Mack Rawhide was of a dying breed. He may in fact be dead now—I do not know. I do know the following:
Mack was about 5’4”
He had a speech impediment (but he could communicate real well!)
He had a great mustache
When he walked, he looked like he’d just dismounted
He didn’t miss much
I unintentionally screwed him out of a bunch of money
Mack was in fact originally from Oklahoma. He’d grown up hardscrabble, bunking with a couple of cousins in a modest house on the little cattle ranch (the ranch, not the cattle) owned by his drunk uncle. Aunt Jane had run off years before, so now it was Uncle Ned, cousins Jasper and John, and Mack. Mack also happened to be the runt of the litter, and so Jasper and John entertained themselves at his expense whenever they had the itch. By the time Mack was fifteen, his nose had been broke several times, he was missing a couple of front teeth, and he had a hitch in his giddyup from falling off the barn roof one frosty spring morning. All those things and many more got together and lit a fire under Mack about getting away from the ranch, Oklahoma, and any chance of re-experiencing more of the same.
I can’t tell you exactly when or how he got to Maine, but Mack showed up at the Shelter sometime late summer of 97. He’d been working odd jobs since he’d left Chez Ned in the early fifties, getting paid under all sorts of tables while accumulating more bumps and bruises and a few broken bones. So here he was on Main Street, bandy legs in faded jeans over cowboy boots, tired rodeo shirt now a whitish gray, a beat up old suitcase, Red Man chew and $22 in his pocket.
Mack turned out to be a good ol’ boy. He knew how to play cards, and while he was trying to figure out his next move, we all did a little relationship building over spades and the cribbage we taught him. Mack went to day labor jobs but usually came back empty handed (seems there were always younger, bigger and stronger men who lacked speech impediments). Finally he decided to apply for social security disability. That was all well and good until he asked me, “Dennish? Do y’all know any law-yersz?” It so happened I knew of one attorney in town who was a self-described crusader for the downtrodden. I gave Mack the lawyer’s card. Several weeks later his housing voucher came through, and he moved into an apartment in a neighboring town. I didn’t see him for almost two years.
Mack knocked on our door again in June of 1999. He moseyed up to the counter, said “hi” with a smile on his face, but I knew something wasn’t right. After a couple minutes of letting him catch up with the staff who were manning the front, I asked if he had a couple more to meet with me, and we went into my office. Turns out my having taken the lawyer’s created image at face value hadn’t done Mack any favors. He had in fact been found eligible eventually, but then had to turn over something like 60% of the first three years’ worth of monthly income to that legal savior. Mack wasn’t overtly hostile towards me, but I knew I’d lost credibility. And I knew that he knew that he wasn’t going to have three years as good as he should have.
There are big and clear actions that make the news, and there are quiet crimes against the poor and defenseless, many of which enrich the perpetrators. And Mack? I apologize for being an accomplice.