The Long, Long JourneyBy Ainslee S. Wittig
Wick News Service
Just before Jack McPherson’s 90th birthday, he and his wife, Carol, hosted a young woman at their home in Garland, Texas. The woman asked McPherson about his military service, as he was twice awarded the Legion of Merit, one of the top military decorations of the U.S. Armed Forces. After hearing the retired chief warrant officer relate entertaining stories from his past, she suggested that he write a book.
The outcome was The Long, Long Journey: From a Sheep Wagon to a Cadillac, which McPherson finished in November 2011, just six months after he began to write it.
McPherson was born in 1921—literally in a sheep wagon—near, Douglas, Wyo. He said his father “delivered me like he delivered lambs.” His father did whatever kind of work he could find, from mining and farming to guiding tourists and shopkeeping, and McPherson inherited his father’s industriousness. With his high IQ (it tested at 136), McPherson was able to fix broken equipment as a child and later solve major problems with electronics and computer equipment while in the Army Security Agency and the National Security Agency.
But his life’s path was anything but smooth, as he made his way through numerous moves and jobs, and several divorces, until he found the love of his life, Carol, a friend from his childhood who had helped take care of him when he contracted tuberculosis as a teenager in Elfrida.
McPherson spent much of his youth in Elfrida, and graduated from Pearce Union High School (now Valley Union High School). His family moved to his aunt’s home after his father suffered frostbite in Montana when he went to rescue workers at a logging camp after the temperature dropped from 40 below zero to 70 below zero in a matter of hours.
McPherson also spent time in Bisbee and Douglas. After the Mascot Mine near Dos Cabezas closed, he went there with his father to dismantle a closed store, and then move it to Elfrida and rebuild it.
Area residents who he recalls from his youth include Ambrose Kennedy and his sister Olive June “Toots” Kennedy, who became McPherson’s first wife; Bluford Patterson, a storeowner; a Mr. Bidwell, a landlord and reputed bank-robber; the Schupaugh family, whose daughters Betty and Ruby were his friends; and a Mr. Van Meter, who owned a lot of land in the area, and whose wife, Elfrida, was the town’s namesake.
Stories about McPherson’s past fall like raindrops from his lips, just as they do in his book. There is an abundance of short, entertaining clips filled with events both good and bad, and emotions both happy and sad.
He describes how his brother, Bob, put a defanged rattlesnake in a girl’s lunch box at school, scaring her so badly that she had to go to a hospital in Tucson “for treatment of her nervous breakdown.” He mentions how he and his brother dug a well in Elfrida with picks and shovels and hit water at 30 feet, while the water level now has been drawn down to 2,000 feet below the surface.
McPherson recalls the hailstorm on July 4, 1936, that bankrupted his father, because it ruined the crops. He also relates that in 1939, he was helping to build a powerhouse for the Rural Electric Association, but came down with chickenpox and had to quit.
Overall, McPherson said, he’s been lucky in life.
“The good Lord has been good to me, and life has served me well. I have usually more than I need, and I enjoy life. I can’t do much now, so it’s not too hard. But I’m very lucky to have my son across the street. We do a lot together,” he said.
Now 90, McPherson has been married to Carol for 63 years. She has Alzheimer’s disease, so he is now her caretaker. They have three living children; a fourth died in an accident in 1966. He has survived two wars and numerous near-death experiences along the way. He is still able to exercise three days a week, and enjoys driving his Cadillac SRX.
“I buy a new one every other year—have for about 10 years,” McPherson said. “I’m lucky—I have no problem driving!”