Posts Tagged ‘jack hampo’

Theo’s Last Miracle

theozTheo was a mountain of a dog.  The vet  decided he was half Great Pyrenees and half Chow. When Jack first adopted him he was a very dangerous dog and bit any one who approached, especially if they wanted a hug.

But Theo lived a long time, especially for such a big guy, and slowed down over the years. The last person he bit was a roofer who didn’t stop when Theo barked (he only gave one warning, if you stopped… he stopped. If you tried to move past him…….).  I got home after work around six and the roofer was still on the roof waiting. He wouldn’t come down until I put Theo in the house.  Fortunately, the roofer had on two pairs of  jeans and Theo had very few teeth left.

Like most people, I waited too long to take Theo to the vet to have him put to sleep. The last year of his life (he was 13 years old and 125 pounds) he didn’t move much, smelled bad, every thing hurt and he didn’t even enjoy chasing cars as they left the drive way.

On a Saturday morning I decided it was time.  He was so old he couldn’t get in the back of the truck anymore, so we built a ramp and pushed him up. Once in place he was so happy because rides were always his favorite. As usual when we drove through town people smiled and pointed at Theo because he looked magnificent, massive and regal as though holding court. He loved the adoration of the people.

I cried the entire ten miles, but Theo was in a great mood.  After parking the truck at the vets office, I started to grab our make shift ramp but Theo did something he hadn’t done in five years. He bolted over the back of the tail gait, his enormous body was completely airborne! Then he trotted to me so I could pick up his leash.

Theo pawed the door twice anxious to go inside. He generally didn’t like going to the vet’s office but today he was ready to roll.  I was told by the nurse we would have to wait a few minutes so we walked outside.  I was sniveling, wiping my face on my sleeve and telling my dog how much I loved him. But Theo was unimpressed by my misery.

theoz 2There was a little creek next to the parking lot and for the first time in ten years Theo wanted to play in the water, like a stupid puppy. We had taken this dog to the lake and to creeks countless times over the years and he HATED getting wet.  He would do anything to avoid even getting his saucer sized paws damp. But today was different. My tears had stopped because of Theo’s shocking behavior. He was giddy with joy. He smacked at the water then started biting the bubbles he created.

“We’re ready for you, Ms. Hampo,” the nurse called and Theo literally charged  the building, nearly dislocating my arm. He bulldozed past the nurse and went straight into the examining room.  I started crying again as I knelt down I held his huge red head in my hands, looked him in the eye and knew he knew exactly where he was going and this was Theo’s best day ever.

(As always I love love love your comments and if you like Hampoland and know an agent or publisher…..)

Just A Little Drug Deal

granger and kidsWhen I was in labor with Lex, eighteen years ago, my brother Granger came to town.  He picked up Mary and Jack from the elementary school and brought them to the hospital.  But on the way, he stopped at a fairly shady hotel/motel.  He ran into a room for just a few minutes, then got the kids some ice cream and came on up to the hospital.  Yes, Granger had to take care of a little business, it was just a tiny drug deal, before coming up to the hospital. But that was Granger, brilliant, magical but undeterred by the constraints of society or the laws of the land. This picture is from that day, in the hospital.

I lost years, on and off, being mad or offended by Granger. He always said the wrong things, I thought. He told me to ask his ex-wife how to get rid of my crows feet, he showed up two hours late for Thanksgiving dinner, he showed up two days late for Christmas. He told me our family was “redneck white trash perfection”. And teased me for being uninformed because I didn’t listen to NPR.  When I was ten he left me in his apartment with his dog and a loaded gun and told me not to answer the door. He fought with my mom (back then I didn’t know why, now I kinda get it).

I lost time with him because he made me mad because he didn’t act the way I thought he should. Instead he was Granger. I never doubted he loved me, but he hurt my feelings and made me furious.

Last night I was watching a twenty year old video of my daughter Mary, and his daughter Faith playing fooz-ball in our living room.  They were probably eight. I heard Granger talking in the background. Just a couple of sentences but his voice was so deep and musical.  He was talking about getting a tiger cub.

Hearing his voice broke my heart and made me so happy because I miss him  desperately. Why didn’t I turn the camera on him for just a few seconds.

Children of mine, do not waste time, valuable and precious time being mad at each. Children of mine, don’t lose a day of love being offended by some off handed comment, oversight or ignorant stance.  It’s not worth it.  Just love and accept each other, as you are.  Because you are all perfect in your weird, quirky, selfish, lovely way.

It’ll be a few years, I hope, before I get to see my brother, Granger, again, but I promise you, when I do see him I won’t waste a precious second of our time together.

