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The Sign Phantom of Dry Creek

The Sign Phantom

It all began in the spring of 1974, just prior to my graduation from high school. A rainy April had kept the local streams flooded in “Dry Creek.” (The world’s most overworked cliché, “Well, how wet is it in Dry Creek?”)

One afternoon I went down to the green “Dry Creek” sign that informs the northbound traveler that they are entering our community. Over the “Dry” in Dry Creek I taped a white poster board sign saying “Wet.” It now read, “Wet Creek.” It was widely noticed and laughed at by everyone.

The Lake Charles American Press even ran a picture of the sign, in a story commenting on our wet spring. The caption read in part, “The Highway Department is looking for the ‘wag’ that placed this sign, in defiance of regulations prohibiting the defacing of public signs.” This kind of caused me to lay low on my sign authorship. But for some reason, everyone in Dry Creek knew I’d done it.

Shortly after that, I placed another sign. This sign (to appease my humor-challenged highway department friends) was tied by hay string to the signposts below the Dry Creek sign. It read:

Fun City, U.S.A.

This sign was meant as a final tribute to my soon to be former home as the prodigal left “the sticks” for bigger and better things in college. To understand this sign, you must know something about Dry Creek- both the stream and the community.

To some, the name Dry Creek conjures up a small community in southwestern Louisiana. Others think of the church camp of the same name that has been in existence there for over seventy-five years. Then, some folks think of one of our three churches or two crossroads stores

The creek called Dry Creek is a small, muddy, steep-banked stream that meanders through the southeast corner of Beauregard Parish. It is not very wide, deep, or pretty. It was first named by the Indians. One old timer related as to how he’d been told the Indians really called it “Beautiful Creek,” but the English translation got messed up and came out as “Dry Creek.” Others claim the more traditional story of its name coming from the fact that the creek dries up in places in very dry weather.

Then, there is the geographical area known as Dry Creek. To call the community of Dry Creek a “town” is a gross exaggeration. Nestled among pine uplands and hardwood creek bottoms, Dry Creek is simply an intersection of two highways. We have a post office, a church Camp, two stores, and some really good churches, but very little in the way of commerce or industry.

This still happens to me from time to time: A first time visitor will stand in the Post Office parking lot across from Foreman’s Grocery and innocently ask, “Now, where is the actual community of Dry Creek located?” It’s always fun to answer with a smile, “Friend, you’re now standing right in the middle of downtown.”

Not much exciting has ever happened exciting in our community. Growing up I only remember two really big events- Once, when a crop-dusting airplane crash-landed on the highway, and the other when the post office was robbed. Therefore, to call Dry Creek, “Fun City, U.S.A.” was to make light of what most anyone would agree is a quiet and boring community.

Later during the fall of 1974, I returned home from college, and was informed that “my signs” had continued to appear. My pleas of innocence were met with knowing smiles and winks. According to local folks, these signs had continued to appear at the same location poking fun at our community with such gems as:

“Hee Haw Filmed Here,”

“Airport Next Exit,”

and “Famous for Nothing.”

Even though no one believed my repeated denials, I had a good idea who the real sign phantom was. Later that year on another visit home, I saw a new sign and both the humor and handwriting gave it away. This sign related to the predicted “swine flu” epidemic that was of grave concern in 1975. Doctors were advising many people, especially the elderly to receive vaccines. This new sign read:

“We ain’t gonna give our hogs no flu shots.”

I immediately knew my father was the sign phantom. My dad, a lifetime highway department worker and church deacon, reluctantly admitted to me that he had continued the sign tradition. In the coming months when I would be home, he would enlist my help accompanying him to help put up his signs.

I’d always know, even without seeing him, when he was preparing a sign by the sound, from the back room, of him laughing softly as the squeaking of the magic marker announced a new sign was on the way.

We’d leave out late at night to put up the signs. His signs at this time continued on their themes of small town life and country values such as:

“Shop our Modern Mall,”

“It Sure Ain’t Heaven,”

and “Toll Bridge- One Mile Ahead.”

