IM AND HIS FAMILY
came down on vacation.
On the way to the beach
one day they happened
past Fort Apache.
“We drove by and I
spotted the panel van,”
Jim says. “I like old cars.
I told my wife, before
we leave I’m going to go
down there and find out what’s going on.”
The panel van is parked by the zombie bus, the first
thing travelers see coming around the curve heading
south on Stone Chimney Road toward Holden Beach.
Like most things at Fort Apache, it’s not an ordinary
panel van. It’s the SWAT van — Sexy Women’s Assault
Team, serving Brunswick and surrounding counties.
That doesn’t matter to Jim. It’s still an older car, one
of many on the grounds. He sees them all during his
personal tour with Dale.
“It’s fantastic,” Jim says. “That’s the only word I can
say. I like the cars, the people are nice, it’s amazing.”
Dale finds out Jim is from Ohio, and tells him that
he graduated in the top 10 of his class from OSMI. Jim
“I said, ‘You don’t know where OSMI is?’” Dale says.
“That’s Ohio State Mental Institution. I got him good!
He’ll never forget me now.”
You laugh a lot when you’re around Dale. His zany
sense of humor is his way of making an impression.
“Sometimes when I first see somebody — you’re
going to think I’m crazy — I’ll be there talking and
I’ll say, ‘Hold still a minute,’” he says. “I reach into
my pocket and I pull out an arrowhead. I’ll pick their
nose and say, ‘Down here in the South, we call them
boogers.’ It’s the first impression. They think I’m crazy,
but they’ll never forget me. Is that crazy?”
Well, maybe just a little. In truth, he doesn’t really
mind if you suspect he’s a little off. After all, “Home
of Crazy Dale” is emblazoned on the side of one of
his vehicles — the blue van with the hobbyhorse head
But if there is madness, there is also method. Fort
Apache exists as a platform for Dale’s redemption story.
“I thank God I’m here,” he says. “That’s why I do all
this crazy stuff; it just draws people. Most of them come
by and say, ‘What’s going on?’ It opens so many doors
for me, where I can tell people, you don’t want to go in
life where I’ve been. You know what I mean? It gets me
to where I can help people, and it makes a difference.”
Dale’s family has owned the land here for decades. He
still runs the junkyard his daddy opened in 1957. But
the roadside attraction traces its origins to the 1970s,
when Dale began “dancing with the devil.”
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