PS If you know any publishers or literary agents…help me out. I need one. Thanks

How Lynyrd Skynyrd Shapped My Life

lynyrdWhen I was thirteen years old my first “big love” that included making out was with a boy who was a senior.  We were students in a prep school in Tennessee and his name was Plez Bagby (Pleasant Harwood Bagby III I think)  He was from Virginia, he was a gentleman and I really liked kissing him.  He was also the drummer in a rock and roll band. They played Free Bird (of course they did)

When Plez and I broke up I spent hours pining away to Free Bird. So loud and heartbreaking, “If I stay here with you girl. Things would never be the same.”

A few years latter, when I was in high school at Boca Raton Academy my dad made me drive a massive chocolate collared 1976 Thunderbird. We listened to Lynyrd Skynyrd nonstop for two years. When Gimme Three Steps came on I’d roll down the windows, hit the gas and howl. We listened to so much Lynyrd Skynrd in face I named the car Lynyrd.

There were a bunch of kids at my house when we heart about the plane crash that killed three band members. A palpable wave of sorrow gripped us and a big piece of our idyllic teenage world darkened.  It didn’t seem possible or fair or real.

For kids in the south the music of Lynyrd Skynyrd ran through our bone marrow. We loved The Police and Bob Seger and Aerosmith but Lynyrd Skynyrd….those were our boys. And for some reason that feeling continues today. When I’m feeling nostalgic for the old days I’ll listen to the brilliant  Bob Seger “Live” Bullet album. But Skynyrd still gets just as much play in my world as all my new favorites.

A couple of years ago Lexie was asked to do a musical Taekwondo demonstration at her high school.  After much thought she worked out a kick ass routine to “Gimme Three Steps”. It was awesome and the rural Arkansas crowd went wild. Clapping and cheering….for a Martial Arts routine. That’s how much power Lynyrd Skynyrd has.

When I drive my eleven year old son to football games on Saturday morning there’s one song he and his friends want me to blast, over and over. Sweet Home Alabama. I don’t know why it just works for them, fills them with joy and power and a sense of righteous victories.

And now I’m going to say something may will find sacrilegious . The first time I heard Natural Outlaw’s song Mississippi all I could thing was “Lynyrd Skynyrd”. It starts out deep, like the river, “I am a man who takes care of my own” then the song flows to New Orleans and  explodes with guitars and drums and key boards. There is so much pain and passion and truth in the chorus, “I don’t want to rule the world, I just want some peace.”  There I sit, a middle aged white lady, in traffic in my ancient white Nissan, singing as loud as I can,  “And I won’t stop till they lay me down oh that river she takes me.”

The song is huge and gritty, raucous and dark but it speaks to something in all of us. It doesn’t’ matter if your an corporate executive, a homeless man, a ditch digger or a house wife. We all have to keep going, like the Mississippi and we’re all just looking for a home and some peace. http://www.reverbnation.com/naturaloutlaw . Recently I listened to the band play the song live, they were painfully loud, I looked over and my husband had teared up. I hadn’t seen the man cry in four years. But soumthing about the song, about looking for peace hit him hard in a rock and roll kind of way.

Mississippi reminds me of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Simple Man, That Smell and Gimme Back My Bullets.  And it just tears me up because it has a Lynyrd Skynyrd invisible quality I can’t describe. All I can do is sing along.

“Miles and miles and states and states, she swims on course. I don’t know if I have it in me to swim with that much force.

Go on and listen. http://www.reverbnation.com/naturaloutlaw




Free Stuff From Hampoland

nat out band

So, I spent the weekend in Nashville with my son Jack, his little brother, Sandor and the guys in Jack’s band, Natural Outlaw.

We tore that town up but by far, the highlight of the four day excursion   was a show, Saturday night. Natural Outlaw played and once again, I was absolutely astonished.  Their music is almost a throw back to Lynard Skynard/Marshal Tucker days. It’s guitar driven sleazy greasy Southern rock with smart lyrics.

It’s the kind of music that makes guy do shots and drunk girls get drunker then dance in a pack in front of the stage.

The boys know exactly what they are doing on stage but they don’t have a clue as to how the music business works. Still…folks show up when they play so they must be doing something right.

Everyone tells me they need a music manager.  Apparently I can’t buy one so I’m asking you for help and I’m also giving stuff away.

Write to me at hampoland@gmail.com  and I’ll send you an ep with three songs and a bunch of books of Natural Outlaw matches. Pretty handy, right?

The first song on the EP is Miss Nessa about an adventure with a horny  55 year old cage fighter lady who tried to pick Ryan and Jack up in a dive bar. It’s a true store.

