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From early childhood, I've suffered from insomnia. Awake at all hours of the night, even when I feel completely exhausted. In the early days, I occupied my mind with imaginary tales, thoughts of places and people I'd someday visit and meet. As the years progressed and life became more complex, all this empty time in the middle of the night became problematic. It sometimes causes the mind to wander, to focus too much on trivial things, and to over analyze situations that aren't worthy of so much brain space. I suppose this is an inherent trait of all females, whether they have insomnia or not. :) Now, I mostly read in the middle of the night, watch the news or listen to music. Of course, if there is a man in my bed it's much better! Easy to roll over, cuddle, or entice. But this has not been the case for many years.

A man named Dalton Stevens found a more interesting way to keep his mind occupied, to deal with the dead space in the middle of the night and early morning hours when most of the humanity around him is sound at sleep. Today, I'll tell you the story of the "Button King," a kind and gentle soul living in a small South Carolina town.

1. Dalton is now in his 80's, suffering from poor health as a result of a stroke last year, but still anxious to tell anyone his story. When I pulled into his driveway in early January, he was happy to have some company and began to tell me his life story, in a deep Southern accent. Dalton sometimes stayed awake for four or five days at a time, absolutely nothing helped him sleep. One night, suffering from extreme exhaustion and frustration, he picked up a needle and began sewing buttons on a denim Wrangler shirt. Immediate calm set in, and therapy and peace were found in a most unusual form - buttons! It took over two years to finish the Wrangler shirt and a pair of jeans, in total over 16,000 buttons!


2. Close-up view of the artistry. This Wrangler shirt is still offered for sale in many American clothing stores, though when I see one now it seems so ordinary after my eyes have viewed Dalton's legendary work.


3. After the shirt, no objects were off limits. Following the publication of a story about Dalton in the local South Carolina paper, a funeral home contacted him and donated an old Hearse and two caskets. These items eventually became Dalton's new canvases.


4. How many people can say they decorated their own casket? In death, Dalton will be surrounded by the very thing that saved his life and sanity - buttons! His final resting place will be in this box.


5. All the instruments hanging behind the casket are no accident. Dalton was an engineer by profession, but also a musician and avid lover of blue grass music. He plays a variety of music, still strumming the guitar and banjo even in his old age. He picked up the acoustic guitar, and sang for me. A song called "Insomniac Shuffle," almost all tunes have a button theme. You can listen to the song here. Dalton still makes trips to West Virginia, to meet up with local and talented banjo players. His guitar has over 3,000 buttons!


6. Here you can see the hearse, and the singer's performance outfit. A heavy suit, weighed down by buttons, a cowboy hat and his beloved instrument. Btw, the car is covered in over 600,000 buttons, including a decorative cross on the back window.


7. Button piano - I think it would have been a good performance piece for the legendary and very flamboyant piano player Liberace. :)


8. Dalton's old Chevrolet. When he got tired of driving it, the car became another savior and canvas in his life. Over 160,000 buttons were glued on the automobile over a period of several years.


9. Unique type of bubble bath! :)


10. I know in some parts of Russia, people still use these outhouses. Imagine how nice it would be in the dull, grey provincial landscapes to have an outhouse like this!  I found it strange that Dalton would pick an item like this for a canvas, but he told me he wanted to decorate the outhouse because many modern day children have never seen this type of facility. Children - a very special love of Dalton's. He has several kids, all of whom take care of him today.


11. His button creations are housed in a very small museum, located only a few hundred feet from Dalton's house. Because he has such weak legs now, he had to drive to the museum from his house, even though it's a short walk away.


12. A very touching memorial to Dalton's wife of 55 years. She passed away from a heart attack only a few years ago. He told me his heart aches every day from her absence, that she never once considered him or his craft crazy. She supported all phases of his artistry, from the instant he picked up a needle and sewed the first button on the Wrangler shirt, to his celebrity years in the 1980's, when Dalton appeared on Johnny Carson, many U.S. news programs, and was even invited by the Iris Button Co. in Japan for a visit. His unique artistry, dynamic personality, and gentle soul warmed spirits all over the globe. He traveled to many countries, at the invitation of button companies, and even appeared in a Finnish commercial. Yet he never made it to Russia. For me, this memorial is the most touching part of the museum. Nothing to do with buttons and a testament of true love and support. In the end, this is all that matters in life, right? To find not the most beautiful, hard-bodied, or glamourous person, but one that truly understands and supports you through the good and bad.


