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Transcript

Home of the Double-Headed Eagle [1]

Directed by Brian Graves [2] and Ali Colleen Neff [3]

Transcription and notes by folklorist Ali Colleen Neff

[Pan shots of elaborate folk architecture] [4]

[Vehicles drive across the screen loudly] [5]

[Music] [Singing] [Margaret Dennis sings "I'm on the Battlefield for my Lord"] [Sounds of Reverend Dennis talking in background] [6]

Margaret Dennis: [V/O] [Images of the Dennis' visionary architecture]

I was lost in sin,

But Jesus took me in

And I heard a little voice from heaven

Said, "There is work to do."

[Pan of architecture with Margaret Dennis sitting on the porch]

So I took the master's hand

And I joined the Christian band

And I'm on the battlefield for my Lord.

Yes, I'm on the battlefield for my Lord.

I am on the battlefield for my Lord. [On Camera]

I promised him that I

Would serve him 'til die

I'm on the battlefield for my Lord. [Laughs] [7]

[Title shot] [Hand-painted sign reading, "Home of the Double-Headed Eagle] [8]

Margaret Dennis: [O/C] His mother died at birth.

[Long shot of Reverend Dennis walking slowly through his sculpture and yard]

His father was gone off from home one day, when he was born. And, um. They said when they found them and his mother, his mother was dead, he was laying there by her. And said, and the doctors said that?she probably had been dead about three of four days before anyone found her. Some children were playing around the house and they smelled the odor and they went back and told their parents. And they broke in and found her. [9]

[On camera] And so his grandmother raised him up until he got twelve years old. And when he got twelve years old she did passed away. [10]

[Continued shot of Reverend Dennis walking through yard] And so his father came and got him and, um, he was real cruel to Reverend Dennis. [11]

[On camera] He would beat him, wantin' him to pick more cotton than he could pick, and just did him real bad until Reverend Dennis decided he was going to try to kill his father or he run off. So he decided he run off.

[O/C] [Continued shot of Reverend Dennis walking through yard] [12]

And when he left home he left home at night. And he had to walk a good long way, about eight or nine miles before he got to a train station. And when he got to the train station, he didn't have any money to get on the train.

[Close-up shot of Reverend Dennis talking] So he went and got on the front part of the train-at that time they called it a cow catcher. That's on the front of the train. He say he got up there he had his little clothes in a bag, a pillowslip. And say he put it on that cow catcher and he got on top of it. [13]

[On camera] And when he got on top of it he held on to it. And the train pulled off. And said, ohhh, he had to ride about nine miles on that cow catcher. And said that wind just whooped him so bad, in his face, but he know he couldn't turn it loose. So he held on to it.

[Shot of Reverend Dennis standing and talking on porch]

Reverend H. D. Dennis: Take a picture of my work. And you see I don't lay bricks like other bricklayers.

[Shot of a tower of multicolored brick and latticework] Whatever you do, you try to do it better than anybody else, don't care what it is. Now don't kill nobody, I ain't telling you to kill nobody. [14]

[Shot of hand-painted signs on property] But whatever you do, do it better.

[Shot of Margaret Dennis in her home]

Margaret Dennis: My name is Margaret Dennis and I'm 91 years old, and the first thing I want to say is I believe in Jesus Christ with all my heart.

[Shot of Margaret and Reverend Dennis sitting on their porch] Now Reverend Dennis, his love for God and his love for his wife.

[Zoom in to photos of the couple together]

He's a very good husband, very good husband, uh-huh. And so, he said he loved me and he was gonna fix up my little store up for me. And said he was gonna make it a castle. [15]

[Shot of Reverend and Margaret Dennis chatting on porch]

[Shot of Margaret Dennis in living room] [Pan shots of house interiors]

At night, some nights he would work in here--I would help him some-in here at night. In the daytime he'd be out there laying bricks. He said he would have visions at night and the next day he would get up and do what the vision said. [16]

Reverend Dennis: [Points to photocopied newspaper articles about his work posted on his front porch] Look at my reputation up here. You see my reputation there? I ain't ashamed. I ain't ashamed of my reputation.

