This present series is composed of reflections on the experience which I have had for the past six months of recovering slowly from the spinal fusion of eight vertebrae in my mid and upper back. In this part I begin to write about the best kept secret at L/L Research, my husband Jim McCarty. I will take you to his cabin on Hummingbird Mountain.
His intensive, devoted and loving efforts have aided me during this post-operational time. He has done everything for me from cleaning me up from going to the bathroom to bathing and feeding me, massaging my sore back twice daily and dressing me, just to name a few of his offerings.
Jim McCarty’s life is one of pioneering, sacrifice and solitude. I consider him my guru. And I adore him. The time I spent looking at his walls of photos, pictures and memorabilia was blissful and healing. So I want to share my reflections about him with you. My husband’s nature is silent and his language laconic, yet he is the unquestioned head of our little band of those who would serve here at L/L Research. When he does speak, we all listen intently.
This is not the first time Jim has needed to help me extensively. For a period of about four years, from 1988 to 1992, I became unable to sit erect and my tummy was a tangle of dire problems which were resolved only in 1992, with the removal of my severely infected gall bladder and half of my dysfunctional transverse colon. This solitary man learned how to accessorize my clothes, put on my make-up and French-braid my hair! When this present challenge in my neck and arms became acute last year, it was, as Yogi Berra said so well, like déjà vu all over again! And it is with the grace of a consummate dancer that he has made the occasion of my slow-motion recovery beautiful for both of us.
Let me take you on a tour of Jim’s present-day cabin!
Firstly, I call his room in our home, Camelot, the cabin because for over seven years before he joined L/L Research he lived on his own land, Hummingbird Mountain, in a log cabin homestead he built with his own hands. He felled the trees, seasoned and cleaned the logs and made his own cabin, the tidiest, most shipshape living space I ever saw. I think I finished falling in love with Jim the day I saw his cabin for the first time in 1980. Every inch of his space was used for shelving and storage. Even the rafters had sayings he had written on them for his inspiration. My librarian self understood that kind of organizational excellence and I felt completely at home there.
What makes Jim so special and unusual? Let’s begin with the family photos on his walls. His mother, Atta Mae Finn McCarty, grew up in a sod house with a dirt floor in the sand hills of Nebraska. She went to school on horseback and had to quit after ninth grade in order to help support the family. She endured there until times were better, and in her twenties she went to the “big city” of Kearney, which most would call a small town, and earned her living as a waitress at the Tasty Tea Room.
There she met Wilson McCarty. It was love at first sight! He tipped her five dollars to get her attention, and she was caught in his spell. Soon they were wed. Their wedding photo, with Atta in a fussy, ruffled blouse and every hair in place and Mac in his Army uniform, gazes serenely from Jim’s wall.
Mac McCarty, as everyone called Wilson, was brought up in a shanty, a board cabin which also had a dirt floor. He was forced to quit school after the tenth grade in order to help his beloved mother. His father died young of alcoholism, and Tom’s vacant, thoughtless gaze stares at me from the family photo.
The photo is remarkable in that its background is a clearing in the woods. Ida and Tom McCarty are seated on two folding chairs, no doubt courtesy of the photographer. Every piece of their clothing is starched and pristine, regardless of the rough surroundings. Ida is wearing a dressy white dress and one of those Edwardian hats that one wag said had a case of “delirium trimmings”. Wilson is a toddler on her lap, while Anna Mae stands beside him, just a bit older. This must have been taken shortly before Tom’s death, as he looks cadaverous and very ill.
After Tom died, Ida fed her family by taking in laundry, making quilts and selling eggs. Her life was unimaginably hard. Her lips are firmly pressed together in a later photo. There is no smile on her face. She made it work, however, and brought all five of her children up very well. Mac left the family home when he joined the Army to serve in World War II. He was stationed in Kearney. It was there that he met Atta.
Atta was and is a stoic. Her expression faintly grim, she works hard and has saved every penny all her life. She speaks very little even today, as she approaches her 93rd birthday. Mac, who passed into larger life in 1998, was the opposite. Genial and gregarious, he grew up just as poor and was just as hard and as thrifty a worker as Atta, but he was also an indefatigable optimist. I can still hear him saying, “You’d be surprised how well this or that will go!” And things did go very well with them. I never met a humbler pair, or one more contented with their modest Lexington, Nebraska, home. They worked hard all their lives, and never begrudged the effort. And how they loved their son! Seeing him, Atta does smile!
Jim was an only child, born in 1947. He grew up as solitary as an eremite. Both his parents were always working, so he went to their grocery store with them in the mornings before school and helped his dad shelve goods. In the afternoons and until they came home, he wandered the sand pits of the nearby Platte River, finding arrowheads, playing with the wildlife and feeling as happy as a boy could be.
He found sports early in life and excelled as an athlete. Although his modest 5’ 8“ height would have been a discouraging factor in a larger town, in Lexington, Nebraska he was the quarterback of his high school football team and the pitcher/shortstop of his baseball team. His “Midget” baseball team, coached by Monte Kiffin, won the Nebraska state championship in 1963. He also held the record at his high school in the pole vault for two years, 1965 to 1967.
Now in his sixties, Jim is still solitary, the sole worker, Monday through Thursday, of Jim’s Lawn Service. He receives help from my admin, Gary, only on Fridays, the peak mowing day. He works at hard labor, mowing, gardening, clearing brush and debris and doing stone work, at a pace that most men of any age cannot equal.
As I healed within the four walls of his “cabin” room I gazed often and with nostalgia at the two worn baseball gloves and the two baseballs he has on display just by the TV, one a home-run ball hit for the Louisville Bats by Gene Roof in the early ’80s, the other signed by all his teammates on the Midget championship team.
Jim was the first person on either side of his family to attend college. He graduated from Kearney State with three majors, sociology, economics and business. He discovered he did not wish to pursue business or teach sociology, and enrolled at the University of Florida in the Teacher Corps, where he earned a master’s degree in early childhood education. During the training, he discovered that he had no fellow feeling for young children. And so he retired.
He bought land in Marion County, Kentucky in 1972, financing it by working as a welder and concrete worker in frigid winter weather in Nebraska. Over a period of two warm seasons he built his first cabin, his homestead. By the time he left the land in 1980, he had built two more cabins, one for guests and one for working his bees. He also crafted a beautiful root cellar and an outhouse with a stained-glass window. Outside his homestead he built a set of swings and a seesaw sized for adults. These were all as sturdy as he.
He had studied Brain Self Control with a Coloradan, T. D. Lingo, who taught spiritual development in wilderness conditions. On Hummingbird Mountain Jim also taught such classes. An activist and a serious paranormal researcher, he spent his mornings reading and studying, his afternoons and evenings at hard work. As night would fall, he would sit on his front porch, watch the sun set and listen to the calls of the whippoorwills. He was absolutely content and thought he would live there and be buried there in the bottomland of Rock Creek. That is where the official name of our non-profit company, which does business as L/L Research, was born.
Then, one fateful day in 1978, he heard a radio broadcast of Don Elkins and me talking about UFOs and paranormal research. And that was the beginning of the end of his “back to the land” idyll.
I open my arms and embrace your spirit! May we all aspire to serve with the humility and impeccability of Jim McCarty, the man in the cabin at Hummingbird Mountain!