Saturday, August 19, 2006


Mack was actually his first name.

At one time I was fan of John Steinbeck. I read most of his work.

My favorite was Cannery Row. I think my favorite character was Doc's drinking buddy who was the scion of a wealthy San Francisco family. The estate lawyers knowing their client could probably blow most of his fortune in alcoholic binges set up a foundation in his name. From time to time a limousine would cruise up and down Cannery Row until they found their quarry usually passed out in in an alley with a bottle of jug wine at his side.

Whisked to a mansion on Pacific Heights there would be a sequence of scalding showers, shaves, haircuts, manicures, etc. plus a couple of nights to sleep it off. Then Mr. Money would be driven to Berkeley where he would ascending to a platform along with the governor and other notables. He would read a short prepared speech dedicating the building that had been donated to the U. in his name by the foundation.

After the formalities, he would be spirited back to the limousine, plied with wine and dumped back at the alley on cannery row.

Mack was different from the average worker I met. He was intelligent and articulate. As we worked side by side loading trucks we had long conversations.

Mack was a student at the University of Montana in the early 1940's. He had already developed his fondness for alcoholic beverages but was able to maintain a sufficient grade average to be invited to join an air corps program leading to pilot training.

After a few months the army realized they had chosen a drunk and at a time when draft boards were taking anyone and everyone to fight, they gave Mack a bad conduct discharge and told him not to come back.

Mack's father, owner of an empire of grain warehouses and flour mills summoned Mack back to the family mansion occupying a full city block on the edge of downtown Great Falls. There he told his wastrel son never to darken the family door again.

Mack drifted from place to place working enough to keep himself in booze.

He eventually settled in Walla Walla. Working for B. Barer & Sons he would from time to time check in at the office to report that he had a binge coming on and he would disappear into the local bars for awhile finally returning to reclaim his job.

How Mack met the lovely lady who worked in the billing department at the railroad station, I can't report. She not only weaned him from his years long alcohol habit but was also able to arrange an audience with his estranged father who rejoiced in seeing his newly sober son welcomed him home.

Not too long after Mack's father passed away and his lady was named administrator of the estate.

The couple settled down in Walla Walla to live a quiet but comfortable life.

This was not to be.

One of our other casual employees, "Shorty", unknown to us had a fragile bone condition. One day he was standing in the doorway of a railcar. I heard a snap and saw him fall to the ground. A major bone in his thigh had broken. His recovery took many months. He drank a lot to ease the pain.

I remember that I was driving South through California listening to the car radio when I heard the report datelined Walla Walla. 47 year old Mack _____ had been bludgeoned with a hammer while he slept.

Mack's good hearted other had taken in Shorty offering him a cot in the basement.

Shorty evidently had a few too my drinks and was being attacked by some unknown demons. He grabbed a hammer and padded upstairs where he began pounding on Mack's skull.

The beating would have done in a lesser man but Mack was able to survive. Several sections of bone were removed from his head and after healing you could see the indentation's. While he looked like a refugee from a Hollywood horror movie, his laid back personality soon put people at ease.


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