Denny Luke, far right, next to Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe on one of his whistlestop tours of the state. 2006. On left, Ron Johns and in center, Dan Kerlin. At Dan’s store in Winslow.
1972. A Yankee moves to the Ozarks and lives to tell his tales. Now captured in a tidy little book along with plenty of photographs, these stories track Denny Luke’s life experiences from childhood in Ohio to the backwoods hills of Arkansas.
This man is an adventurer. During his years in the Navy, he built hot rods with money he made with shipboard loansharking. He returned to his native Ohio where he soon tired of the mechanic’s life. Computers had just started to break the surface in 1966, the perfect attraction to a young man with a sharp mind and plenty of ambition.
Denny with his mom in his Corvette. This photo not included in the book.
Money rolled in as he built databases, a brand new idea in the mid-Sixties. A ‘63 Corvette and soon after a new Triumph dirt bike put him in the fast lane for weekend jaunts to the Playboy Club in Chicago and Enduro racing in Wisconsin’s back country.
Then, like so many of his generation, he stepped out of the fast lane and moved to a primitive life in the country. Among his most important first acquaintances was Ray Brown.
Ray Brown teaching hog killin’ to Denny. This photo not in the book.
“We rented a little cabin near Devil’s Den from Ray Brown. He was a genuine hillbilly. His family lived in a little old log cabin. He raised a few cows, cut posts, whatever he could do to make a living. He was smart, smartest man I ever knew, had lots of common sense. His cabin had a big old fireplace that barely kept the place warm. He sat in this big chair over in one corner, and he could reach around behind his chair and grab a big handful of snow—that much would blow in through the cracks.”
Denny and his buddy Butch scouted cheap land all over Northwest Arkansas and ended up with an old log cabin on Bunyard Road. They also learned to be stone masons in order to earn their way.
Denny rustling up some grub at the Bunyard cabin December 1974. This amazing stove had a gas burning side and a wood burning side. Hauled from Wisconsin to the Ozarks.
“There are two or three families out on Bunyard that are cliquish. I wasn’t accepted out there. I was from the north, and I didn’t go to church. The first thing they wanted me to do was go to church. Plus I wasn’t born there. And I owned the old Omie Wood home place and they might have resented that some.”
An avid photographer and storyteller, Denny shares the adventures of his life with Author Denele Campbell as he recalls the outrageous backwoods tales and colorful characters who populate this neck of the woods.
Join us Sunday September 13 in the Connie Wright Gallery of Ozark Folkways at Winslow for live music, refreshments, Author Denele Campbell’s comments on this collaboration, and Denny’s readings from the book. Autographed copies will be available for sale.
Can’t make the event? The book is available at Amazon.com or at your favorite bookstore.