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Paying it forward

By Tim Croft
The Star

In the days immediately after Hurricane Michael there was a group that quickly drew my attention. 

My wife and I had transported, sort of, to higher ground when it was clear storm surge was possibly going to visit our home, which it did, and we sought shelter with my son-in-law. 

Little did he know at the time that waiting out the storm would be a two-week shack-up with the in-laws. 

The man never complained and gave everything he could; probably releasing tension with a chain saw, which we will get to momentarily. 

For the wife and I spending time with the grandkids was a bonus, though once they spent more than a few hours with no device, tension ratcheted up a smidge. 

But beyond caring for his family, my son-in-law spent many a day heading out early with a friend by the name of Cleveland to clear roads and yards. 

Of course, most know Cleveland as Scooter (I am from Ohio, so I am partial to the Cleveland, which he likely hates) and if there is a kid who was raised the right way (Irene, I am writing to you), it is Scooter. 

No matter what may have been happening at his own house after Hurricane Michael, Scooter, a father and husband, was up every day with friends armed with their chain saws, opening driveways, clearing yards. 

I might be stretching it a tad, but I do believe Scooter and his chain-saw gang pretty much cleared Palm Blvd. 

There is a line from the play “Hamilton” about the original treasury secretary being “non-stop.” 

Pretty good description of the Scooter and the gang during those terrible days.  

And, Irene Acree, she was just making trips to whatever destination she could to secure gas, generators, water, whatever was needed for whoever she could assist. 

It was one of the more remarkable and memorable things about the days immediately after Hurricane Michael, when many of us were still wrapping our heads about what life might be like in the future. 

Scooter and his gang and their chain saws were excising the landscape and seemingly doing it without a second thought. 

Chain saws weren’t Scooter’s only tool. 

He jumped aboard his boat to assist in search and rescue operations along St. Joseph Peninsula and Cape San Blas, aiding authorities in assessing damage and casualties when access was only by boat. 

Nobody was paying Scooter a dime for any of this. 

Well, as it turned out, Scooter is also one of those people who, in the cliché of all cliches, pay it forward. 

If this guy saw a bird with a wing broken, I would not be surprised to see him take it home and nurse it back to health to release to the wild. 

And, so, after Hurricane Laura devastated parts of Louisiana and Texas, Scooter trained his eyes west. 

This is what he wrote on Facebook toward the end of last week, as he was loading a trailer with supplies and recruiting his small army of chain sawers and tarpers. 

“We will be heading your way tomorrow afternoon with saws, tarps and strong backs. Our area was just hit head on by Michael and the help was amazing time to pay it back, my goal is access to homes and cover.  

“I am not a yard cleaning company but I will clear roads driveways and tarp roofs no charge. If there is an area that needs it more than others or say more heavily wooded areas that need access let me know and that will be the destination. I know on our recovery we started getting large group and going door to door as more homes were fixed those people can help out. It works very well.” 

Does that define selfless or what? Community? Treating people as they would like to be treated, that Golden Rule stuff? 

Acree raised money for generators, nails, tarps and the like and set off with his small gang over the weekend. 

“This town is so awesome,” he wrote on Facebook of all the local donations to his cause. 

On Sunday, pronouncing that the “calvary” had arrived Scooter and gang were tarping their first roofs, ending the day sleeping in tents at a truck stop. 

They also arrived in an area that had experienced some of the social unrest roiling the country. 

More than one suspicious eye was cast upon the white guys coming to help tarp a roof, hand out some food, water, small amounts of money. 

In these very troubled times, anchors are sought, stories that make us feel better about ourselves, about humanity. 

They can be like water during a walk in the desert; they are now. 

With so much dividing us, so much rancor in politics, about face masks, for heaven’s sake, (and the concept of face masks in restaurants has passed away), solace seems a distant memory. 

2020 has not been the most enjoyable. 

But solace this week, at least for me, is found in Scooter Acree and others like him who think nothing of placing community above self when the times cry out for it.