Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Wick Fisher
Moose Lake Star Gazette 

Goodbye to a prominent good ol' boy

Wick's World

 


The very name Pickens Inloe Jennings stated loud and clear that you were speaking about a good ol’ boy from the Deep South. We just didn’t name 'em like that up North. We Yankees, Midwesterners, Californians and Northerners from the icebox belt of Minnesota went by Tom Smith, Ole Olson or Pete Peterson. Good ol’ boys and Southern belles used three names, like William Jennings Bryan, Billy Bob Thornton or Billie Jo McAllister.

From day one, he was known as Inloe to his multitude of friends. Only at the race track would the announcer call out “...and in No. 27 from Quincy, Florida, we have Pickens Inloe Jennings!” The crowd would roar their approval when his souped-up stock car sporting a rebel flag slowly made its way around the oval track.

Pickens Inloe Jennings waltzed into my life in the summer of 1962. The Missouri River was being refashioned into a giant reservoir called Lake Francis Case. The creation of the Big Band Dam was responsible for the taming of the river. The multitude of workers needed for the project was responsible for turning a very quiet, very tame town of Chamberlain, South Dakota, into a frontier town as wild as the west itself. Our population doubled.

I was an impressionable 15-year old lad when my future brother-in-law swept my sister off her feet and had her marching down the aisle before we could celebrate Jesus’ birthday. Like my sister, I was in awe of the Southern good ol’ boys who invaded our town. Inloe was my first hero. I wanted to talk like him, act like him and drive race cars like him. I would have loved to emanate his arrogant flair, but I soon learned that was a cultural trait a Yankee born north of the Mason-Dixon Line would never adequately pull off.

I soon became friends with a lot of the dam workers' families who were building bridges, dams and interstate highways. Before they became Halliburton, a company named Jones, Brown and Root built our dam. They became the money god of Chamberlain and the town doubled in size. Their name echoed employment with big bucks flowing. Every available room and apartment in town was rented, the half dozen bars on Main Street were packed every night and Chamberlain got their first pizza parlor. Our town filled with thousands of alien workers. One was unique: Pickens Inloe Jennings.

At his graveside eulogy, I did something I had never done at the many funerals I have presided over. The night before we sent him on his way, I prayed to my brother-in-law and asked him, “What do you want to say to your friends and family?”

This was his reply:

HE’S A REBEL

Every weekend we’d water ski the river at Chamberlain.

Sometimes we’d fish or just drive the boat,

Or maybe we’d go bowling.

Sometimes we’d tow my '55 Ford to Oahe Speedway in Pierre.

I loved to listen to the roar of the crowd as I circled the track.

The announcer would call out, “Pickens Inloe Jennings!”

I knew I was different. The crowd knew I was different.

I was a Southern boy.

Back then they liked the rebel flag I painted on my car.

You don’t hear a name like mine too often around these parts,

But when you do, remember a good ol’ boy,

A rebel born on a plantation in Georgia,

High-schooled in Quincy, Florida,

A good ol’ boy graduated from the School of Hard Knocks,

Friend of Butch Knock, Duke Knock and Carolyn Knox,

Charlie Doby, Mickey Doby, Thana Doby,

Friend of Blackie and Skinner and the others.

“The dam workers” they called us,

We who built Big Bend Dam.

Remember me as the rebel who found his cause,

Just a few miles downriver at Chamberlain,

Where I captured the heart of my queen, Joanne Fisher.

I don’t know why, I don’t know how,

But there she was,

Waiting for her knight in shining armor,

Knowing I would ride her off into the sunset.

My sun has now set,

I will bide my time patiently waiting your arrival,

Until then, Joanne and my friends,

Remember me this way, “He’s a rebel.”

 

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