“McLemore’s”

McLemore’s
WRITTEN BY: F.D. LEONE

Walked in there first time in aught-four
Took a stool by the pinball machine
Come to know the owner Jake McLemore
Dropping by each day became routine

He looked to be about my dad’s age
If my dad ain’t died in ninety-three
Jake was always adopting strays
Like a three-legged dog and me

Time seemed to pass a little slower
Behind soft country music and bumper pool
The world looked a whole lot better
From where I sat on that bar stool

Pickled eggs and pigs feet in a jar
Antique cash register, black dial phone
Scratches ‘n’ nicks in a hickory bar
Left by those who are never really gone

He pointed to a snapshot of some soldiers
Leaning on a tank in Iraq
“They call my son a hero,” Jake told me
“Would’ve preferred if he’d just made it back”

Time seemed to pass a little slower …

Jake sold out last year with a big payday
Bought 26 acres outside Shreveport
I don’t drink much anymore and anyway
Can’t find a bar like McLemore’s
No, there ain’t no place like McLemore’s

© 2017 Frank David Leone, Jr./Highway 80 Music (ASCAP)

“Pearl + Jake”

Pearl + Jake
WRITTEN BY: F.D. LEONE

Snowed all day in Macon
When Pearl left for the last time
Alabama Mi’sippy Louisiana
Georgia felt far enough behind
Creosote cottonseed Shreveport
Hit her like a cinder block
Lights of an all-night diner
Pearl coasted to a stop

Jake behind the counter
White apron, little paper hat
Slid some coffee before her
Quiet as an alley cat
Pearl pulled a pint from somewhere
Tipped it over her cup
Jake lit a cigarette
The sun came up

Loving’ her is what he meant to do
Even if it broke his heart in two
He played life like a game of horseshoes
Loving’ her is what he meant to do

Jake bought this diner
After selling McLemore’s
Pearl was stranded in Macon
Managing a dollar store
They met on Jewella Avenue
Both lookin’ for a new start
Jake gave her some food
And his hidden heart

Loving’ her is what he meant to do …

Jake didn’t want to come home
Stinkin’ of cigarettes, beer and perfume
Five years flash by
As he walks from room to empty room
Pearl was running away
That first day he met her
She’d been leavin’ ever since
Jake fin’ly found a way to let her

© 2018 Frank David Leone, Jr./Highway 80 Music (ASCAP)

“The River and Jake”

The River and Jake
WRITTEN BY: F.D. LEONE

Long as I can remember
When Jake was sad he would go
On down to The River
With some bait and a pole

It’s the place he wants to be
When he needs to be alone
Jake’s gone down to The River
Every day since Pearl’s been gone

You can ask him where they’re biting
Or what he used for bait
Just don’t ask him anything about her
That’s between The River and Jake

Soon his mind will grow empty
With each cast he’ll forget
All the worries he brought with him
They’ll all fade with the sunset

You can ask him where they’re biting …

© 2018 Frank David Leone, Jr./Highway 80 Music (ASCAP)

“Blinkin’ Back a Tear”

Blinkin’ Back a Tear
WRITTEN BY: F.D. LEONE

A few weeks before his grandpa went in
The hospital for the last time
He told Jake the stories of their kin
A life that was all but left behind

Clear whiskey, flatfoot dancing at jamborees
Frontier women and the men they loved
One by one he handed down his memories
Jake was eighteen, couldn’t get enough

Under a clear blue West Texas sky
A bluetick hound layin’ at his feet
A single tear in the corner of Jake’s eye
He blinked it back from fallin’ down his cheek

Owen McLemore was born in 1791
In 1820 he married Anabel
Before she died she gave him seven sons
He went to Texas then he went to hell

Owen’s great-grandson was Jake’s namesake
He made some money chasin’ the oil boom
There wuddn’t be nothin’ left for Jake
‘Cept this empty hospital room

Under a clear blue West Texas sky …

© 2018 Frank David Leone, Jr./Highway 80 Music (ASCAP)

