Rufus and Ray were two men in the mood to dance, so they up and did - twisting, shaking, swinging themselves around, stopping for swigs of beer between songs, sharing the bandstand with a rock 'n' roll group called the "Souvenirs."
A few hundred yards away, the choir from the 82d Airborne Division at Fort Bragg (N.C.) Army Base was entertaining, singing songs like "The All American Soldier."
The bikers - their denim jackets identified them as the "Ghost Riders" - were perturbed. One had climbed onto the "dunkin stool" and dared his buddies to dump him into the water. They tried, paying a quarter each for two softball throws at the target. But they all failed, even the one who called himself the "Executioner."
All that was going on and they hadn't even gotten to the hollering yet at the 9th Annual National Hollerin' Contest here Saturday, a communal gathering of parts at this rural crossroads (population less than 50) in southeastern North Carolina.
Most of the time, nobody pays much attention to Spivey's Corner. It is an "oasis" of a couple of filling stations and a convenience store struck in the middle of acres and acres of tobacco and corn fields.
But every June, starting back in 1969, the volunteer firemen, Lions Club members, deputy sheriffs and other folks start getting ready for the contest. They borrow tents from area funeral homes, cajole food and soft drinks from various stores, round up a few politicians, invite the media, and welcome thousands of people to the grounds of Midway High School for a day of eating, drinking, singing, dancing and - of course - hollerin'.
Hollern', as any farmer in these parts will tell you, is not the same as just plain old shouting. There is an art to it.Ask Dewey Jackson, a 78-year-old farmer who won the first contest.
Back in the old days, Jackson will tell you, farmers talked to each other and their animals out in the field by hollern'. Each had special calls to convey different messages. Dewey's dairy cows, he'll tell you, know that when they hear him hollern' "You've got a Friend in Jesus" it's time to come in for milking.
Over the years, however, progress - telephones, paved roads, better and faster automobiles - nearly made hollerin' a lost art form. Almost, that is. Some area civic and business leaders got together and decided that something ought to be done to preserve and promote hollerin'. So they concocted The National Hollerin' contest.
The rules have remained virtually the same since the first contest. Anyone who thinks he can holler gets up on a flatbed truck and lets loose. The judges, who often include a state political figure, pick the winner and it's as simple as that.
It was Dan McLamb, a 42-year-old dairy farmer from nearby Roseboro, who took the honors Saturday. With the help of his three-legged dog Percy, McLamb belted out "Precious Memories," an old-timey religious song, to claim the championship. At first the dog, which McLamb described as "a cross between a silver poodle and a stranger," was a little reluctant to cooperate. So McLamb held the dog in his arms and hollered alone through traditional calls such as distress and dinner. But then McLamb began the first verse of "Precious Memories" and Percy stuck out loose with a series of high-pitched howls.
There have been some changes since the first contest. Things appear to be a bit more commercial. The Lions Club held a raffle this year with a motor cycle for first prize, fishing tackle as second prize and 10 gallons of gasoline as third prize. The contest sponsors, the Spivey's Corner Volunteer Fire Department, have begun selling recording of past champs hollern' their stuff. You also can buy hollern's contest T-shirts and arm patches.
Attendance has also increased dramatically during the last few years. Saturday, between 7,500 and 10,000 persons showed up, about seven times the number of folks who witnessed the maiden contest. (No one really keeps track of how many people come; there is no admission fee and no one bothers to count anyway.)
Most of the people come from North Corolina, but cars with license plates from as far north as Canada and west as Colorado were spotted in the parking lots. One fellow, Les Cizek of Miami, who said he was a possum farmer, was in New York on business but he flew down late Friday night to participate - and win - the conch shell-blowing contest.
The conch shell contest is one of several new events added during the last few years Saturday's program also listed bingo, the junior hollern' contest,a whistling contest, fox-horn blowing, a performance by The Golden Knights, The U.S. Army's crack parachute team from Fort Bragg, ("We can do everything an airplane can do except go back up," said one of the parachutists) and "Ladies Calling Contest ("Women down here don't holler - they call," explained one official).
This year's crowd contained a lot of young folks, more so than in past years, but it did not seem to make much difference. Dewey Jackson and the other past winners - most decked, out in freshly-pressed white shirts, bib overalls and wearing their Farm Bureau hats - roamed the grounds, welcoming friends from past years, chatting about hollern' with whomever would listen - reporters, city folks, college students guzzling beer and the little kids who had walked barefoot from their farms down the road.