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DYESS, Ark. (KTHV) - "The Man in Black," "Ring of Fire," and "Walk the Line." ....All of these familiar phrases are linked to the legend of Johnny Cash.

But something else links the country star to the Natural State. Cash grew up in Dyess, Arkansas and an effort to restore his childhood home nears completion.

THV11's Dustin Wilson, along with photojournalist John Young, took us to the back roads of Dyess to show us his roots.

The top hand mounted his trusty steed
And rode across the plain.
He said, "I'll ride until setting sun
Unless I lose my rein."

Although not as clear as they once were, the poetic words of Johnny Cash won't fade from the mind of his childhood friend, A.J. Henson.

"We thought we'd died and gone to heaven," said a reminiscent Henson.

Hope came out of the gumbo soil of the town of Dyess. The childhood home of Johnny Cash still protrudes from the unsettled ground.

Henson recalled, "We would have to get under the house and jack it up and put blocks under to make it level."

Only a handful of homes remain from the Dyess colony, a federally-assisted farming community of what used to be 500 families back in the 1930s.

Henson grew up around the Cash family and remembers the music legend as "J.R."

He said, "He was kind of mischievous. He was pretty smart in school. He used to sing at assembly."

Coming out of the great depression, both Cash and Henson families welcomed the fresh start.

"When we moved to Dyess, we came from a house that didn't have glass in all windows. Some of them had toe sacks, or sacks, hanging in the windows," Henson said.

He now lives in Memphis and supports the project to restore the Cash home and the Dyess Colony Administration building.

Touring THV11's Dustin Wilson around the home, Dr. Ruth Hawkins with Arkansas State Universitygave him aglimpse at thepiano. She said, "...Fortunately the mayor and City of Dyess have saved that piano."

Dr. Hawkins is leading the restoration project. The university purchased both properties in 2011 and plan to have them ready for public viewing in August.

• Project Updates:http://on.kthv.com/1etNCjB

She explained, "We've been using proceeds from the Johnny Cash Music Festivalprimarily. We've had three of those now. We have restored the exterior of the house. We're basically done with the interior, with the exception to furnishing, which we're working on now."

Cash, along with six siblings and his parents, lived in the home. In fact, THV11 is told there was just one closet for all of their clothes, but they said it still wasn't full.

The country legend was known for singing in the cotton fields and listening to a battery-powered radio.

Henson said some of his fondest memories from his childhood in Dyess come from going up and down dirt roads with Cash.

"I think of him as going up and down these gravel roads like the rest of us. It's not imaginably that some somebody could grow up to such stature as he has," Henson said.

Hope came up from gumbo soil, and Cash's legacy shows the word that the humblest of beginnings can walk the line to stardom.

  • Award for Johnny Cash's restoration project
  • Johnny Cash festival set for Aug. 17 in Jonesboro
  • Tommy Cash, Joanne Cash Yates ready for 3rd Johnny Cash Music Festival
  • Rosanne Cash, Willie Nelson headline Cash festival
  • ASU gets $350K for Dyess Colony restoration
  • Johnny Cash's First Wife Writes Book


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