Margaret Dennis: [Detail shots of interior visionary art] I had a vision one night. [On camera] And a white box was floatin', was floatin' right up to me, a beautiful box, just like you see snow when the moon shines against it. [Shots of interior artwork] I thought, "Oh, I'll look and see what's in it." So I opened the box up and it was a long, pretty white dress. Pretty just like the box was. And so one of them said, "Look over in the box and see what else is in the box."

I looked over in the box and there was three rusty nails. So late that evening, I said, "Lord, what is this? What is this?" And he said, "Margaret, there's three things you been doin' that you go to stop: smokin' cigarettes, I had an outside man, and drinkin' the whiskey. Three things. Don't matter ?"

I said, "Well father, if you forgive me for that, I will never do that no more." That's when I was 49 years old. And I haven't did it since and I never will. Not for all the money in this world. [17]

[Close up of a photo of Margaret in her 40s] [Pan to a shot of Reverend Dennis in younger years]

Margaret Dennis: [V/O] I know you know who this is, Reverend Dennis.

[Shot of Margaret Dennis before an elaborate altar-like assemblage of family photos] [18]

[On Camera] This is one of my old pictures. And, um, this is one of my sisters. These two here is my two nieces. They live in Jackson now. This a neice, and this a niece of mine. This is my second husband's mother. You see me with my picture of my dog, you can't see it so good. This one is my niece--she lives in California. This is my mother's picture, that's my life. This is my picture when me and Preacher got married. [Close up of Reverend Dennis and Margaret in 1984] [19]

[Shot of Reverend and Margaret Dennis sitting on porch]

Margaret Dennis: (They come from) different places overseas, like German and Russian?

Reverend H. D. Dennis: They come here every day and visit.

Margaret Dennis: German and Russian and Japanese?

Reverend Dennis: This is a busy place every day.

Margaret Dennis: They come here from all overseas.

Reverend Dennis: 24 hours-no, not 24 hours! [Laughs] No?

Margaret Dennis: No, no, no? [20]

[Zoom out from a reconditioned internet CD to the folk art structure to which it is attached]

Margaret Dennis: He said the reason why he made it like he did, and took to paintin' and all, 'cause he wanted to draw people's attention to stop. And said when they stop he has a chance to tell them about Jesus Christ.

[Shots of a redecorated school bus, hand-painted signage]

Reverend H. D. Dennis: Church of Christ. That's whom I serve. The Church of Christ.

[Shots of redecorated school bus and yard] I didn't get enough donations to build a church. The city of Vicksburg donated me that bus. [21]

[Shot of Double-Headed Eagle sign with Vicksburg, Mississippi painted in the corner] And I took it and decorated it, and made it a house for the worshipping. Now, that is not a church. I want to tell you that. The church is in you. [Shot of the interior of his chapel/school bus]

[Shot of Reverend Dennis preaching in bus as visitors arrive] [22]

Reverend H. D. Dennis: You know what I spoke. Come on in, boys. Now get a pew just like you is. Get you a seat. I was preaching the gospel. You need to hear the gospel. You need to know you doin' wrong. You been drinking, goin' to the gambling boats, [23] you got four or five women. You don't care what you do. God is angry with you. Come on in here and hear the word.

[Shot of one of Reverend Dennis' signs]

[Close up of Reverend Dennis before one of his signs]

Reverend Dennis: I don't have no black or white church. I want you to know that. It's but one church.

Young preacher: [O/C] That's right. [24]

Reverend Dennis: You know that?

Young preacher: [O/C] Yes sir.

Reverend Dennis: And it's all colors, just like you see everything. When you see everything (where) you go. I don't care where you go in the world, you're gonna see different colors. [25]

Young preacher: [O/C] That's right.

Reverend Dennis: Huh?

[Shots of colorful brickwork]

Young preacher: [V/O] Yes sir, you're right.

Reverend Dennis: [V/O] Turn around.

Young preacher: Yes sir.

[Shot of young preacher turning around to show a large Masonic square and compass logo on his back] [26]

Reverend Dennis: (Intelligible)

Young preacher: Sir?

Reverend Dennis: Turn around. Now, what?you told me that you didn't know what it was.

Young preacher: I know what it is.

