The Douglasville Jail was on Church Street then, and our home was on Bowdoin Street. The jail year with a high fence backed up to our backyard where my Dad kept his foxhounds.
On occasion, a prisoner would attempt to escape over the fence, only to discover that he was cornered by the dogs that sounded more ferocious than they were.
Sheriff “Mac” Abercrombie would have to retrieve the prisoner from the foxhound pen, apologizing for coming through our yard for the task. I was about 10 when I got to know him well enough that he would put me behind his great big dapple-gray horse and let me ride with him for non-essential business. Occasionally we had “interruptions.” I remember one occasion when he quietly put me down behind an oak tree and said, “Don’t move!” I knew better than to disobey that command. Sheriff Mac rode a little further. I heard some scuffling and shouting but did not understand all that was happening. When he came back and hoisted me up behind his saddle, we rode past four men handcuffed to two trees. “The wagon will be here to pick you boys up in a little bit,” he said with that booming voice.
As we rode back to town and he dropped me off in our yard, he explained that he had surprised four “moonshiners” making illegal whiskey in the woods. As I look back on the experience, I realize that Sheriff Mac could probably have gotten into trouble with this incident, but those were different days in “the country,” which Douglas County was in those days.
Reflecting on those simpler times, I am aware that I was never afraid of Sheriff Mac or his “giant” horse. The Sheriff was a large man, probably 6’4” and well over 250 pounds! I knew that he could handle any situation that he faced. I’m sure that anyone who broke the law in our county understood that, too.
When you’re a child in rural Georgia, you learn to respect the people who lead your community. I knew I could depend on Sheriff Mac, and the Pastor of our church, Pat Johnson, and the doctor who came to our house to deliver my sister when she was born.
Life was simpler then.
Perhaps when we build more of our lives on the relationships that count and not on the rights we demand, we can rediscover some of those things that made life more fulfilling. Sheriff Mac is a great memory from my childhood. He was more than an adult friend; he was a model of a man!