For those of old enough to remember the “Andy Griffith Show” and his little town of Mayberry RFD, you know that it was all the “unique” townsfolk who shaped the character of that town. Well, our little mountaintop community is a lot like that, and we are blessed with a rich cast of local characters.
One of the fixtures in our community is Lamar Butler, better known to his friends and customers as just Mar. Now for you Yankee imports, Mar is pronounced “Mawwar.”
Mar can be seen around town most days, taking his time wandering from one job to another in one of his tree and brush service trucks. Most of us have known Mar for years, but to really know him, read on.
Lamar Butler was born in 1953 up on Butler Hill, named for the generations of Butlers before him. His old home place is located out near the farmstead that belonged to Lynn and Babs Deakins off Highway 157. He grew up attending Payne’s Chapel Methodist Church and the elementary school at the Air Force’s old Flintstone radar base, located near what is now Covenant College’s soccer field. When the base closed, he went to Fairyland School and on to Rossville high school.
Mar is getting ready to celebrate his 40th year of marriage to his wife, Judy, who sends him out the door every morning with two big 32-ounce Ball jars full of her famous sweet tea. They have a son, Marty, and four grandkids, the oldest of whom works with his grandpa when not in school.
In his early years, Mar worked for Cavalier Corporation under the wing of another historic mountain fixture, renaissance man William Raoul. They were friends until Mr. Rauol’s passing in 1997, though Mar left Cavalier for greener pastures some 10 years earlier.
In the mid ’80s, he set out to be a “tree man,” or “tree monkey,” as I call him. In 1985, he bought his first 1-ton truck to haul all his tree-cutting gear, and has purchased another similar truck every 10 years since. Now, Mar is known for his innovative tree-trimming techniques, especially when getting to limbs in places where mere mortals would never go. If you ever see a guy hanging over the bluff, tied to a rope “secured” to a ladder which is (theoretically) anchored to something above the bluff line, that would be Mar.
Five years ago, he added Big Red, an old GMC 60-foot cherry picker truck. He also bought a large dump truck for his fleet. More than a few mountain residents have been up in that boom bucket, including me a few years back when I needed to do some repairs high on one end of our house. Mar gave very explicit instructions about how to handle the hydraulic levers, which aren’t actually printable in this publication.
I went up in that bucket with Mar before his son, Marty, informed me that on not one, but two occasions, Mar was up in that bucket working by himself when the engine quit. Being stuck 50 feet off the ground, Mar did what he’s been doing in trees for years -- he shimmied the whole way down the boom. Twice.
Lately, Mar has branched out from tree cutting. He supplements his income cleaning out attics and basements, and hauling some of the junk he finds to flea markets. Frequently he stops by my office to show me some of the good junk. He’s also gotten right good at working the occasional parlay sheet, and, as an Alabama fan, has made a few extra bucks.
Mar doesn’t care to travel much, but he did tell me one of his most memorable trips was to see a space shuttle launch at Cape Canaveral - a thrilling experience for anyone. The furthest from home he has been was back when a teenager - he and some friends drove to Detroit and back in one day. I asked why and he said, “Now, Mar can’t tell you ’bout that.”
Which brings me to one of Mar’s more unusual qualities: He always refers to himself in third person. For example, he’ll tell you, “Mar’s just a honest country boy workin’ for everything Mar’s got.”
As I do with most people, I make a point of aggravating Mar every chance I get. “Don’t be aggravating Mar,” Mar says. If you have a job for him and ask Mar to meet up first thing in the morning, he’ll warn, “Mar don't keep banker’s hours.” After dropping branches from the top of a huge tree all morning, he’ll slide down for some sweet tea and observe, “Look at this big mess Mar made.” Midday he insists on a full one-hour lunch break, like a union man, saying, “Mar's gotta eat!”
Now, some might suspect that he had been drinking more than Miss Judy’s sweet tea when he got stuck high up in that bucket truck – twice - but he’ll tell you outright, “Mar don't touch that stuff - noooo buddy.” (Except medicinally, of course, when he prescribes heating up a shot of good stuff and sippin’ on it.) And I don't know what is under there but, “Don’t be messin’ with Mar’s hat.”
On a summer afternoon, if he’s up in a tree and the weather hints that lightening might want a dance, he’ll announce, “Mar’s headin’ to the house.” The house would be out in New Salem where he and Miss Judy now live. Whenever I drive by, I roll down my window and yell at the top of my lungs, “Marrrr!”
If you need some tree work done, or some stuff taken to the dump or flea market, give my friend Mar a call at (706) 398-1968. For sure, Mar’ll be up there first thing in the mornin’.