Kevin Shaw: Everything I Know I Learned From “The Dukes of Hazzard”

There’s some lessons you learn from experience. There’s others you learn from your mom or dad. There’s even lessons that you can learn from a teacher or coach, but how often have you learned something worthwhile from TV? Surprisingly enough, for guys my generation and younger who grew up glued to their boob tubes, such might be the case (although, I’m not entirely sure what pearls of wisdom kids growing up with Spongebob Squarepants got). One show, at least for a budding muscle car junkie, spoke out more than “The Facts of Life,” “A-Team,” or “The Smurfs,” and that would be “The Dukes of Hazzard.”

Like the show which started in 1979 and ran all the way until 1985, I too was born during the final years of the Carter administration. Since both of my parents worked full-time, leaving me with my older siblings was always an option. Unfortunately, since I was so much their junior, the easiest thing to do was to plop me down in front of the family television. Thankfully (and very much in contradiction to what is aimed at kids today), network programming was surprisingly family friendly. Now an adult and parent myself, I look for these tenets and bits of wisdom in today’s media with little success. I’m glad I’ve got them on DVD…

Family Comes First

Notice the lacking “01” on the doors. This particular press photo was taken with an obviously incomplete “General Lee”
Images: Warner Bros.

The single-strongest theme of the CBS series was the strength found in the bonds of family. Despite the fractured format of the Duke clan – notably all featured characters were noted as cousins, save of course, for the family patriarch, Jessie – the show taught no matter if you were raised in a “nuclear family” or not, or whether you’re even blood-related, those you call family are the people you should out for and keep closest.

Time again, cousins Bo and Luke risked life and limb to help and protect their friends and family. Many Mopar enthusiasts will remember that before her white “Golden Eagle” Jeep, Daisy drove a ’74 yellow Plymouth Road Runner. In the episode “The Runaway,” Daisy’s ill-fated B-Body careens toward a sheer cliff with little to no escape. Bo, daring mortality swoops in to save the ingenue before matching the Plymouth’s demise.

There’s Nothing That Can’t Be Done With a Smile

Attitude is singularly one of the key essentials to success. Ask any big corporate consultant, maintaining a positive attitude is imperative to maintaining a level head in stressful scenarios. Those who are mentally prepared and come with the self-discipline to always look at the positive in an otherwise negative situation are more likely to walk out unscathed.

Time and again, Sheriff Roscoe P. Coltrane lay in wait for the devil-may-care Duke boys to fall deftly into yet another of he and Boss Hogg’s traps. Roscoe, though, was never known for his detailed planning, and when the trap was snared, was caught unprepared to deal with the minute-by-minute alterations to his devious-yet-ultimately-flawed plans. Hasty decision-making and driving hindered by flamed tempers and poor forethought inevitably landed his squad car at the bottom of Snake Creek.

Nice Guys Don’t Necessarily Come in Last

Yes, our friend, Deputy Enos Strate did end up with his beloved Daisy Duke after six years of episodes and two reunion movies.

While the phrase “fortune favors the brave” does hold significant merit, it bares noting that bravery in this instance does not imply or necessitate a sour demeanor, narcissism or guile. In fact, many human resources managers find that those who take the time to establish positive relationships with and ultimate befriend their coworkers enjoy greater workplace harmony and job satisfaction.

While Enos wasn’t necessarily the brightest bulb on the “Dukes,” Enos was possibly the most honest. Dubbed a simpleton (or “Dipstick” by Roscoe), Enos was true to his upbeat, positive nature; winning favor with Jessie, Bo, Luke, and more importantly, Daisy. In fact, it was his sincerity with Daisy that ultimately landed him the most coveted role in all of Hazzard County, Daisy’s fiance.

Do What You Know is Right Despite What the World Might Tell You

Edmund Burke said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph [of evil] is for good men to do nothing.” This country was founded upon virulent acts of treason, if one was to stand back and look at the American Revolution from the perspective of the British. Although the law prohibited the publication of local news media, the American colonies fought to maintain its right to free press and speech. As the British – fearing a widespread revolt – confiscated Americans’ firearms, the federalists and separatists stowed weapons for the protect of their selves, families and property.

Sometimes unjust laws exist and are upheld by unjust men. While the parameters of Boss Hogg’s involvement with Hazzard County’s local government is often hazy (“County Commissioner” is a term thrown around loosely in the series), Hogg’s lust for “get-rich-quick” schemes, unlawful trade, taxing, embargoes, and the like made it necessary for good men and women, namely the Dukes and affiliates, to stand up and revolt – in their own certain way…and that’s just a little bit more than the law allowed.

Keep Your Friends Close (and Your Enemies Closer)

Sun-Tzu’s maxim, although centuries old (hailing from his novelized stratagem, “The Art of War”) still holds true today. In times of conflict – be it covert or extrovert – knowing who your friends are who your enemies might be is wisdom for the ages. Friendship is essential to survival, even if you’re not at ends between battling factions. And knowing those few who seek to undermine, usurp, or foil you is even more important.

Interestingly, wizened elder Duke, Jessie’s take on Boss Hogg was surprisingly similar to British-educated Mahatma Ghandi’s tactic; namely, bring them into your confidence. Befriending an enemy is the quickest way to defuse a volatile relationship. By the final seasons, Bo and Luke’s persistent cat-and-mouse game had become more of an activity than an obligation for Roscoe and Enos who had become rather close to them good ol’ Duke boys.

Don’t Be Afraid to Attempt the Impossible

Fear is the single greatest self-inflicted hurdle that we must overcome. Be it a fear of heights, public speaking, traveling to distant and alien countries or even attempting to try new exotic foods, our auto-imposed trepidations can hold us back from enjoying the vastness of pleasure and experience that this world can offer us. Remember, nobody died thinking, “I should’ve stayed home and watched more TV.” Life is meant to be cherished and enjoyed. Dare to step out of your comfort zone.

Launching a 3,900-pound Dodge Charger 150 feet through the air is likely a fool’s errand. The stunning visuals of “The Dukes of Hazzard” is what made the show, truly, such a landmark in America’s televised history; trust me, it wasn’t the acting. Never before had a network television show attempted such feats and have done little to top the achievements of the “Dukes” since. Undoubtedly, those who dared to ask, “Why not?” are rewarded for their impact on history.

About the author

Kevin Shaw

Kevin Shaw is a self-proclaimed "muscle car purist," preferring solid-lifter camshafts and mechanical double-pumpers over computer-controlled fuel injection and force-feeding power-adders. If you like dirt-under-your-fingernails tech and real street driven content, this is your guy.
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