Our longtime postmaster, Kat King, told of a stranger stopping at the post office for directions on how to avoid the toll bridge. A female driver wanted to know how to get to the nearby mall.

The signs continued and the legend of the Sign Phantom grew. I was still the number one suspect and no manner of denying could stop folks from believing it. All of my alibis about my being away from Dry Creek were not believed. At that time, I don’t believe anyone even suspected my quiet and respectable dad.

Even though our community is small, many travelers pass through Dry Creek on their way to DeRidder or Bundick Lake. The story of the signs at the Dry Creek bridge began to spread throughout southwest Louisiana. Folks would stop in at the store to comment on the signs, and even complain about their absence, if no sign was up. (Some signs, especially those controversial, never stayed up very long. Any sign, commenting on hunting, religion, or Edwin Edwards, were quickly ripped down.) But this never bothered the Sign Phantom of Dry Creek, who never seemed to have writers’ block or run out of new ideas.

One lady from Westlake, who traveled our way weekly to her fishing camp, sent a letter addressed to the Dry Creek Chamber of Commerce. For anyone to think we had a Chamber of Commerce really tickled us. Her letter had many questions about the signs. She said that each week her entire family began leaning forward in their seats to see what the latest sign said. She listed these as her favorites:

“We Have a Fine Sense of Rumor,”

“Crossroads to Nowhere,”

and “First Annual Fire Ant Festival Next Week.”

Many times the Sign Phantom commented on current events:

“Wedding Saturday Night Baptist Church- Bo and Hope” (From the soap opera Days of our Lives),

“Herb Lives in Dry Creek” (From the famous Burger King Ad series)

“Killer Bees- Death Awaits You Here” (As the dreaded killer bees approached Texas)

and “Protected by Patriot Missiles” (During Operation Desert Storm).

Additional social comments were made on signs such as:

Gun control- “Our wives, maybe. Our guns, never!”

The lottery- “Waiting for the lottery to make us all rich.”

Hunting- “Do not shoot squirrels that wave or smile at you.”

And even professional wrestling- “Don’t tell us that wrestling is fake!”

One of my personal favorites concerned an event that took place about fifteen years ago. Up in a bay in Washington State, three whales were trapped and could not swim out due to the shallow water at the bay entrance. For several weeks, the national news media kept Americans informed as the plight of the whales. Volunteers from groups, such as Greenpeace, stayed at the bay attempting to help the whales.

That same week, a sign appeared on the Dry Creek sign:

“Help save the three gar trapped in Bundick Lake.”

Through the years people never believed it was my dad making these signs. I eventually began answering all inquiries with the plain truth, “It’s my daddy doing them, not me.” Usually they just laughed as if I was the world’s greatest liar.

All in all, the hundreds of signs that were posted at the bridge were a commentary about our world during the 70s and 80s… and Dry Creek’s (or more specifically, my dad’s) reaction to it.

Some of the signs were not understood by Dry Creek natives. The meaning of a sign in 1990 was questioned by one older resident. “Clayton,” this man asked my dad, “What does that sign ‘We Dance with Coyotes’ mean?’” Evidently, he hadn’t been to the movies in a while, and didn’t even know who Kevin Costner was.

As I think of the many signs over the years, I recall my all time favorite. It can best be appreciated by an outsider driving through our community:

“Don’t laugh. Your daughter may marry a Dry Creek Boy”

I bet my mother-in-law up in north Louisiana, and many other parents who’ve lost a daughter to a Dry Creek boy, can really appreciate that sign penned by the Sign Phantom of Dry Creek.

Sometimes during the early 1990’s, the Highway Department came and moved the Dry Creek sign away from the bridge and closer to the community. They placed it right across from Turner’s Grocery. That is when Daddy quit putting up his signs. He said the resident’s dogs barked too much when he went to this new location at night. However, the legend of the Sign Phantom still lives on in the community of Dry Creek, Louisiana, better known as “Fun City, USA.”