The second song gives me goose bump. “Make You Proud” is the only sweet love  song Jack has ever written. It’s beautiful and he only drops the F Bomb once.

Track three is a gritty  southern anthem that needs to be played  in a massive stadium.   It’s the song that reminds me so much of Skynard and makes me roll my windows up so I can crank it and sing really really loud. I can’t believe my son wrote it.

So Hampoland readers, from East Texas to new England, if you want this prize package let me know and I’ll fix you up. If you like it and want to help me find a music manager or record company or producer….well then I’ll love you forever and give you more matches.

A Fountain Lake Song with Tattoos and Explosives

jack and theoJack wrote this Fountain Lake, Arkansas/ Fourth of July/ Love Song when he was in Turkey a couple of years ago. I thought all you Cobra kids would appreciate  the story


Tattoos and Fireworks

by Jack Hampo

Well, I woke up this morning with sunglasses on and I don’t remember writin’ this song

and I’ve been laying in this bed too long, can’t quite picking up my old bong.

And I think it’s because I’m afraid of you and what you might do, when you see my new tattoo.

Last night is a haze and I think I know why  I got this empty bottle laying by my side and a bunch of texts about

a double wide and no accomplices in sight.

And I think I broke into a fireworks stand before I got this tattoo on my hand.

So I’m going down town try and figure it out but Highway five is blocked gotta find another route.

I hope this isn’t what i think it’s about.  There’s a trailer in the road with it’s guts blown out.

And I think this tattoo ain’t all that bad,  I blew up your house and that’s why you’ll be mad.

And I’d apologize if you’d ever pick up your phone .

Sorry I blew up your mobile home.




The Power Of A Brutal Song

  Sometimes my kids do something so unexpected and extraordinary,  my understanding of the world changes just a little.

Jack has been a musician for years. Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s bad (there was a song called “We Need More Hot Asian Chicks) and sometimes it’s ugly. The first time I went to one of his shows six or eight years a go he came out on stage in a tuxedo and by the end of the first song he’d stripped down to his boxers.

Now my son, who never stopped playing and writing music, is in Nashville.  He has joined forces with some astonishingly good musicians..they are Natural Outlaws.

Six months ago he called me with some lyrics he couldn’t get out of his head. As I drove he read some of them to me. “I just want to make you proud. I hope you hear me I’m singing awful loud. This old moonshine’s got no decency…”

Listening to him, I was kind of lost. I couldn’t figure out where he was going with the song.  All his  other  songs and lyrics had typically revolved around guns, whiskey and women. Pork chops and gravy music, that’s witty and evil and dangerous and makes you want to do double shots and dance with construction workers. Not a good thing for a middle aged mom, but fun. 

Over the next few months he mentioned this particular song in passing. The band was working on it in the studio. Their seemingly possessed drummer Matt, who went to Berkley, and looks and plays like a red-headed Viking,  sounded amazing.  Dan, who has played classical piano since he was five has be “ruint”. He now had some nasty and trashy honky tonk shit working in it the song.

A couple of months ago Jack sent me the rough cut of Make You Proud.  It gave me goose bumps, something that had never happened when I listened to his songs. I was stunned by the beauty and complexity of the entire arrangement.

Ryan is the bands guitarist and his music is generally very physical. It’s “boy rock and roll” verging on country brutality.  And Clark’s bass work changes your heart rhythm. Most Natural Outlaw songs  will land you in prison but this one was different.

This song made me stop and think and feel.I had to listen to it three or four times to understand all the soaring layers. What the hell was going on with those boys?

And the Natural Outlaws have finally given me permission to share it.

It’s the first song on their new webpage. http://www.naturaloutlawmusic.com/

I don’t know what will happen with the Natural Outlaws or this song. But this song does it. This song makes me proud.

Revolting and Delicious Dinner

My idea was pretty simple. Crescent Roll night.  We would eat anything we could roll up in a crescent roll…who doesn’t like that ? I had two ideas in mind, hot dogs of course and asparagus with Swiss cheese, and maybe a ham and cheese roll up. Easy breezy and the little boys Sandor (9 years old), Kyle (10 years old) and Edie (24 years old) could help after they washed their grubby little monkey paws.

Before going to the store I decided to text my oldest daughter Mary(23), my oldest son, Jack(25) and Edie.

“Any ideas on stuff to put in a crescent roll for dinner?”

Their ideas came back instantly and were so perfect, bizarre and possibly delicious.  Weird thing though, their suggestions matched their personalities. You know how dogs end up looking like their owners? Well apparently it works with Crescent Rolls too.