Reverend Dennis: How come you say you didn't know?

Young preacher: Well, because I knew if you? I?I knew you could tell me. Oh, okay. Okay. How long you been a mason? You a travelin' man, are you?

Reverend Dennis: Huh?

Young preacher: Which way you travelin', which way you travelin'?

Reverend Dennis: Huh?

Young preacher: Which way you travelin'?

[Shot of a shutter on the house with a hand-painted Masonic symbol] [27]

Reverend Dennis: How you ask me that question? How you ask me?

Young preacher: On the square.

Reverend Dennis: Huh?

Young preacher: On the square.

Reverend Dennis: You ask me?on the square, huh?

Young preacher: 90-degree. Third-degree angle, high and dry. Yeah. [28]

Reverend Dennis: Well, I'll tell you, son, I?I don't know how much I tell you now.

[Shot of Reverend Dennis' Masonic certificate] But I'll tell you. I reach on the level and I act on the plumb and I pause on the square.

Young Preacher: That's all right.

Reverend Dennis: Is that enough?

Young preacher: That's good enough, that's good enough, but look, we can't talk too much about it now because they're not masons. We can't say too much. [Points at camera]

Reverend Dennis: I reach on the level and I act on the plumb and pause on the square.

Young preacher: That's right.

Reverend Dennis: I don't care what it is. You see the Double-Headed Eagle up there?

Young preacher: Yes sir.

Reverend Dennis: You ain't that high.

Young preacher: No I'm not that high yet. I haven't gotten that high.

Reverend Dennis: You ain't never gonna get that high. [29]

Young Preacher: Okay. Okay. Well, look, we can't say too much because these people are not masons. It's cloudy right now.

Reverend Dennis: Huh?

Look, we can't say too much out here because these people are not masons.

Reverend Dennis: You ain't a pimp, ain't you? [30]

Young Preacher: No, sir.

Reverend Dennis: You swing your hand?

Young Preacher: No, sir.

Reverend Dennis: I used to swing mine. [Points at the young visitors] A pimp!

Young Preacher: No sir, I'm not a pimp, I'm a pastor.

Reverend Dennis: I've lived all over the world.

Young Preacher: Look, listen, Reverend Dennis, Reverend Dennis, I'm a preacher just like you are.

Reverend Dennis: What?

Young Preacher: I'm a preacher just like you are.

Reverend Dennis: Drink of water? [31]

[Shots of yard from front porch] [It is raining steadily outside]

Reverend Dennis: The devil brought the rain. [Medium shot of Reverend Dennis speaking on porch] Don't think he can't. God give him a certain amount of power. When he throw him out of heaven, he didn't throw him out of there empty-handed. He throw him out of there with one third of the power from heaven. That's what he do with the spirit, when God throw him out of heaven. He's a spirit, and he dwells in a human body. And if he can persuade your flesh to do anything, he'll do it. [32]

[Shot of Reverend Dennis preaching in silhouette against a stormy sky]

Reverend Dennis: Wrong! You hate one another, black and white. The blacks hate the whites, the whites hate the blacks. Look at you all. You all are in a-bad shape. In ruin, in a-bad shape. Sin, we ain't livin' right. You tell the people every day about you livin;' right. You hate your sisters and brothers, and you tell them that you love 'em. You don't love your sisters and brothers. You don't even love?God almighty!

[Sound of motorcycle crossing the nearby highway] [33]

[Fade to black] [Fade up to shots of the yard and signs] [34]

[Shot of a lizard on the bricks] [35]

[Ambient sounds] [Birds chirping]

[Music] [Margaret Dennis singing 'Amazing Grace"]

Amazing grace.

How sweet the sound [Long shot of Reverend and Margaret Dennis talking on the porch]

That saved a wretch like me.

I once was lost

But now I'm found

Was blind

But thank God

I can see. [Shot of Reverend and Margaret Dennis waving goodbye]

Directed by Brian Graves and Ali Colleen Neff

Special thanks to Reverend H. D. Dennis and Margaret Dennis.

Produced at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2006

Advised by Professors James Peacock and William Ferris [36]

Additional ethnography and photography by Tim Gordon

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