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Last Friday night, a Bedford County man walked away from his work on a chain gang. Oddly enough, no law enforcement personnel gave chase. No alarms were sounded and no hounds were unleashed.
In fact, the man's departure from the chain gang was wildly applauded by appreciative and law-abiding citizenry.
That's because the fellow, Mac Hargis, is a law-abiding fellow himself. The chain gang he worked is the kind that is found on a football gridiron, marking the ball's position, the first-down goal and the down.
After 40 years of working the chains of the Jefferson Forest gridiron, Hargis is calling it a day. His fluorescent vest will be packed away, and he'll watch games like a typical fan.
He's earned that right. The Goode resident has remained at his post for four decades. When he started his run on the JF chain crew:
-Jefferson Forest was a brand new school.
-Linwood Holton was the governor of Virginia.
-TV's top shows were "All in the Family," "The Flip Wilson Show" and "Marcus Welby, MD."
Hargis likely had little time for television, after all, "It's the best seat in the house," Hargis said, of his position along the sidelines.
He started taking up the chains when a neighbor asked him to lend a hand. Since then, Hargis estimates that he's worked with 20 to 30 different crew members. While they've come and gone, Hargis has remained, standing like a stonewall.
Bryan Harris is one man who has spent a good deal of time working with Hargis: 13 seasons, or roughly 1/3 of Hargis' tenure. In fact, Harris played football for Jeff Forest in 1999, which was Hargis' 27th year on the chain gang. "We'll miss him," Harris said. "He's been our bread and butter."
On Hargis' last night working the chains, he was joined by Harris, Glen Sexton and Tim Arnold.
"Mac is a gentleman," said Sexton. "I like to hear about his history: the best and the worst of it."
The best of it will have to include the halftime ceremony at that final game, a victory by Jeff Forest over Glass.
At halftime, Hargis was presented by Jeff Forest Athletic Director Nancy Claudio with a plaque and several items of JF apparel. He was then serenaded by the famed JF marching band with the school's fight song. Hargis, a graduate of New London Academy, was obviously touched.
"I greatly appreciated everything they did," he said. "I didn't think it would be that big (of a send-off). I was surprised when (my fellow crewmen) started pushing me out to the middle of the field."
It seemed a proper ceremony. "What can you say about someone who has dedicated 40 years to us," asked Claudio. "Someone like that only comes around once in a while: Someone who wanted to be here for the kids. We're blessed to have him."
Hargis, in turn, was grateful to Claudio and the JF staff. He also noted how grateful he was to Brad Stone, a former fellow crew member who encouraged Hargis to continue his work following the death of Hargis' son.
Now, Hargis can spend more quality time on the homefront, with his wife, Ann. "I'm stepping aside because 40 years is plenty," he said.
He also noted that he plans to continue to follow JF football.
And you can bet he'll be checking out the work of the new guy on the chain gang.