With everything buzzing around in my head to write about, I get overwhelmed and don't write at all, but when mother asked me to write about Mac for a book that was being put together I knew I had to find the discipline to do it.
"The Man Who Shot the Tractor and Other Stories from Wayside" is being written by Mac's widow, who's age I can't quote but must be late 70's. She only recently "retired" from her post as activities coordinator at a local nursing home, I hear she still goes in two days a week! An icon in her own right: a former teacher, clogging afficiando, a pianist, event coordinator, she is pressing those of us who knew her beloved Mac to write of our experiences with him. I spent more time with Mac than my own grandfather, Loved them equally but Papa worked running his construction company during this time.
Mac was a tree farmer in my lifetime. He owned so much land that we would drive around all day and not see all of it. Between 14 and 17 years old I worked summers and weekends around his farm and sawmill, riding tractors, picking blueberries, muscadines and other veggies. Some days were hard and we were glad to see mac drive up at lunch to take us for "belly washers". On extremely hot days, he would knock us off early and head to the creek to swim for a while to cool off. Some days it seemed he had forgotten us, but would always be there eventually. I worked with other neighborhood boys, all older and in college by then, who we called "Mac's boy's". I LOVED working with them. Mainly because it was as close to boys as I was allowed to get. I worked hard and according to Mac they worked harder when I was around. I remember once Mac came to get me one Sat morning and told me "Go get your swimsuit, we going to the creek later on." So I ran back and put on my suit and work clothes and we took off to the sawmill. Upon arrival, the mill in is full swing, Mac's boys working hard. Mac tells me I got an easy job this day.... taking lemonade to his boys. I remember being slightly miffed to haved to stand around and hand out lemonade since i usually stacked lumber or rolled logs, but I played along. Turns out Mac knew what he was doing as they finished early that day and we all went to the creek.
Not every day was all work. Some days we would ride around and see various people in the neighborhood. He would check in on a widow, drop off some homemade goods to a friend, and deliver garden goods to another each time waving off the thank you he would always receive. There was some weird rule that you just didn't thank Mac. One did not dare mention a need of something within earshot of Mac, or one would find it literally on the doorstep upon arriving home. Once he pulled right up into "Big O Ranch", Otis Redding's home here in Round Oak and we strolled up to Mrs. Zelma Redding for a chat about something. I was in awe.
Somehow he would fit in collecting used eye glasses and selling brooms to raise money for the Lion's Club that he so loved, all the while managing his trees.
I will not forget the lunches, with an occasional treat of fried okra or peanut brittle that he would just whip up in a cast iron skillet. I still call Mom for his best recipes. Fall would always bring the question of "When is Mac's squirrel stew?", which was probably always on opening weekend, since it was he that would host a gathering for all the out of town hunters that came to hunt on his land. These were cool evenings with a bonfire, music, clogging and of course stew. For several of these events I was blessed to have helped cook the stew out behind his house over a fire. It was no secret that stew consisted of whatever was in the freezer from that year... rabbit, squirrel, possum and all the tomatoes and potatos you could fit in that huge cast iron pot.
When there came a time that I took clogging lessons at the Lion's Club, Mac was there. A Lion's Club lifer that would open the buiding for clogging classes and the like. He would be found in the corner with his bag of gum to hand out while watching the ladies dance. While other husbands might not be caught dead up there, Mac was no fool.
Mac taught me about a little about trees, muscadines and tractors and even sparked my interest in welding for high school shop and beyond ;) but he taught me more about friends, family and community and that might have made him as happy as my knowing the difference between a paper oak and a water oak.