| Virtually everyone reading this post will be familiar with the Bumpus hounds, especially from Shep's movie, "A Christmas Story." The Bumpus family and their hounds first appeared in print in Playboy magazine in the late 1960s. In Shep's 1971 book, "Wanda Hickey's Night of Golden Memories," the first chapter was titled, "The Grandstand Passion Play of Delbert and the Bumpus Hounds." There, Shep introduced Delbert and his family, said to be "hillbillies," this way:
"We were living next door to a tightly knit band of total slobs, a genuine gypsy family. The Bumpuses were so low down on the evolutionary totem pole that they weren't even included in Darwin's famous family tree. They had inbred and ingrown and finally emerged from the Kentucky hills like some remnant of Attila the Hun's barbarian horde. Flick said that they had webbed feet and only three toes. It might have been true. Delbert Bumpus, the runt of the litter, came to school about three days a month. It was three times too often. Whenever he showed up, there would be a lot of yelling, and they'd throw him out. Delbert never played with anybody and he hardly ever talked; but he spat a lot. Since he lived with the goats and rabbits and chickens, he didn't smell exactly like the rest of us, either -- and we weren't any bargain."
Shep went on in the story to further disparage Delbert and his family.
Delbert Bumpus was in fact a very real person who lived in the Hessville section of Hammond, Indiana, and attended its schools with Shep. If you go to the People section on Flick Lives, and click on the Web page for Delbert Bumpus, you can view pictures of him and his family. You will also learn the true story of Delbert, as well as of the "hounds." Here is the direct link: http://www.flicklives.com/index.php?pg=348&ID=x549
Shep could sometimes be mean-spirited and hurtful. Intended or not, Delbert Bumpus was humiliated and deeply wounded by Shep's demeaning and fictionalized treatment of a real, identifiable person. It was something of a burden Delbert carried through his adult life, after reading the original story in Playboy. It was a burden particularly undeserved by the REAL Delbert Bumpus, an American hero.