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Arts & Culture

INDEPENDENT LENS: Stray Dog

Ron “Stray Dog” Hall and Alicia Soriano Hall ride his Harley.
Courtesy of Eric Phillips-Horst
Ron “Stray Dog” Hall and Alicia Soriano Hall ride his Harley.

Airs Monday, Nov. 9, 2015 at 11 p.m. on KPBS TV

A burly and bearded biker, Ron “Stray Dog” Hall lives in southern Missouri where he owns and operates the At Ease RV Park. A Vietnam veteran, Stray Dog is forever wrestling with the brutal legacy of the war on his soul, a constant struggle of conscience, remorse, and forgiveness. The film follows Stray Dog as he caravans on his Harley with his fellow vets to pay tribute to their fallen brothers at the Vietnam Memorial. Back home, he forges a new life of domesticity with his Mexican wife Alicia and her two sons, who are also struggling to find their place in the ever-changing hardscrabble heartland of America. A film by Debra Granik ("Winter’s Bone"), "Stray Dog" premieres on INDEPENDENT LENS on Nov. 9, 2015 on PBS.

Ron “Stray Dog” Hall and Alicia Soriano Hall.
Courtesy of Eric Phillips-Horst
Ron “Stray Dog” Hall and Alicia Soriano Hall.
Robin Smith and Ron “Stray Dog” Hall.
Courtesy of Eric Phillips-Horst
Robin Smith and Ron “Stray Dog” Hall.
Felipe de Jesús Padilla Soriano, Felipe Angel Padilla Soriano, and Ron "Stray Dog" Hall.
Courtesy of Eric Phillips-Horst
Felipe de Jesús Padilla Soriano, Felipe Angel Padilla Soriano, and Ron "Stray Dog" Hall.
Debra Granik and Ron “Stray Dog” Hall.
Courtesy of Jennifer Johnson for Milwaukee Film
Debra Granik and Ron “Stray Dog” Hall.

“Too many times we want to reduce people to fit into the categories of either red Americans or blue Americans. Ron Hall challenges those lazy stereotypes,” said Lois Vossen, Executive Producer of INDEPENDENT LENS. “With humor and grace, director Debra Granik captures American life on the margins through the life of one extraordinary ordinary man. 'Stray Dog' is a remarkable portrait that captures the fellowship among veterans and the lingering trauma of war.”

Every year, Stray Dog joins thousands of bikers on a cross-country ride, hurtling down America’s highways, staving off specters of post-traumatic stress and haunting memories while forging deep bonds along the way. And from the back of his bike, Alicia tries to decipher a totally unfamiliar world. Back at home, Stray Dog navigates the pressures of everyday life, including the economic survival of his extended family and the financial woes of his tenants. The arrival of Alicia’s twin sons from Mexico illustrates the huge divide between the America of an immigrant’s dreams and the grim reality of rural communities that offer little hope of opportunity. As he strives daily to be the man he wants to be for his family and community, Stray Dog continues to tally the cost of war, bearing witness to the soldiers coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan — both the dead and the living.

Filmmaker Debra Granik met Stray Dog while making her Academy Award-nominated feature film, “Winter’s Bone.” “I sat next to him in the Biker Church of Branson and he agreed to play the part of Thump Milton in the film,” Granik says. “Stray Dog brought his life experiences to the role, and he brought some of his friends and neighbors to help populate one of the scenes with locals. When shooting wrapped, we reconnected and I got a glimpse of his broad web of family, friends, and affiliations. His vivid descriptions and his questions piqued our interest, and we decided to come back and record some conversations with him and moments of his daily life.”

“Early on, Stray Dog would refer to his Harley as his shrink,” recalls Granik. “Over his lifetime, Ron has sought ways to channel his post-combat need for high adrenaline levels and his natural restlessness into benign channels that are compatible with civilian survival. He searches for missions, for ways to be helpful, which often involve trying to solve a problem for a family member, a neighbor or a friend, or just understanding when someone can’t pay their rent because of a non-livable wage.”

Past episodes of INDEPENDENT LENS are available for online viewing. INDEPENDENT LENS is on Facebook, Instagram, and you can follow @IndependentLens on Twitter. "Stray Dog" the documentary is on Facebook.

Coming to Independent Lens: Stray Dog

From the director of the Oscar-nominated Winter’s Bone comes this portrait of a motorcycle-riding Vietnam veteran. There’s much more to Ron “Stray Dog” Hall than meets the eye; behind the tattoos and leather vest is a man dedicated to helping his fellow vets and immigrant family as he also comes to terms with his combat experience.

A Vietnam Vet Struggles to Forgive Himself

"In this excerpt from the Independent Lens documentary Stray Dog

Biker Patches

"Ron "Stray Dog" Hall and his wife go biker patch shopping."

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