Today, I thought I would post a short piece I have received several times from various church members. It is the story of another individual who came from the hills of West Virginia. It is the inspiring story of a man named Jesse.
Jesse hated this job. And you would too. Imagine if you had to do it. Jesse was a chicken plucker. That's right. He stood on a line in a chicken factory and spent his days pulling the feathers off dead chickens so the rest of us wouldn't have to. It wasn't much of a job. But at the time, Jesse didn't think he was much of a person. His father was a brute of a man. His dad was actually thought to be mentally ill and had treated Jesse rough all of his life.
Jesse's older brother wasn't much better. He was always picking on Jesse and beating him up. Yes, Jesse grew up in a very rough home in West Virginia. Life was anything but easy. And he thought life didn't hold much hope for him. That's why he was standing in this chicken line, doing a job that very few people wanted.
In addition to all the rough treatment at home, it seems that Jesse was always sick. Sometimes it was real physical illness; but way too often it was all in his head. He was a small child, skinny and meek. That sure didn't help the situation any. When he started to school, he was the object of every bully on the playground.
He was a hypochondriac of the first order. For Jesse, tomorrow was not always something to be looked forward to. But, he had dreams. He wanted to be a ventriloquist. He found books on ventriloquism. He practiced with sock puppets and saved his hard earned dollars until he could get a real ventriloquist dummy.
When he got old enough, he joined the military. And even though many of his hypochondriac symptoms persisted, the military did recognize his talents and put him in the entertainment corp. That was when his world changed. He gained confidence. He found that he had a talent for making people laugh, and laugh so hard they often had tears in their eyes. Yes, little Jesse had found himself.
You know, folks, the history books are full of people who overcame a handicap to go on and make a success of themselves; but Jesse is one of the few I know of who didn't overcome it. Instead he used his paranoia to make a million dollars, and then to become one of the best-loved characters of all time in doing so!
Yes, that little paranoid hypochondriac who transferred his nervousness into a successful career, still holds the record for the most Emmy Awards given in a single category. The wonderful, gifted, talented, and nervous comedian who brought us Mayberry Deputy Barney Fife was none other than Jesse Don Knotts. And now you know "THE REST OF THE STORY". There is a street named for him and his statue in Morgantown, West Virginia, his place of birth.*
I would add that there is also a place for him in most every American heart today. Thank you, Don Knotts, for taking the hard road to success - out of West Virginia and into our hearts and lives. Thank you also, Ron Jordan, for doing pretty much the very same thing. You, too, have brought much joy into our hearts and lives.
*Source: Available widely on the internet. The phrase “The Rest of the Story” makes this piece appear as if originated with famed broadcaster Paul Harvey. I own copies of all of Paul Harvey’s Rest of the Story books, and cannot find “The Dreamer and His Dream” (the common internet title for this piece) in any of them. However, Harvey recorded hundreds of “Rest of the Story” broadcasts and one cannot assume each and every one of them made it into print.
Nonetheless, no one seems to deny the essential validity of this piece. By and large, the material presented does appear to match the known facts of Knotts' life. Note: A wonderful resource on Paul Harvey himself, including audio copies of a great many of his broadcasts, can be found at: http://www.paulharveyarchives.com/index.htm.