Rick Houser: The last of the bunch to settle

One spring Sunday we had just returned from church in Moscow and I am not certain as to whether I had been in the house and changed or hadn’t got inside yet. What I know is I was the only person in the yard. When you are ten years old it is safe to say one’s mind wonders. However the details to the next event I assure you my mind stayed totally focused. An older model car pulled up in front of our house and stopped. The driver’s door opened and a man maybe 5’10” in height and slender in build got out of the car. He was wearing a fedora style hat and flowing from it was hair that went all the way down to his waist. The hair had at one time been black but it now was a mix of brown and gray white. He was a dark brown to a red color of skin. You know like an American Indian. Hanging from his mouth was a type of cigar that is called a cheroot.

Clermont County’s Rick Houser has released a second book, this one titled “Memories from the Heart.”

I had never seen a person with that type of cigar and never ever had seen a man with that length of hair. Thinking back now I had to have looked like an extremely dumb little boy. As I stood there with my jaw dropped the man removed the cheroot and smiling from ear to ear waved at me and ask if I was Ralphs’ little boy. I think I nodded my head yes. He then said to me would you find your daddy and tell him an old friend is here to see him. I assume I nodded again. As I turned to go into the house dad stepped out the porch door and without skipping a beat he threw his hand high in the air and with a huge smile he yelled well if ain’t my old friend Mac!

OK, so now I knew dad knew him but who in the world was he and why was he dressed and looked the way he did. Until that moment I had never met a person like him out on Fruit Ridge Road. My dad turned to me and said son this is a man who worked with me in the fields many years and I would have never got my crops harvested without Mac the Indian! Who? They shook hands and slapped each other’s backs. The man looks to dad and then to me and said I told you I was an old friend now didn’t I? I nodded yes deftly and with I feel a little of a smile and some relief.

About then my mom came to the porch door and yelled out to the man; it is so nice to see you Mac: With this I was a lot more than speechless but I knew for sure if my parents liked this man he must be a very acceptable person. I hadn’t noticed but there had been a slender blond headed woman with him who was now standing beside him. He looked to her and turned to dad and said I want you to meet my wife. I call her Chicken. Once more I was stunned with that name. Dad smiled and shook her hand and turned to Mac and said you chose a very nice lady to marry. Mac looked to her and said I told you he would think you are a special person.

Mac didn’t stay very much longer and then shook hands with dad again and told him if he ever needed help to just look him up and dad agreed it would be the smart thing to do. As soon as he and his wife left I went straight to my dad with what I am certain was a thousand questions. I wanted to know just who was this man and everything about him. Dad pulled our two lawn chairs close and told me to have a seat as this might take a while.

From what I was told this is what I learned Mac the Indian was really named Madison Story. He was an Indian but not an American Indian. He was from South America and migrated over the years from there until he landed in southwest Ohio. First he lived in and around New Orleans and the bayou. It was there where he had learned to become a grade a chef. Dad said he showed up one morning when he was harvesting corn. This was back in the day when the corn stalks were cut and tied into shocks of fodder and then taken to the barn where the corn was removed and the ears were placed in cribs. Dad said he proved that he was one of the fastest at cutting corn and shocking it.

He said one night mom woke dad up and said she was hearing noise out in the corn field. So dad took a lantern and at 3:30 in the morning he went to the field to see what was going on. When he arrived he was greeted by Macs’ voice telling him to put out that light as it was blinding him to where he couldn’t see to cut corn. It was a full moon and he was cutting by the moonlight. This also was a nice cool time to work. So dad said he turned off the lantern and went back to the house and back to sleep and caught up with him in the morning.

Dad also told me that Mac in those days slept out in the open year round. He said Mac had lived his life out doors and wherever he was he would make a camp site and build a fire and then using an old lard can he would make a pot of stew out of whatever critters he could find. Now I found that to sound pretty gross but dad said the story was he was so good at cooking that one time a group of hunters who had been out hunting all day stumbled onto his camp fire and they all commented on how good his stew (or as he called it burgoo) smelled. So he offered them all a bowl to which they accepted immediately and quickly at the contents in the bowl. He offered them another bowl but first they ask what was in his recipe. When he told them all the different types of animal he had used they suddenly became full and declined the second bowl. Dad said Mac is one of the last to not ever settle down.

After this story and my meeting this man I didn’t see him again for many years. One evening Herb and Charlie Marshall hurried to my house to tell me that on their trip into Cincinnati with their parents they were walking around down town when they saw leaning against a building Mac the Indian! The big part of the story was he was dressed up in a fancy uniform and all his hair was braided up and stored under a pill box designed hat. This uniform designated that he was one of the top chefs at Pigall’s Restaurant who at that time was a five star rated restaurant. Based on all we had ever heard about the man was validated right then and there. Between us we thought just how funny it would be if those rich folks knew how this man made burgoo.

From my youth and throughout southern Clermont County Mac the Indian or also known as chief was a legend that rarely a sole didn’t know about. He finally did buy a couple of acres and put a couple junk school buses on the land. One bus was for storing his junk and the other he put a couple old beds in and gave in when the weather was really bad to sleeping inside. He was truly the last of his kind and we were fortunate enough to have gotten a look at him.

Rick Houser grew up on a farm near Moscow in Clermont County and loves to share stories about his youth and other topics. If you are interested in reading more of his stories they can be found in his books ‘There are Places to Remember” and’ Memories ARE from the Heart.” He may be reached at houser734@yahoo.com.