By the time I got to Guntown Mountain they were already open for the season. Guntown Mountain was more of a big hill than an actual mountain. It was steep enough that the only way to the top the first season I worked there was a chair lift. The entertainers had put together the shows in rehearsals in Murray before they relocated to the theme park. Most of them were theater students at Murray State University. They had arrived in Cave City a few days before the season began and had used the opportunity to try the shows out without an audience.
I had just graduated from high school and my folks had driven me to Cave City the day after commencement. I was excited and scared. This was my first time out of the nest, totally on my own. I would be paid a small salary and provided a room in one of the buildings in the back of town. I didn’t have a car so I was at the mercy of the other members of the cast for transportation. We worked from ten in the morning until nine at night six days a week so that was less of a problem than it might seem.
The afternoon that I got there I saw all of the shows with my folks. Jerry, the head honcho in charge of the entertainment, was one of my father’s ex-students. He was showing off for dad. I think he hired me as a favor to dad but I soon showed him that I was more than capable of doing the job he hired me for.
Jerry had played Macbeth in my father’s high school production of the Scottish play. After graduation he had joined the Army and been an intelligence analyst in Turkey. When he got out of the Army, he travelled with a carnival for a year or two and then went to college on the GI Bill studying theater. He had struck a deal with the owner of Guntown Mountain to provide all of the live entertainment.
That first night my parents went down the chair lift to a hotel in Cave City. I was on my own at last. I helped the crew as we pushed all of the tables in the saloon against one wall and stacked the chairs on them. We swept the floor and hung a towel over the windows of the doors of the saloon. There would be tourists walking through town for an hour after the last show was over and we wanted them to know that the saloon was closed.
I set up my amplifier on the stage and we proceeded to have a jam session. This was the point at which the cast was feeling me out to see if I would be an asset to the show or a liability. I soon demonstrated that I had a large repertoire of music. We played everything from Jesus Christ Superstar to She’ll Be Coming Around the Mountain. We played until after midnight.
The next day, I started work in earnest. I was playing guitar in the saloon shows immediately. In the gun fights they had me play the kid that runs for the sheriff and gets shot and similar roles. I took to it like a duck to water. I barely noticed when my folks stopped by to say goodbye and head back home.
Sweet dreams, don’t forget to tell the ones you love that you love them, and most important of all, be kind.