Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Herbert "Cowboy" Coward, Hillbilly Icon



When people think of a movie about "The South" they would probably say "Deliverance".  This is actually an excellent movie, but there are two scenes that everyone remembers.

There is this one.


And then there is this cinematic gem.


One of the most notorious scenes in cinematic history and a very controversial one in the South.  The movie deliverance successfully made every yankee assume that they would be raped if they stepped foot in the South.  I can honestly say I have lived here 12 years and I have never been raped.  "Squeel like a pig" and "You got a purdy mouth"  have become permanent parts of the American lexicon.  While it is regretful that  this movie caused such rampant stereotypes, that clearly wasn't the intention of the movie.   If you haven't seen it, I encourage you to, its a lot more then banjos and rape.

When I moved to the South I was shocked to find out that this movie was filmed just a few miles away in Rabun County, GA.  Where for some reason, people are just a little touchy about the movie.

What made me even more excited was when I found out that "The Banjo Boy" Billy Redden (from the first clip) lived in the town next to me.  One of the things that surprises people about Mr. Redden is that he is not mentally handicapped.  He actually was owner of a restaurant.  One day I decided I was going to go meet Mr. Redden so I headed out to his restaurant and was devastated to find it closed down and emptied.  I gave up on meeting this true Southern Icon.  I thought I would have to settle on visiting the grave of James Dickey, the author of the book, who is buried in Myrtle Beach, SC.


I would find out that Mr. Redden wouldn't be my only chance at having a brush would the greatness of Deliverance.

After I moved to Haywood County, NC.  I found out that there was another iconic cast member of Deliverance who lived in the area.  His name was Herbert "Cowboy" Coward. If you look at the second clip he is this guy.


He is the guy who makes the icon "purdy mouth" line.

Herbert is actually a very well know local character, no only because he was a movie star, but because he has a trained squirrel that goes with him everywhere.  I learned that he had his own stand at a local flea market and stopped by hoping to meet him, but all I found was this sign.


Not to be deterred, I would swing by the flea market every chance I had.  My wife was a little concerned at my determination.  When I was finally about to give up I struck gold and came across "The Cowboy". 



He was very kind and happy to to talk about his appearance in Deliverance, although he was mad that his Deliverance royalty checks had not been showing up.  He had actually recently been in another film: Ghost Town: The Movie and he sold me an autographed copy.

But most exciting of all he let me take a picture of us together with Starsky on my shoulder!



12 comments:

  1. My kin are from Rabun County. If you do more hillbilly blogs, you are welcome to post a link to my blog about roadside Hillbilly iconography:http://studiohourglass.blogspot.com/2010/10/yall-come-back-now-hillbilly.html

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's an awesome article Rick.........I think you hit on every hillbilly stop I know of. I definitely want to talk about the hillbilly stereotype some more, but you really nailed it!

      Delete
  2. This is a really nice article. Herbert is actually my papaw (grandfather) and its really nice to see him represented this way. I will say that you are more brave them i am because i would never even let starsky touch me haha.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ha! I was honored when he put the squirrel the on my shoulder.....I later heard stories about Starsky biting the hell out of people :)

      Delete
    2. which flea market does he go to? it would be an honor to meet him.

      Delete
    3. He used to have a booth at the flea market off exit 37 in Canton/Candler right on the county line, but I don't believe that he is there anymore

      Delete
  3. I was honored to meet Mr. Herbert "Cowboy" just yesterday. He is an extremely humble gentleman and a wonderful person to talk to. He was helping out at our local "Community Kitchen" and he told me about his pet squirrel. I immediately came home and checked him out on GOOGLE.com. I now know that he is 90 years-old or close to it! He is definitely a part of our movie history and I am SO GLAD to have met him in person-what an experience! God bless you Mr. "Cowboy"!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Its good to hear that he is still getting around. I'm glad to help inform about this man

      Delete
  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  5. (Sorry about the now-deleted RIP comment -- another "Cowboy" died and I got confused.)
    Here's a current story about Cowboy: themountaineer.villagesoup.com/p/-/1103318
    (Unfortunately you can only read the beginning of it without paying....)

    ReplyDelete
  6. I was at a drs. office in Clyde n.c. and I met him and his squirrel. He was a wonderful man and we had a great talk. He told me a lot about himself and how has had a squirrel as pet for about 15 years.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think its an unspoken rule that he is allowed to bring his school in any building :)

      Delete