I've been to Dumas a grand total of once, but it seemed like a nice town. Like just about any small town in the Texas Panhandle, it didn't look like there was a lot to do there. (For you city mice, that means there's no mall and no dance clubs. But you just stay in your giant city where can't smell clean air or meet your neighbors or avoid traffic jams, okay?) But the most interesting piece of trivia about the town (aside from the way the city limit signs around town tend to acquire an extra "S" painted at the end of the name) is about Dumas' song...

Way back in the 1930s, a songwriter named Phil Baxter was traveling from Navarro County to Denver when he had to stop and spend the night in Dumas. Whether it was because he liked the town or the people or because he ended up getting laid or whatever, Baxter wrote a song called "I'm a Ding Dong Daddy from Dumas". It was recorded by Phil Harris, Bob Wills, and quite a few other musicians.

I've heard the song once or twice--not enough to remember any lyrics beyond "I'm a Ding Dong Daddy from Dumas / You ought to see me do my stuff"--but I never thought it was a particularly great piece of music. My grandmother assures me that it used to be quite a popular little tune. However, Dumas, Texas just loved that song. Loved it to death, loved it to pieces. Put it on their tourism billboards, played it on their radio stations, acted like it was the only reason Dumas existed at all, even into the 1990s.

A few years back, when I was working at a particularly noxious little radio station in Central Texas, I got a call from KDDD in Dumas. Their station manager thought he had a job for me, which he proceeded to pitch to me. But this is how I remember his spiel running: "Hellooo, Mr. Jet-Poop, this is Johnnn Smith, the generalll manager from KDDD Radio in Duuuumas, Texas. You may have hearrrd of Duuuumas, Texas--there was an old soooong written about us in the 1930's. It was quite a POPular soooong, you may have heard of it, Dinnnng Dong Daddy from Duuuumas, we play it EVery mornnning..." And that was all before I had a chance to say a word.

While he gave me the rest of his pitch, I pondered what kind of community leader (radio station owners are always community leaders--it gets them free dinner at the Kiwanis meetings) would promote his hometown that way--with a 60-year-old song that no one listened to anymore. Then I started pondering what kind of hell it would be to work at a radio station where the owner had that sort of obsession with an old piece of music. My current job sucked, but it didn't suck that hard.

Since then, the radio station has sold to more sensible people, and the city has gotten rid of those tacky tourism billboards. They now emphasize their economy, the scenery, their events, the climate, and their people as a way to promote their town. Thank god for progress.