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UC alumnus Earl Hamner tells his 'Twilight Zone' tale

cover of the book ''Twilight Zone scripts by Earl Hamner''

Though best known for creating and narrating "The Waltons," Earl Hamner wrote eight scripts for Rod Serling early in his career.

by Deborah Rieselman, originally printed in 2006

After authoring three books and writing for the "Today Show," live television drama and countless radio shows, a University of Cincinnati grad moved from New York to L.A. to break into filmwriting.

One day, his name would be among the brightest in the field, but in 1961, this Virginia country boy and his family feared starvation if one more producer said he lacked experience.

In the nick of time, Ray Bradbury suggested he send a script to Rod Serling, and salvation was at hand. Earl Hamner, CCM '48, broke into screenwriting with eight scripts for the "Twilight Zone," then went on to some enormously successful projects, including creating, writing, producing and narrating "The Waltons," as well as writing and producing "Charlotte's Web" and creating and producing "Falcon Crest."

News of his "Twilight Zone" work shocked his mother-in-law, but Hamner says, "I was able to bring a unique quality to it -- a kind of integration of folk tales. I thought it courageous of Rod to accept this kind of storytelling."

The following excerpt is condensed from the ending of his lifesaving original script. All eight scripts are in the book "The Twilight Zone Scripts of Earl Hamner," by Hamner and Tony Albarella, published in 2003.

From "The Hunt"

Hamner's description of the plot was taken from a talk he gave to CCM students: "The first script I wrote was about an old man (Hyder Simpson) who goes on a hunt with his hound dog. You see the dog pulled under the water by a coon, then you switch to the next morning. The old man and his dog are walking along a strange road, and the man wonders where he is. When he comes to a young man beside a gate, he asks if this would be heaven."

Hyder (awed): Then I take your name to be St. Peter.

Guard: I keep the gate, that's a fact.

Hyder (removing his hat): Well, uh, I'm mighty proud to have met up with you.

Guard: Just as proud to have you here, neighbor Simpson.

Hyder (replacing his hat and contemplating the mist): I always thought there was a lot of singing and dancing in Heaven. How come I don't hear no music?

Guard: Because you're on the outside. The minute you step inside that gate you'll hear your favorite hymn.

Hyder: Well, I don't care much for hymn-singin'. Favor guitar music, myself.

Guard (taking Hyder by the arm): Well, don't stand out here in the cold, cold world, come on in and reap your Heavenly reward.

Hyder: Come on, Rip!

Guard: Oh, hold on there, Mr. Simpson, you can't take that dog in there.

Hyder (hurt): Ain't no fleas on that dog!

Guard: That don't make no nevermind. He can't come in.

Hyder: How come?

Guard: This here is folks' Heaven. There's another place we can put him, though, right up the road. Now you just tie him to the fence there and I'll walk him up for you a little later on.

Hyder (as he starts away from the gate): Come on, Rip!

Guard: Now hold on there, Mr. Simpson. Where do you think you're going?

Hyder: Well, I thank you very much, but I don't reckon in there is any place for me. Well any place that's too high-falutin' for Rip is too fancy for me. How thoroughbred does a dog have to be before you let him in there, anyway?

Guard: Ain't no dogs allowed in there a'tall.

Hyder: What kind of outfit you runnin' don't allow no dogs?

Guard: I tell you, they got a special place for dogs right up the road.

Hyder: Well, me and Rip'll go on down there then.

Guard: Well, you won't get in. The dog maybe, but not you.

Hyder: Now what kind of Heaven would it be with nuthin' in it but dog? A dog's got a right to have a man around just the same as a man's got a right to have a dog around. If'en he wants to be anyways happy.

Guard: Neighbor, let me make you a little proposition. Why don't you go on in the gate and a little later on I'll slip the dog through the fence to you?

Hyder: Friend Peter, if I go in that front gate Rip's going in that front gate likewise. I don't want him to get the feelin' that he ain't welcome.

Hyder: and Rip continue along the road. Hyder stops and sits to rest on a fallen tree trunk.

Hyder Eternity's a powerful long spell to go without a 'coon hunt, ain't it, Rip? Let 'em set in there tootin' on their harps or whatever they do for relaxation; me and you stays together. Just like we was when we's travelin' down below.

Hyder looks up and notices a young man walking towards him.

Young Man: Howdy! I'm lookin' for a Mr. Hyder Simpson and a hound dog name of Rip.

Hyder: Well, that's us!

Young Man (smiling as he leans over to pet Rip): I figured it was. Well, if you and Rip's all set, we might as well mosey along.

Hyder: Mosey along where?

Young Man: Heaven, Mr. Simpson.

Hyder: Well, like I told that other feller back up the road there, I ain't gonna set foot in Heaven without Rip.

Young Man: Now, you didn't get messed up with nobody in there, did you?

Hyder: Well, that feller at the gate, he wouldn't let Rip in, so I didn't go. Son, that'd be a helluva place without Rip.

Young Man: Mr. Simpson, you ain't far wrong. That is Hell. Heaven's up yonder apiece.

Hyder: Well, I'll be jiggered. Now how come that feller'd want to lie to me?

Young Man: Well, they don't never give up. Always tryin' to get folks in there right down to the last minute.

Hyder: What reason would they have for wantin' to keep Rip out?

Young Man: Well, they was a'feared Rip would've warned you. And he would of by the time he got a whiff of that brimstone. You see, Mr. Simpson, a man, well, he'll walk right into Hell with both eyes open. But even the devil can't fool a dog!

[We do a time-lapse fade as they continue to walk the road. The old man waves goodbye to the angel and makes a ceremonial entrance as he goes up the path with his dog. The closing narration begins:]

ROD SERLING'S VOICE: Travelers to unknown regions would be well advised to take along the family dog. He could just save you from entering the wrong gate. At least it happened that way once in a mountainous area of the Twilight Zone.