety of music and comedy.”

I said, “Rick if you would go by ‘Dick’ we could call ourselves The Three D’s.” How about it?”

“One letter, R or D, makes no ‘rifference’ to me,” he said or something like that.

The rest as they say is history or in our case a small footnote to an obscure page in a little known history. Actually we did share a moment in history. LDS Church President Howard W. Hunter was speaking before a crowd of about 25,000 at Brigham Young University. He began his talk saying, “Years ago there was a popular music group… named the Three D’s. They took that name from the three singers’ first names. My fear is that if in the nineties our young people were to form a popular singing group, they might still call themselves the Three D’s, but that could be for Despair, Doom, and Discouragement.”

At that moment a nutcase named Cody Judy burst through the door waving a brick size object. “This is a bomb. Don’t anybody move!” He ran down the stairs to the podium and demanded that President Hunter resign as prophet and president of the Church and make him the new prophet.

He got distracted momentarily. Security and the crowd jumped him, and his short reign as self-appointed prophet was over.
I was relieved. I thought for a moment he was a disgruntled audience member from a Three D’s show who wanted his ticket