Making a Difference

I recently had the opportunity to attend Mis-Ala Beagle Clubs SPO trial held just outside Red Bay, Alabama. As I arrived at the club the first morning I saw a very nice house overlooking a lake just across the road from the clubhouse. I thought how great it is that a club could get along with a neighbor this close.

Mis-Ala is a very good club, a member of The Deep South running SPO trials. I met a lot of people that have been in beagling a long time and have had a great influence on our sport. The trial was run very smoothly and I had the chance to see some nice dogs but that is not why I am writing you.

I usually ask a lot of questions when I go to a club for the first time as I want to get to know the club and people as well as attend the trial. I found that the club had been at their present location for only a few years after having lost their grounds. The clubhouse belongs to one man and the running grounds belong to another. I later found that the nice house belongs to Johnny Mack Morrow as well as the lake and the surrounding 300 acres that the club uses as running grounds. I commented to a club member that it was unusual for a club to be able to afford that much land.

This is where the story gets good. Johnny Mack Morrow allows them to use the land for free. He is a member of the Alabama State House of Representatives and I would probably get to meet him the next day as he attends most of their trials. I thought to myself how unusual it is in this day and time for someone to let their land be used for nothing, most will not let you on their land or want to charge you for the use of it, not to mention a political figure. I was looking forward to meeting this man.

The next morning when I arrived at the club Rep. Morrow was already there. I was introduced to him and we talked briefly and he then graciously offered me a tour of his farm later. I went about my business and before I realized it 10 o’clock had arrived. Rep. Morrow came looking for me and away we went. I was amazed!

I asked Johnny Mack (I hope he doesn’t mind me calling him that) if he still rabbit hunted and he told me he never had and was not a hunter of anything. I hope I managed to keep my jaw from dropping. He is not a hunter, allows his land to be used for nothing and was out in the cold attending a trial. I could not believe it but the story gets better.

Johnny Mack is interested in our past, present and future as many others are but he is willing to do something about it. He is dedicated to serving his fellow man and has dedicated his farm to preserving our heritage and teaching the present of our past.

The farm is not being used to grow crops but the whole farm is dedicated to teaching the past and enjoying the present. We started my tour by driving over the woods, fields and ponds on the farm. Roads and trails went in all directions As we toured Johnny Mack explained that there were several miles (I forgot how many) and the farm was opened to the public two Saturdays of every month so people could come and enjoy nature. I was very impressed with his knowledge of the land and it’s rich history.

The local schools use the farm to teach history, an open space has been made in a remote part of the farm so science classes can come and observe the stars without manmade lights to be seen. He told about the streams we crossed and their importance in history, he even knew where they formed.

As we approached his home I noticed buildings I had not seen before, we passed an area under construction and he explained that it would be a working sawmill. We toured a working blacksmith shop and gristmill where they grind flour to show kids and adults alike how it used to be. There was a display of old working tractors and equipment along with a scale model of what the land looked like back when only Indians populated the area.

Johnny Mack told me that one week in every May over three thousand school kids visit the farm to observe and learn. Many artisans attend to demonstrate crafts that are in danger of being forgotten. They get to see everything from how to milk a cow to how perishables were kept in an era about to be forgotten by so many. Many of these kids have no idea of their past until they come to the farm.

Johnny Mack was quick to give credit to all the volunteers that make the program work but it was easy to see he is the driving force behind all that takes place at Cypress Cove Farm

I know I have failed to tell you of a lot of good that Johnny Mack is doing but the point of my story is that I met a man willing to make a difference. We all could make a difference, maybe not to the extent of Johnny Mack, but a difference. At a time in history when most are only concerned with themselves and what is in it for them it sure was refreshing and humbling to meet a man such as Johnny Mack.

I came away still not knowing what possessed Johnny Mack to let the beagle club use his land but I have thought about it often and I believe it is so us grown kids can keep an important part of our heritage alive. Kudos to Johnny Mack Morrow!!

If you should get a chance to attend Mis- Ala you should know that Red Bay is just across the state line from Tupelo, Miss. I did not get a chance to go over there to try to find Elvis but I hope I get to back some time and I will go a little early to look for him.

Yours in beagling,

Robert Oliver