Tuesday, April 09, 2013



And his dog--a blue heeler I think--that he has trained to turn around and lean against him for affection.
Twenty three years ago I was camping alone in the desert west of Yuma, Arizona.   
It was Christmas day.  This Cowboy walked up with a friendly howdy and invited me to Dinner.  Thus began an enduring friendship nurtured from time to time by assorted adventures together.
Mac made a good living as a farrier (horse shoeing)  bought a nice home and acreage
south of Spokane, Washington where he and his wife enjoyed many happy years.
I write about him because he has a rare quality of character that I much admire:  HE MAKES HIS VISIONS REAL.---With a persistence I can only envy.
We recently connected in Yuma and he shared his new vision---now that his wife has passed on and so has his pack of 6 mules.  In the past 2 years he has conceived an end-game vision I will share with you.  He is 82 years old--- still beanpole skinny and very fit.  
But first I will illustrate his vision and character via a poem I wrote about him 15 years ago.
Mac Cleaned up a Square Mile

Mac got it in his head to clean up a whole square mile.

You’d have to have seen it to appreciate

the audacity of his intention.

A thousand piles of trash littered this landscape,

a desolate stretch of desert west of Yuma

and east of Algodones dunes.

An informal campground for a hundred years

harbors folks escaping winter’s chill

Locals call the area Sidewinder.

It deserved its name!

Passers through in yesteryears camped here

gathering strength to cross the dunes in daylight,

thumping across the perilous wood plank road.

It was a less conscious time

and they left their trash, broken bottles,

tin cans, oil cans, filters and more.

Illegals crossing here

leave a standard grouping of trash:

inner tubes, cast off clothing, plastic bags and jugs.

One day, six years ago, my friend Mac,

a slender, spirited cowboy from the Northwest,

just got it in his head to clean up the whole darn thing.

And he began immediately, a pile at a time,

down on his knees picking up every bit of broken glass

and every piece of trash. He bagged it,

carried it to the dumpster and hurray!

One pile of trash was gone. Then two!

Then a hundred by the end of camping season.

When he returned next season he began again.

This time, a hundred and fifty piles were cleaned.

Sometimes his buddies would help

but mostly Mac worked on alone.

I have seen him scrabbling far out on the desert

in the early morning hours.

Six long winters later our desert mile was clean

and lovely in its desert way

as every landscape has its beauty

and every landscape can be marred.

I noted as the trash was disappearing

a better breed of campers came.

Dusty, angry loners went away,

I suppose in search of junked-up land

more compatible with their inner state.

The new folks build up friendly fires

well attended in the night,

hold pot luck dinners, walk together,

do favors, exchange information,

sit quietly together at sunset,

drink in tea and color from the sky

and at Christmas decorate

scrubby creosote.

No one litters now.

Our consciousness has been lifted.

Only his wife and friends know who

accomplished this transformation

without permission, prompting, pay, or praise.

I’m humbled by this awesome deed.

It’s as if a man declared

he’d drink a barrel of water

and eat a buffalo,

then did it!

A Herculean labor

that would make Paul Bunyon proud.

Step by step, Mac made his vision real

with persistence spanning years,

cleaning up a wasteland

to make the desert bloom

with hospitality.

More than a whimsical deed;

a blueprint for saving the earth.

Mac is in my hall of heros

and in the foremost ranks

because his challenge came from within.

Is it fate or accident

that his surname is McLean?
Mac's new vision is this:  He is going to sell his place build a Movable BUNKHOUSE on skids to live in .  Why a bunkhouse?  Because he lived in bunkhouses during his cowboy days and wants to re-experience that ambience.  He has a sizable collection of saddles, tack. bunks and cowboy paraphernalia to fill it with.
Why on skids?-----Aaah---for a very good reason:  It allows one to avoid a host of complexities such as  building permits---county oversight. (movable buildings are exempt he says)    In short he wants to go off the radar of civilization.  His many friends have agreed to haul his bunkhouse on a flatbed trailer wherever and whenever he wants a new location.  All would welcome him on their land.  I quizzed him about some details like sewer and water and power.  He's got all the bases covered----in his mind.  And given the above achievement do you doubt he will accomplish his vision? 
If you would like to see Mac's cleaned-up desert---exit Interstate 8 at Sidewinder rd then go south to the long term visitor area.  the desert--As far as you can see west and south of that service station was  his project.  And happily---IT IS STILL CLEAN.


Michael said...

Great story!

Nan Talley said...

What an amazing man.

Rob said...

That's the best one I can recall in some time, Great Job!

Joyce said...

A delightfully positive tale. I'd like to meet Mac someday. His dog looks like an Australian Shepherd.

Susan said...

What an inspiration! Go Mac!

Love the poem, btw.


farmlady said...

Amazing story... amazing man. Not too many around like Mac anymore. I wish him the best "exit" possible.