Jake McLemore (1951- )

An American historian in the 19th century described the frontier vanguard in the following words:

“Thus the backwoodsmen lived on the clearings they had hewed out of the everlasting forest; a grim, stern people, strong and simple, powerful for good and evil, swayed by gusts of stormy passion, the love of freedom rooted in their hearts’ core. Their lives were harsh and narrow; they gained their bread by their blood and sweat, in the unending struggle with the wild ruggedness of nature. They suffered terrible injuries at the hands of the red men, and on their foes they waged a terrible warfare in return. They were relentless, revengeful, suspicious, knowing neither ruth nor pity; they were also upright, resolute, and fearless, loyal to their friends, and devoted to their country. In spite of their many failings, they were of all men the best fitted to conquer the wilderness and hold it against all comers.

The Anglo-American 18th-century frontier, like that of the Spanish, was one of war. The word “Texan” was not yet part of the English language. But in the bloody hills of Kentucky and on the middle border of Tennessee the type of man was already made. ”

These were the McLemores who left Tennessee for Texas.

Owen McLemore was born in 1791 in Tennessee and married Annabel March in 1816.  Together they worked a sustenance farm in Tennessee and began to build a family outside of Nashville, seeing their first son Jacob McLemore come into the world on  Christmas Day 1818.  Annabel gave birth to six other sons before dying in 1838 at which time, Owen took his seven sons to West Texas.

Jacob “Christmas” McLemore, as he was known his entire life, was Jake McLemore’s great-great-great-grandfather. There was one other Jacob McLemore, “Christmas” McLemore’s grandson, who got in on the first oil boom in 1911, made a killing, losing it, getting rich again before ultimately losing all his money and dying with empty pockets if you don’t count bitterness.

Jake McLemore’s father, Charlie McLemore, was farmer and small businessman of Nacogdoches, Texas where Jake was born in 1951 and where he spent his early life. Jake decided to make his way in the world by returning to the family’s old territory of Tennessee and moved to Nashville in 1978.

After investing in several businesses, he came to own a bar, which he had won in a poker game.   He promptly changed the name and settled down as proprietor of McLemore’s Bar in 1984.

By that time Jake had already married and had a son, Lee, in 1982 who would go on to join the army and fight and die in Iraq in 2007.  But not before having a son himself in 2004 (a child Jake knew nothing about) with his girlfriend whom he secretly married shortly before being shipped out.

Jake kept the bar going for several years after Lee died but ended up selling it and buying some land outside of Shreveport, Louisiana near Caddo Lake where he used to go fishing with his father as an adolescent.  Here Jake lived out the rest of his days fishing and shooting the breeze with Mike Broussard and other men from the area until the day Jake met his grandson, Charles, named after Jake’s father – in 2017.

Jake is raising Charles to be a sturdy young man in the long line of McLemore men.

Owen McLemore

Owen McLemore was born in Tennessee, but his family originally came from Ulster Ireland, Scots-Irish, landing in North Carolina in the mid-18th century. Owen’s grandfather, Allen McLemore came to North Carolina as a young boy in 1854, he stayed there acquiring some land not far from his father’s farm and also lived as a sustenance farmer. His son, Jason was the McLemore who left North Carolina , crossing the Appalachian mountains and making his way to middle Tennessee by 1788.

Owen McLemore was born in 1791, the second child to Jason and wife Lucy; a girl had been born in 1789, but only lived a few months. Owen grew up on his father farm and learned everything he needed to become a farmer himself before marrying Annabel March in 1816. Together they worked a sustenance farm in Tennessee and began to build a family outside of Nashville, seeing their first son Jacob McLemore come into the world on Christmas Day 1818.

Annabel gave birth to six other sons before dying in 1838 at which time the family migrated to West Texas where Owen died at the age of 76, living to see all of his sons make their way in the harsh world of West Texas.

