Blast from the past

Barbara Lawlor, Nederland.  On Friday, March 3, they queued up to the table where George sat in the back room of the Pioneer Inn, a stack of books in front of him, a pen in his hand. They were people who have known him for decades, who came to dance with him, to buy his new book Cabin Fever Completed and to listen to a band they danced to 25 years ago, The Swell Guys.

George Blevins wrote the cartoon strip Cabin Fever that was published in the Mountain-Ear Newspaper for over two decades. With the release of the third volume at the end of last year, the instigator of the iconic Ned Heads and his co-publishers decided they deserved a party, so they threw it.

Dancing the night away; not like they used to, but George said he managed to stay awake until 11:55 p.m. He also said he doubted if could ever do it again, but for almost six hours, George and his buddies and guests had a blast.

Doug Cosper, one of George’s sidekicks, welcomed everyone to the Cabin Fever/Swell Guys Dead of Winter Tour at the Pioneer Inn. The Swell guys included: Jamie Polisher/Bass Guitar and Vocals, Robb Candler/ Guitar and Vocals, Rolan Turbot/ Keyboards, Vocals and Jay Forrest/ Drums and Vocals. “The band played together over 2 years ago and we had an absolutely wonderful time. It was great to see so many smiling faces that night,” says Jay Forrest.

Doug Cosper told the band he was glad they were here to entertain and he told the audience, “We’re glad you’re here to help us celebrate an important piece of Nederland History that deserves to live on and on. As you know, our little non-profit recently published the third and final collection of George Blevins Cabin Fever cartoon strip, not officially a 501C3PO because we just don’t make any profit. If you were around when George penned the strips, from 1983-2005, you’ll appreciate how well George captured the essence of living up here. Every week, George would sit down on deadline and draw the first five panels of his six-panel strip, hoping that a punch line would occur to him before the Mountain Ear went to press. By some miracle of the mountains, it always did. And now we have all 1,200 strips between the covers of these books – proof that it really was a crazy as we remembered it.”

All three Cabin Fevers were on sale for half price. Even more than the books, the revelers came to celebrate our town treasure, who besides giving us Cabin Fever set an example for all of us when he joined the Freedom Riders in Jackson Mississippi in 1960 during the civil rights movement.

For many of us, George Blevins is the heart and soul of our little village. The other reason George has become a legend in our community is his free-spirited, free-limbed style of dancing. The females lined up for the honor, but Tammy Forrest was the first to get it on with George.

Bonnie Carol, a local musician, says, “What a fine time I had last night – from a good old fashioned Pioneer Inn banquet organized by Ellen, to the appropriate honoring of our community treasure – George. Dancing to the Swell Guys, I felt 20 again, and I so appreciated the times, music, community values, and most of all the very high quality people we grew up with. What a fine time to come of age, and what fine people to do it with. The Swell Guys totally made the party. I danced my toes off well, maybe in a 70-year-old-ish sort of way, and so appreciated the times, music, and community we grew up in.”

Bonnie said she thought the evening should be the start of a tradition, “I’m all over the idea of “Lifetime Achievement Awards” in our own unique style with a couple of nice speeches and a good Rock ‘n Roll party as an institution with meaning more than honoring people after they die.”

Soon the celebration got all tuckered out and people straggled, heading home, their heads filled with memories of days and nights gone by and their hearts filled with reliving the past, even if it were for only one night.

The publishers sold a bunch of books and the guests stocked up, knowing they would make great gifts for anyone who knew and danced with George.

Barbara Lawlor

Barbara is a reporter for The Mountain-Ear.