Porter Rockwell, the man and the movie

I wanted to put the grammar, (not the glamour) of motion pictures and television on a live stage. Elizabethan writers, mostly William Shakespeare turned the primitive English tongue into an elegant art form. Likewise the first motion pictures were clumsy and haphazard compared to the powerful (for good or ill) communications medium they are today. The first movies were pretty much point, shoot, and show. Sort of equivalent to tossing words at a page and hoping they turn into a story.

Later directors, most notably D.W. Griffith turned the camera, editing booth, and later the sound track into powerful tools to capture our minds and emotions. Their system is so universal in film and television today that we hardly notice it, and can barely imagine a motion picture presented in any other way.

The basic grammar is: start the scene with a long shot to orient the viewer, cut to medium shots for interaction between the actors, go to tight close ups for intimate thoughts or words. Use music to change scenes and set moods.

For breaks in the forward movement of the story, or big changes in scenes, go back to the long shot and start the process again.

I wanted to try that approach on stage.

However, instead of panoramic scenes, multiple camera shoots, post production editing bays, special effects, symphony orchestra backgrounds and a “cast of thousands” mine would be a one man, one guitar spectacular. This was a disadvantage. But the advantage was this show would be presented in the finest performance hall in the world, the theater in each person’s mind.

Star of the show was Porter Rockwell, AKA, “Ol’ Port, frontier marshal, body guard, and personal friend to Joseph Smith and later Brigham Young. Feared by outlaws, appreciated by law abiding folks, and one of my personal heroes.

For ten years or so, I took the show all over California and many other cities in the United States. Port was always an audience pleaser. After the show lines of people came up, women to talk about the aesthetic nuances of the presentation, men to tell me their favorite Porter Rockwell story.

Part of the appeal was Ol’ Port himself. He was known to dip into the “valley tan” home brew, but was not the drunken hired gun portrayed by his enemies. He was an ally to the threatened, and a good neighbor. But when they murdered his boyhood friend Joseph Smith, he swore justice on any law breakers, and he used his skills to track, relentlessly pursue, and when necessary, close the deal with hot lead to fulfill his oath.

Ol’ Port’s adventures, colorful character, and personal challenges fired the imagination of the audience. They willingly leaped into the saddle and rode with him. Folk songs and ballads about him, some of them I wrote, moved him from one scene to the next. Voice characterizations and body language placed other people in the scenes. Guitar chords occasionally punctuated the dialogue, or added a sound effect. But these were only suggestions to launch the individualized story playing in the imagination of each audience member.

Ol’ Port is one of the most enjoyable and successful performances I have done on stage. His long gallop over the years would indicate that a lot of folks enjoyed riding with him.

Mormon Heritage CD is on itunes


This is Dan, Duane’s son. I work with dad in filling orders, producing CD’s and trying to keep the website up and running. We have had several people ask if our music was available on itunes and other online music services. I looked into it and we decided to give it a try with our best selling CD, the Three D’s “Mormon Heritage” CD.

After some work, we got it up on itunes. The tracks for the different songs split out wherever there is a break on the CD, so some of the individual songs come out in kind of strange places. I think it might work best to purchase the whole CD rather than individual songs, although some of my favorite songs like ‘The Iron Horse’ and ‘Lonesome, Roving Wolves’ and The Three D’s rendition of ‘Come, Come Ye Saints’ are nice to have to play separately.

But just so you know the CD is there for $19.99, it is also on sale at another site (called CD Baby) for $14.99. We can’t set the pricing for itunes, but set it for CD Baby and since we don’t have to pay for shipping or producing CDs, we wanted to pass the savings on to you. The link to CD Baby is

Let me know if you have any comments or problems downloading either of these CD’s. Thank you for listening and for your support!

Dan Hiatt

Family Calamities

I was once asked to give a pep talk to a Red Cross meeting. Before I spoke they gave a report on the goodly works they had performed that year. Among the rescues, humanitarian efforts and community services, they mentioned a considerable number of what they titled “Single Family Disasters.” In my opening remarks I said, “Thank you for giving me the proper title for Single Family Disasters. We have been calling ours “Family Home Evening.” I didn’t mention The Red Cross had not assisted us in these little bumps in our road to eternal familyhood; didn’t even offer a Band Aid.

For the uninitiated, Family Home Evening is a Mormon practice where we gather our families on Monday evening for instruction, activities, and a treat. It has been described as an evening of argument that begins and ends with prayer. We have our share of differing opinions, but they are usually handled amicably, and a good treat at the end supersedes all problems.

Every family experiences challenges, even the families who sit shiny and spiffed up on the church benches and those who send you those Christmas letters filled with glowing accounts of their successes the past year and those with bumper stickers extolling their children’s accomplishments— (Our Christmas letter was usually a post card, “Survived another year.”)

Like most parents, we faced stiffer crises than controlling the wiggles, pokes and jokes for an hour until the weekly treat rode over the hill like the U.S. Cavalry to save us.

I remember the larger crises best by the tag lines with which they were brought to my attention:

“Let me tell you first that we are all still alive”

“You can still shut the door if you use both hands.”

“I wondered why they weren’t eating as much.”

The first of the above lines was spoken to me by one of our sons when he and a few other siblings joined us a bit late for a family gathering. It was a festive occasion, so he opened with the good news. Since I generally assume our family members are all alive unless I hear differently, my fatherly sense told me there might be more to the story.

There was. Our barn is up a hill from behind our house. The truck hauling hay up to the barn was spinning its wheels on the grade so our son hooked the tractor to the truck’s front bumper. His younger brother was the designated driver of the truck. Older son jumped on to the tractor seat, revved engine and popped the clutch. The tractor leaped forward. Chained to the truck it couldn’t go forward, so it rotated on its back wheels like a rearing horse, launched its nose into the air and performed a back flip on to the hood of the truck.

Cat-like reflexes he didn’t even know he had launched older son off the rising tractor seat safely to the ground. Younger son froze in fright as the somersaulting tractor crashed down inches from the windshield. Younger son flipped open the unsafety belt holding him to the seat and flew out the door to join his brother on the ground.

And speaking of car doors, they are not the best tools for knocking down trees. Diane, my first wife, discovered that while backing up near a tree. She was looking over her right shoulder out the back window with the driver’s side door partly open, then totally open, then partly folded between the tree and the front fender. Her opening line to me was, “You can still close it using both hands.” A rump bump also helps we found later. Full disclosure, I did something similar to the right rear view mirror of another car a few years later.

Egg production was slipping day by day in the hen house. I went to check. One possible reason was the chicken bones I found littering the coop. Some varmint (we’re suspecting a badger) dug up out of the ground every morning, enjoyed a chicken breakfast, and went back down his hole until the next day.

I asked a busy and oft distracted son whose chore was caring for the chickens about this. He answered, “I wondered why they weren’t eating as much.” (The chickens I assumed, not the badger.)

Family calamities; some tragic, some funny; often the difference is how long ago they happened.