13. Dalton still lives in the modest house he shared with his wife. He lives alone, but each night one of his children spends the night with him. They rotate days of care, and stay in constant communication with him. He received a phone call from his granddaughter during my visit.


14. Master at work.


15. I envision Dalton to be a religious man, though he did not expressly say so. It seemed obvious based on his house decor, small crosses in the museum, and the sentimental note written in honor of his wife. At the end of the note, he wrote - "I will not rest until we are reunited in heaven..." Numerous Bibles were placed throughout his house, and when I entered, an evangelist was speaking from Dalton's television set.


16.  Media coverage from all over the world.


17. It seems almost unimaginable that something as simple as a button could literally save someone's life and mind. With Dalton, these tiny items opened an entire new world of opportunity. They led him to countries all over the world, remarkable encounters with humans from all nations, the unique gift to be able to touch people in the simplest of ways, with the most basic story in all of life - a story of survival.


I'll add Dalton to the list of other interesting people I've met throughout the world. Such humans you never forget. They leave a special mark in your mind because they are so unusual, but for me Dalton was a kindred spirit. A sleepless, restless soul, who found a pathway to peace with a needle, a bottle of glue, and shiny little round things.

Do you know any interesting people like this in the Moscow area, living in an unusual manner, dedicating their life to unusual pursuits? If so, let me know. I will be happy to visit them when I arrive next week, and write about their life.

Btw, when Dalton learned that my travel companion was Russian, his face immediately lit up. "A Russian!" No one from Russia has ever visited his tiny museum in the middle of nowhere in South Carolina. He told Alexander to be sure to sign his guest book, where you can find signatures from all over the globe. Now Russia is included in the list. Upon departure, Dalton told Alexander to tell "all Russians hello." So, I'm passing along his greetings to you as well.

If you want to send Dalton buttons from Russia, he will be happy to receive them. He prefers the round, smooth variety. They can be mailed to:

Dalton Stevens
55 Joe Dority Road
Bishopville, South Carolina
29010  USA

Please tell Dalton you found him through my blog.

Pleasant evening to all, and sweet dreams tonight! :)

Other Interesting Humans
God's Tree House: Crossville, Tennessee



( 48 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
Feb. 16th, 2015 04:09 pm (UTC)
Thanks! No one wants to read nice travel stories anymore, but I still write them. :) People on LJ now are mostly focused on politics, tits, and doomsday/gloomy stories about destruction and horror.

Edited at 2015-02-16 04:11 pm (UTC)
(Deleted comment)
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Feb. 16th, 2015 04:18 pm (UTC) - Expand
(Deleted comment)
Пьер Безухоff
Feb. 16th, 2015 04:39 pm (UTC)
World buttons or buttons kingdom.
Feb. 16th, 2015 04:54 pm (UTC)
Is this your suggestion for the title of the post, or name of Dalton's museum? :)
(no subject) - Пьер Безухоff - Feb. 16th, 2015 05:01 pm (UTC) - Expand
Feb. 16th, 2015 04:53 pm (UTC)
very sorry for him
Feb. 16th, 2015 04:54 pm (UTC)
Why are you sorry for him? He's a happy man, and has lived a very good and interesting life.
(no subject) - a_nimaida - Feb. 16th, 2015 05:01 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Feb. 16th, 2015 05:02 pm (UTC) - Expand
Feb. 16th, 2015 05:01 pm (UTC)
I read about this King at Alexander's blog)))
Feb. 16th, 2015 05:02 pm (UTC)
Yes, of course! When we travel together, you always see the stories first in his blog. But I think I write more detailed posts than him. :)
(no subject) - elena_88888 - Feb. 16th, 2015 05:16 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Feb. 16th, 2015 05:16 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - elena_88888 - Feb. 16th, 2015 05:19 pm (UTC) - Expand
Feb. 16th, 2015 06:09 pm (UTC)
This topic is not controversial so don't expect many comments :)