Eddie is a guitar playing, truck driving, bourbon drinking boy who grew up in the tiny town of Alread, Arkansas where the average income is 24000 dollars per year.  Eddie, who is a pilot, wrote back BBQ Chicken.Of course, Eddie is a BBQ kind of guy.  Yup, that would work in a Crescent Roll. And I had some left over from the night before.

Mary is a senior in college and she’s about to start applying to graduate programs. Right now she works for the Clinton Foundation in Little Rock, Arkansas. She is driven and silly and has georgous clothes. Mary’s idea: tomatoes and pesto with a little extra olive oil. That’s Mary: healthy sophisticated and fresh, in more than one  way.

Finally I got Jack’s suggestion. The text said, “Mini Milky Way, trust me, it’s delicious.” Of couse. Jack lives in Nashville and has an ridicously good country rock band called Natural Outlaw (www.naturaloutlawmusic.com ). The band is like eating biscut and gravy with a glass of whiskey. He smokes a lot of pot, makes a lot of money and  stays up late. he’s also a really good cook. Of course he’s tried putting a Milky Way in a Crescent Roll. He was right. It was outrageously good for dessert.

Dinner was wonderful and kind of absurd And if you ever really want to understand somebody, just ask them what you should wrap up in a Crescent Roll.


A Families Secret Language…Happy Chickens and Nipples

Today Lex, who is a junior in high school, texted me. “made a 90 on pre-cal test”.

I texted back “happy chickens.”

Happy chickens? Yup.  In Hampoland, in my house,  when we are really happy we say “happy chickens”.  Then one person extends an open palm and the other  pretends to be a chicken and pecks at the imaginary feed in the open palm. Weird, right? But it’s one of our things. Happy chickens. It’s kind of like a Hampoland secret handshake.

If we want to make somebody laugh we just say, “nipple nipple nipple.” That’s a really fun word and makes everybody happy.

Several members of the family are bi-polar. It’s gone on for generations.  And when one of us is manic and full of ideas, good, bad, brilliant and crazy….we call it “popcorn brain”. 

I’ll  call Jack and say, “I have popcorn brain”  he know that means I have too many  ideas popping around in my head and don’t know which ones I should throw away. The ones I dismiss are “burnt kernels” . 

My family has a secret language. Nobody else knows what we’re talking about but Mary understands exactly what I mean when I say, “we can handle this. We are ‘Team Us'”. 

When Jack and Mary were little, Team USA, the first Dream Team with Michael Jordan, hit the scene.Posters and tee shirts said “Team US”.  We were pretty broke then so I told the kids we were “Team Us”. Nothing was more important than Team Us and we would always take care of Us.  This message sunk in and to this day, twenty years later, Team Us is hampoland and we are all proud team members. 

Five years ago one of my children went crazy and ran off to Canada with a semi-pro hockey player.  Sandor who was three at the time  said, “you can’t go to Can’t- a- da.”  In Hampoland Canada is always pronounced “can’t-a-da”.  And we all get it.

My mom, Ann Stell, died when Jack and Mary were three and four. But she used to say “try not to think hippopotamus.”  When I say that to Lex she knows exactly what I’m talking about.   It means thinking about something people tell you not to think about is freaking impossible!

A few years ago we had a dog that was literally insane.  Seriously, there was something wrong with this little hound dog. One day he pooped in my shoe, which was in my closet.  I don’t mean on my shoe, the dog actually pooped in my shoe.  So, sometimes, we say, “At least he didn’t poop in your shoe.” That means things are bad but they could be much much worse.

Secret languages are magical. They build bridges and provide band aides. I love “happy chickens” it reminds me we are and always will be “Team Us” . And there’s not another team on the planet who speaks our language or understands the hampoland accent and  dialect.


Poor Kids Are Awesome

A few days ago my son, Jack, said “growing up poor was awesome.”

I pressed him to explain what the hell he was talking about.  As far as I’m concerned being poor is not awesome, it’s not even kind-of-cool. Being poor sucks and ranks right up there with having the chicken pox.

First, I want to state, we have never been poor.  When Jack and Mary were little, we were clinging to the lower end of middle class but we were never poor.  Jack and Mary however, love telling stories about their glorious, impoverished, redneck childhood.

When they were little, we never went on vacations. Instead, we spent almost every weekend in the summer playing in the creek not far from the house. I would pack up their friends, Bryce and Kay, some cheap red sodas and crackers.  They would slide around on the little rock water fall for hours and we would catch army’s of crawdads, then then turn them all loose.

One winter we couldn’t afford to go to the skating rink in Little Rock so we tried to make one in the yard with a giant piece of plastic and the garden hose. It didn’t work but we laughed a lot.

