By Don McAlavy: Curry historian
One of the most famous characters at Taiban was “Mac” McMillan.
“His real name was Chester C. McMillan, and he had a bar there, a kind of family-like place where his family and neighbors would gather, dance, have a few drinks, play pool and eat Sally’s pimento cheese sandwiches,” said Ben Hall, whose ranch was south of Taiban. “The little kids would have a ball running, playing, dancing and chasing the large yellow cat.”
All the kids wanted this cat, and Mac would tell them if they could put it in a box and shut the lid down they could have it.
“I’ve seen kids work for an hour trying to put the cat in the box, but the old cat never got mad or offered to hurt a kid,” said Hall.
“Mac and Sally had been married in Mexico, but they had no documents to that effect,” he said.
Mac had gathered enough mesquite roots to last five years when his bar burned down.
“Mac asked me,” said Hall, “if he could be buried in Blanco Cemetery, and I told him if he would just die, I’d go have the grave dug. He did get awful sick and wasn’t expected to live. His son called my wife, Frances, and wanted to know if he could be buried in that cemetery, and she told him I had saved a place for him.
“He also asked if I would be a pallbearer, and my wife said he’d best get a younger guy as I couldn’t lift a lot, and she asked him when Mac died.”
His son said he wasn’t dead yet but didn’t expect him to live the night out.
“His daughter came over,” Hall continued, “and found a check Mac has signed, took it to the bank and closed out her dad’s account, took his pickup and boat. Mac fooled his kids and got well. Consequently he wasn’t too happy with his kids.
“When Mac’s bar burned,” Hall said, “Mac kept a lot of money in a tin box. He was the banker for the people around if it was after banking hours or on a weekend. Also, the railroad extra gangs got paid late Friday, and they all cashed their checks there. (“The bar burned down on Dec. 29, 1987,” Johnny Eastwood of Tolar and Clovis, told me.)
“This money in bills was charred very badly,” Hall said. “They sent these charred bills to Washington, and about four months later Mac got a check. I asked him how close it was to what he had in the box because I knew he knew exactly what was in it. He said they paid off to the exact dollar. Something over $37,000.
“Mac also had a box of coins. They all melted and ran together, and they wouldn’t take them. I think there was nearly $3,000 in coins.
“A few months later, the Smithsonian Magazine ran a story on how the government determined the value of the bills, and the box they took the picture of was Mac’s old box of bills. If you had ever seen it, you’d never forget it,” said Hall.
One of the things that made Mac quite famous was his recipe for making barbecue sauce, if I do say so myself. I understand nobody but Mac knew the recipe for this delightful sauce. He’d put jars of sauce out on the bar, and they were soon all bought up. I know a couple of friends who made monthly drives from Clovis to Taiban to get a jar or two of that rare sauce.
I have never heard what happened to Sally and her pet chicken or all her pimento cheese sandwiches after Mac died. I do know that Chester “Mac” McMillan died Sept. 25, 1989.
Don McAlavy is Curry County’s historian. He can be contacted at: