I remember his car, a green Cadillac. Half as long as a city block like they used to say.
He always parked in front of the Inez Hotel. He was there every morning, around ten o’clock. Around five, he backed out and drove off.
Back then, the Inez had a coffee shop for the oilfield men. Men with good money to spend.
A barber shop was next door. You could get your boots shined for two bits. A haircut cost a dollar. I was too young to get a shave.
The California Company found oil outside of Brookhaven after World War II. They wanted to drill about a thousand and fifty oil wells. Everybody in town wanted to get rich. Hilltop had a lake of crude oil down underneath. Even today, the old wells are still making a little oil and gas.
The sleepy little Mississippi town was shocked when the big trucks rolled in, carrying pipe and drilling rigs. The diesel smoke hung in the air, and new money fell in the townspeople’s pockets. The Inez was the nicest place to stay. Oilfield men liked nice places. They had the money.
For the first twenty years, it was better than the Yukon. Black gold and hard work made millions of dollars. Some people got rich, others had more money than they ever dreamed about. Especially those who fought a farmer’s life.
When money is flowing around like that, it has to be spent. Wives and girlfriends want jewelry. Newly rich men want something to show their worth. Like watches and rings.
Mr. Mac sold yellow gold jewelry and diamond rings. He had the rings, bracelets and a few gold watches for sale. His shop was the front seat of his Cadillac. He didn’t need a brick front with a glass window. The roughnecks knew where to find him. The city folk were customers also.
My Dad bought a ring for my Mom from Mr. Mac. Then, he bought a ring for himself. Big, flashy, with diamonds. He was managing a rig by then. Unless something broke down, he never got dirty. He drove a company car, wore cowboy boots. He had paid his dues. Of course, he bought another ring or two for my Mom.
I don’t know the real story about Mr. Mac.
One time, he had a family. Mr. Mac had a son somewhere. The boy was a sportswriter somewhere. I guess the wife moved out of the picture a long time before we moved to town.
Time moves on and things change. I grew up and went to college. A new mayor got elected. He promised to rid the town of the old man and his green Cadillac. The man doing business within sight of city hall. The jewelry shop that never paid a penny in taxes.
I came home from college, thinking a few years of college had made me smarter.
The Cadillac was gone.
A couple years later, there was an obituary in the local paper.
Mr. Mac was gone also.
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