His works look nice.
Feb. 16th, 2015 06:14 pm (UTC)
Yeah, exactly! Well, it gives me a break from typing so much in response to readers. When I begin to write posts from Russia, the comments will return. :)
Feb. 16th, 2015 06:57 pm (UTC)
I'll definitely send him some buttons from here.
Feb. 16th, 2015 06:59 pm (UTC)
Cool! He's the sweetest man. :) He lives between Camden and Bishopville, off of Highway 34. Do you know the area?
(no subject) - south_of_broad - Feb. 16th, 2015 08:28 pm (UTC) - Expand
Feb. 16th, 2015 07:02 pm (UTC)
Russian outhouses typically have no toilets. Just a hole in the floor. :)
Feb. 16th, 2015 07:03 pm (UTC)
Don't remind me! I had to use them on a few occasions. Horror! :))
(no subject) - andruhon - Feb. 16th, 2015 07:26 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Feb. 16th, 2015 07:28 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - andruhon - Feb. 16th, 2015 09:44 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Feb. 17th, 2015 03:12 am (UTC) - Expand
Feb. 16th, 2015 07:30 pm (UTC)
Not only female have a problem of insomnia because of analysing some unworthy situations. I have the same problem if I do intellectual work after 7PM. Replacing self-employment with normal employment resolved this problem.
Feb. 16th, 2015 07:38 pm (UTC)
I don't know what causes my insomnia, it's not work related because I wasn't working as a child. :) My body is just used to operating with very little sleep each night. This is good for a traveler, because late nights and early wake-up calls are common for all of my road trips.
Feb. 16th, 2015 07:35 pm (UTC)
Yeah, there still are amazing people in the world ;)
Feb. 16th, 2015 07:37 pm (UTC)
Easy to lose sight of this, with all the negativity in the press and on the Internet. But such people make life interesting! :)
Feb. 16th, 2015 10:52 pm (UTC)
Your travel companion harvested all the comments on the same topic a bit earlier ;-)
Anyway, the world is good because of button-king people and insomnia-powered bloggers... kudos!
Feb. 16th, 2015 11:15 pm (UTC)
Yes, he is a blogging machine! Constantly writing, even during road trips. I'm not so dedicated, as my income isn't dependent on my blog. I still have many stories from Alaska to write, and that trip was six months ago. So, I'm very behind in travel tales. :(
Feb. 17th, 2015 12:50 am (UTC)
Awesome! He is happy man!
Feb. 17th, 2015 02:33 am (UTC)
Good to have peace of mind! :)
Feb. 17th, 2015 02:42 am (UTC)
Now I know what to do if ever I get an insomnia:) I never throw away those spare buttons that come with new clothes... though never actually had a chance to use any of them:)
Feb. 17th, 2015 02:42 am (UTC)
I do not know how to sew! :)
Feb. 17th, 2015 04:14 pm (UTC)
Cool story, thank you! As Michael Franti & The Spearhead sing, "all the freaky people make the beauty of the world'! ))
Feb. 17th, 2015 04:16 pm (UTC)
I'm glad you enjoyed it! I'm always attracted to such "freaky" people. Normal is boring. :))
(no subject) - rastabusiness - Feb. 17th, 2015 04:26 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Feb. 17th, 2015 04:27 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - rastabusiness - Feb. 17th, 2015 04:29 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Feb. 17th, 2015 04:29 pm (UTC) - Expand
Feb. 18th, 2015 10:49 am (UTC)
Woooow !!!
Feb. 18th, 2015 12:02 pm (UTC)
I am too impatient to deal with so many buttons, and I can't sew! :))
Feb. 20th, 2015 08:38 am (UTC)
It is so interesting! I've never herd about this unique man!

It is great how a very simple and ordinary thing as a button could became such an unusual because of quantity and way of using!

Thank you for the story, Shannon!
Feb. 20th, 2015 12:30 pm (UTC)
You're welcome! Have a nice weekend. :)
( 48 comments — Leave a comment )


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