All their clothes came from Wal-Mart. Until Jack was in 6th grade. The whole family was ridiculous proud of his first expensive pair of  shoes.  Alex paid $80 for a pair of And One basketball shoes. The entire team was impressed. Back then, it was a really big deal when anyone at Fountain Lake got a new pair of Nikes much less And Ones.

Ok, we were pretty broke most of the time. The kids never qualified for free lunches but I do remember, after church we would roll through the Burger King drive through and get one happy meal. One child got the burger and one got the fries and they split the drink.  A two happy meal day was a really big deal.

At least once a year Alex had to pawn his 9 mm hand gun so we could buy school supplies (those cost 120 for both kids) or buy Christmas presents.  But we always paid off the loan and and got his gun back. Good news now Alex has an arsenal and he hasn’t pawned anything in years.

But all their  friends were in the same shabby economic party barge so they didn’t realize just how broke we were. We had food, electricity and a lot of fun. I grew up wealthy so at least once a week I had a meltdown but the truth is the kids were really, really happy and well adjusted.

The really great thing about kids who grow up on a shoe string….they are  very easy to impress. Great big malls, elaborate Christmas lights, concerts and nice shoes make them so happy.

Kids who grow up with money, in big cities, are rarely in awe…of anything. They’ve already seen better. But poor kids are pretty excited about everything, they’re amazed, the recognize the beauty, they marvel and smile.

My youngest son, Sandor, still says, “Oh my goodness” when we walk into the Hot Springs Mall at Christmas time.  And our Mall is tiny, but Sandor who is nine, thinks its magical. (And yes, he really says “oh my goodness”, he also plays football so don’t make fun of him.) Imagine how he’ll react when he sees Rockefeller Center or Big Ben.

Maybe Jack and Dolly Parton are right. There is a noble magic to growing up almost poor.  I just hope that sense of wonder and awe  stay with my kids for the rest of their lives.

Jack Stell…No Longer A Meth Head Bitch or Shape Shifter

Big news…children are actually SHAPE SHIFTERS! You think you know who and what they are. Then they turn into something else completely.

My son, Jack Stell, has been a musician for years but he’s changed so radically, from a hippo into a dragon fly, from a spider monkey into a wolverine.

He now writes songs andI cry because they are so good. He’ s learned to craft  songs, funny sweet songs. I can’t get them out of my head. He moved to Nashville recently and has sent me some remarkable work.  I swear.

Yeah, yeah, I’m his mom, but I promise, five or six years ago, when he was jack2thefuture, I would say things like, “that was a hell of a stage show,” after a concert.The way he crawled across the stage on his belly, while howling lyrics, was pretty wild. The first time I went to one of his shows he appeard in a tux and looked insanely handsome then he managed to strip down to his boxers during the first song, on stage! he was nearly naked. Hey, that was entertaining and throngs of tatted up, pierced 21 year old went nuts.

But I never, ever said, “I love those songs.” I loved him and the theatrics, but not the songs.

Things have changed. When I listen to Jack Stell or Jack Stell and the Natural Outlaws I am stunned. He’s so good.

It’s Jack Stell’s heart-breakingly tender songs that take my breath away. There’s a song, “Dance with me Katie Marie.” It’s their last dance, the guy has done something horrible and it will be their last night together. The lyrics and tone are so poignant. I’ve had devastatingly beautiful nights like that, and last dances. I guess we all have and that’s what makes the song so powerful.

Christine” is a lovely and crazy catchy song he wrote to make me happy. It worked. The song follows a forty year love affair to the final days. “Now we’ve been married about 15 years, got us a house and got us some kids, but i love you just the same, as I did that very first day. Christine, my little queen…”

 Fireworks and Tattoos is a witty ballad, about a guy who wakes up from a big drunk and realizes he’s blown up his girlfriend’s double wide. “”And I would apologize,  if you’d just pick up your phone. Sorry I blew up you mobile home.”  It’s funny.

Jack is 24, how the hell does he know about this stuff?

Life Size Pizza was his last rock band, no that’s an understatement. LSP was a face crushing rock and roll band with some country licks thrown in.  The Jesus Song and Meth Head Bitch are Little Rock legends. LSP two cds and the second, No Love is really magnificent boy rock and roll. Too much howling guitar for a middle age white woman but I get it. It’s hedonistic, slippery and dangerous. The guitar work is amazing and I am a big fan of Life Size Pizza. If you need some new, fun and insane rock and roll find them on spotify.

But now my son he has shape shifted again. He is Jack Stell. And I am amazed and proud.

You can find Jack Stell on facebook. Keep up with him now, pretty soon you won’t be able to.

Leave or comment or write to me. hampoland@gmail.com