Sam Summers McLemore

Sam Summers McLemore (1852-1878) lived a violent and short life as an outlaw and gunfighter in Texas.  His father fought and died in the Civil War, leaving Sam at age 12 without much direction.  He occupied his time by practicing drawing and shooting the pistol that he inherited from his father.

At age 18 he was part of a cattle drive, and when some of the wranglers went into town, he was called out for cheating at cards.  He wasn’t cheating but had to defend his honor and killed his first man.  From then on, he found himself having to kill more men who challenged him.

Being a gunfighter was never clearly articulated in his mind, but his life took on a momentum of its own, with him being thrust in the position of defending himself from those who wished to make their own reputations.  For the better part of a decade he lived this kind of life, before taking up with a young prostitute, Sally McCune, rooming with her in the saloon/brothel in West Texas where she worked.

His last fight took place in the dusty street outside this saloon, when he was outgunned by a younger gunslinger and died on that street, age 26.  He did not know it at the time but Sally was carrying his child, Jacob Mac McLemore.

Sally would joke that since her father, a hard shell Baptist minister, was named Horace it was only natural that she took to whorin’.  But once she had the boy, she swore that she’d get out of that life and raise him up right.  And this she did, eventually owning and operating a boarding house in Fort Worth.  This is where Jacob grew up, until he turned 15 and took off for Corsicana when he heard about the oil strike there in 1894.

Jacob Mac McLemore

Jacob Mac McLemore (1879-1946) made and lost more money than any of the McLemore men. When he was fifteen he heard about the 1894 oil strike in East Texas. He started at the bottom working any job he could get, eventually learning enough to strike out on his own.

Indians found oil seeping from the soils of Texas long before the first Europeans arrived. They told explorers that the fluid had medicinal values. The first record of Europeans using crude oil, however, was for the caulking of boats in 1543 by survivors of the DeSoto expedition near Sabine Pass.

Melrose, in Nacogdoches County, was the site in 1866 of the first drilled well to produce oil in Texas. Other oil was found in crudely dug wells in Bexar County in 1889 and in Hardin County in 1893. But it was not until June 9, 1894, that Texas had a major discovery. This occurred in the drilling of a water well for the city of Corsicana. Oil caused that well to be abandoned, but a company formed in 1895 drilled several producing oil wells.

Jacob Mac McLemore never knew his father, who had been an outlaw-gunslinger who died a few months before he was born.  Sam Summers McLemore (1852-1878) never even knew the 16-year old whore, Sally McCune, he was living with was pregnant when he went out in the street to face a younger and what turned out to be faster boy.  Jacob was raised by Sally, who eventually was able to quit the life and lived out her days running a boarding house in Fort Worth.   There’s some who say it was more than a boarding house, but others deny those rumors.

Jacob Mac was 15 when the Corsicana oil came in, and for the next twenty years he chased the strikes all over Texas. He might make some money here, then invest it somewhere else only to see his investment evaporate in the dusty Texas wind.

The Permian Basin of West Texas has yielded large quantities of oil since the Big Lake discovery in 1923, although there was a smaller discovery in the Westbrook field in Mitchell County three years earlier.  It was during this boom in the early ’20s that Jacob McLemore made and lost more than one fortune.

He was married and divorced four times, the last near the end of his life and the one which really broke him. Of the four marriages, only the first produced any children, one boy, Lee Allen (1903-1969), and a girl, Aurelia.  Lee Allen was Jake McLemore’s grandfather.

If you were to ask those who knew him, what they would tell you about Jacob Mac McLemore was that, first and foremost, he was a decent man whose word was his bond. No one ever knew him to brag or lie and that he never made a deal that he did not keep, and usually made his partners money.

They would also tell you that he was a “good ol’ boy” who was a fool with women. He died at the age of 67, dying peacefully in his sleep while on a peccary hunt in South Texas not far from San Antonio.

You might say that Jacob Mac lived an interesting life, but despite not enjoying much good luck was always in good humor and good company.