We all need a friend like this: A guy who will tote his power washer across town, fire it up and blast off the remains of a wayward bird that hit a second-story picture window at an office where everyone was getting queasy looking at those remains and not accept a single dime for doing the job.
Bob MacKinnon was that kind of friend.
“What do I owe you, Bob?” I said as we stood in the alley beside the newspaper office.
“Nothing,” he said.
“No, I’ve got to pay your something,” I argued.
“It don’t matter,” he said, slapping me on the shoulder and then loading his equipment into his truck and driving on to the next adventure.
“It don’t matter” was what he often said when we discussed life’s follies, trials and tribulations.
“Just sayin’” – followed by laugh that quickly morphed into a snort – was what he said after a comment that, in some circles, teetered close to the line or crossed it by a country mile, a common occurrence.
I’m going to miss that.
Bob, owner and operator of Mulligan Mack’s After 5 bar and grill (otherwise known as “Bob’s”) and Mr. Wizard Pressure Cleaning in Marion, N.C., the Hawaiian-shirt wearing, always-smiling friend to all who knew him, died Sunday, April 7 at 62. Cancer got him and I am awfully tired of that hellish plague cutting down my friends and family way before their time.
Bob was born in Michigan but he had the good sense to eventually head south. He had been in the hospitality business, he told me, running Holiday Inns, before crossing the Mason-Dixon and working in what may be considered the opposite of the hospitality business, the state Department of Correction.
He found his true calling, in my opinion, when he retired from the state and took over what was the first real bar in town since the early 20 th century when the do-gooders and pious politicians shut them all down.
The pressure-washing business came after Bob realized he couldn’t have the bar open 24 hours a day and he liked to keep busy.
Bob was the perfect host, making sure thirsty patrons were happy and entertained. And to say Bob was a hugger would be an understatement. Men, women, maybe even the groundhog who hung around the back deck for a while, could expect a public display of affection along with cold beer and free peanuts and popcorn.
Bob’s personality transformed the establishment from what might have been just a hole-in-the-wall bar to a place that resembled a real-life “Cheers.” A regular walking in the door on a busy night might be greeted with applause and whoops of joy.
He once framed a column I wrote he found particularly amusing and hung it on the wall. He named a drink after sports editor Marty Queen. On a slow night when I complained about the quality of the music being piped in, he told me to go back to where the sound system was and program in whatever I wanted. I dialed up an outlaw country channel, sat back and drank a beer under my framed column. If that ain’t living the good life, if only for a moment, I don’t know what is.
Bob left behind loved ones, sons he was proud of, long-time running buddy Barton Cook and an ex-wife who thought enough of him to help out at the bar in her spare time. He called her husband his husband-in-law. Yes, those who did not meet Bob in this life missed a character.
“It don’t matter,” he said many times.
Bob’s passing surely does matter to his family, to his loyal customers, to his golfing buddies and to those who realize it takes a special kind of friend to power wash the remains of a wayward bird off a second-story picture window and not accept a dime for doing the job.
Scott Hollifield is editor of The McDowell News in Marion, NC and a humor columnist. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.