Old Mack’s Tales

September 18, 2010

Birthday Maundering

Filed under: Uncategorized — Ron McKinney aka "OldMack" @ 8:31 pm

About Mack’s Father

Saturday, September 18, 2010 by Mack’s Son.

If a man’s father dies on his father’s birthday, it’s bound to leave him feeling mortal when his own birthday rolls around.  So it is with me today.  Today I’m 76.  I’m now fourteen years older than he’ll ever be.

Mack was born in 1908 on a small farm in the mountains of Mitchell County, North Carolina.  His father, Moses McKinney, whom I never had the pleasure of meeting, raised Mack with a firm, callused hand, the hand that held the reins of a team of mules pulling the plow or skidding logs off the sides of those mountains.  I’ve heard many tales about Moses, probably most of them apocryphal like most tales one hears in those country general stores told by men gathered around a coal-burner on winter days, whittling and spitting in the ash boxes.  God knows I listened to some doozies about Mack while I worked around the homestead for a month or so.

Moses was said to have been a philanderer of some renown, was said to have fathered half a dozen kids all born in 1908.  That tale I know for a fact is an exaggeration; I checked the birth records at the court house and found only four kids born in 1908 where Moses was named as the father—in addition, that is, to Mack, who was named “Cloud” on the recorded certificate of birth.  Mack’s Separation document from the U.S. Army lists his name as “Claude,” and tells us that his service was “honorable.”  I figure that Separation document is itself less than truthful; Mack himself admitted having destroyed government property—one mule, which Mack said had made him angry; he hadn’t meant to kill the beast; he simply hadn’t pulled his punch when he smacked it in the head.

Gurney McKinney, some kind of kin, told me, while I was warming my backside at the stove in Palmer’s store, that Mack had taken a hankering for Ford Green’s pretty young bride. It seems she had a heifer in season and asked Mack to trot his prize bull down to their place to service the heifer. Mrs. Green held her animal by its halter while Mack led his bull up to mount it.  “Mack,” Gurney said “got all excited and told Mrs. Green ‘I could sure go for some of that.’  Mrs. Green replied: ‘I held her for the bull. I reckon I can hold her for you.’   Mack was so embarrassed he went off and joined the Army.”

Baseball was truly a national pastime back in the late 1920s, when the stock markets and banks were on the verge of collapsing.  Even the Army was big on baseball.  Most of the posts had teams and many of their players were scouted and hired by the major league teams.  Mack played ball for the Fort Sill baseball team and would later make it to the minor leagues. I never saw Mack play baseball, but I played catch with him a time or two . My hands sore as boils from catching what he rifled at me in a flimsy mit. Mack was forty-one years old when I first met him, and his baseball playing days were over.  He told me that the last game he played for money was on the back of a jackass in a donkey baseball game.

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