The above story is from The Old House by Curt Iles

An unabridged list of Daddy’s Sign Phantom postings.

From the book, Wind in the Pines, by Curt Iles

Everyone’s favorite story from my previous book, The Old House, was “The Sign Phantom.” It told of my dad’s hilarious roadside signs as you entered the community of Dry Creek. The following is a list of all the signs as he remembered them. You may not understand them all.

(You would have needed to have been there on some of them.) But they are representative of his neat sense of humor:

Flag burner – you have been warned!

Peacocks At Large

Caution – Adults at Play

Register for free Ford Torino

Home of the Bionic Dog

Airport next exit

No diving from this bridge

Toll Bridge – one half mile

Shop our modern mall

Gateway to Doodle Fork

Going on vacation? – visit Reeves

Famous for Nothing

It sure ain’t heaven

We have a great sense of rumor

Stay at our “no-tell” motel

Danger – Skylab landing area

Welcome to Fantasy Island

Get rid of ugly fat – divorce him

One horse town with a sick horse

Equal rights for men rally Saturday

Stop in and make an enemy

Just opened – Tattoo Parlor

Annual Sideburn Pageant

Nude Bathing at Morrow Bridge

Hee Haw filmed here

Now open: Massage Parlor

The Shah will not spend Christmas in Dry Creek

Billy Carter would like Dry Creek

Crossroads to nowhere

Hunters get help – join doe shooters anonymous

Welcome Cuban refugees

Our wives: Maybe, Our guns: Never

Under quarantine: Sleeping sickness

Just happy primitive people here

Move the Olympics to Dry Creek

We ain’t gonna give our hogs no flu shots

Satellite capital of the world

Herb lives in Dry Creek (from the famous Burger King ad)

Night Hunters – look out for Rudolph

Remember what happened to Grandma

Wedding Saturday night, Baptist Church – Bo and Hope

Our sex symbol: Alan Tumey

(referring to a well known nerdy KPLC-TV reporter)

Deep in the heart of taxes

Protected by Patriot Missiles

“Stormin’ Norman” could not control this place

On this site in 1901: Nothing Happened

Yield right-of-way to fire engines

First annual fire ant festival next weekend

Ban all elections*

Shame on you, Edwin*

Come back, Treen*

Gov. Edwards crapped out*

What election?*

* Daddy loved to poke fun at politics and elections, especially anything that involved Edwin Edwards.

We dance with Coyotes

Don’t tell us wrestling is fake

J.R. would have a ball around here

Winter home of Bigfoot

Welcome Patty Hearst

Deer Hunters: Bambi – No/Bambi’s mother – Never!

Bo don’t know Dry Creek

Home of the Ugly Trucks

Killer bees, death awaits you here

River boat gambling on Whiskey Chitto

Come back Charley Mac

Do not shoot squirrels that wave or smile at you

Our deer are armed and trained to shoot back

Waiting for the lottery to make us all rich

Opening here soon – Dr. Red Duke’s medical center

Free the 3 gar trapped i
n Bundick Lake

Welcome to Saturday Night Dead

Boyhood home of Spuds McKenzie

1064 – The combined IQ of everyone in Dry Creek

Entering the time tunnel

Beware of Rabid squirrels

Home of “Black” Iles – tour guide dog

Since we gave up all hope – we feel lots better

Khadaffy wouldn’t last 30 minutes here

No bungee jumping off Dry Creek Bridge

Where caterpillars grow on trees – not money

Latest gossip just ahead

2 – Live Crew in concert here Saturday

Do not pet or tease our coyotes

We miss you Boss Hogg

Take a stray dog to lunch

Don’t laugh your daughter may marry a Dry Creek boy!

About Curt Iles

I write to have influence and impact through well-told stories of my Louisiana and African sojourn.

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2 comments

  1. Its scarry I understood them all

  2. Deciding what to wear to the Fire Ant Festival; what are the dates again?
    For a “One Stickhorse Town” you people are really involved in civic and community affairs. LOL.

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