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Moss column: Remembering Theron at a country buffet

Blue Ridge Apple Growers honored Theron Maybin as a Friend of Apple Growers in 2014. Blue Ridge Apple Growers honored Theron Maybin as a Friend of Apple Growers in 2014.

The first time I met Theron Maybin he was eating lunch with Chicken Man at Orr’s Family Restaurant in East Flat Rock.

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I was the new editor of the Times-News, looking for country food. I was wearing a dress shirt and tie, which made me stand out among the farmers, utility linemen and contractors that frequented the buffet. I was hoping to find fried chicken, butter beans and corn and collard greens and I got lucky.
Theron approached me and invited me to sit with him and Chicken Man. I had no better options than to sit with his friendly man in bib overalls. I know he told me the story of his dinner mate and how Chicken Man got the name; I just don’t remember it.
A lot of people loved Theron. Some pronounced his name with two syllables, like Thare-on. I called him Thurn for a simple reason. “Most people call me Thurn,” he told me. Over time I was not sure how he was defining “most people.” I believe his wife, Mary Lois, pronounced his name Thare-on while his brothers called him Thurn.
For a few years, when I would see Theron, I’d ask about Chicken Man. Chicken Man had come down with cancer, he said. Then I asked one last time. Chicken Man died, he said.

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Soon after I met Theron I would call him for quotes about farming and he’d tell me how the tomatoes and cucumbers and cabbage were growing. Farm reporting being what it is, we’d often call when Mother Nature had wrecked the crop. Drought, floods, a killing frost, a wind storm. A lot of farmers would belly-ache. Theron never sounded hangdog. He seemed to take it in stride. His cattle and hogs would survive and he’d have a crop one way or another and he would have haul of the prettiest cabbage in North Carolina to the State Fair in Raleigh.
Theron was the most famous farmer in the county who didn’t grow apples. But Theron loved pretty apples. He and Mary Lois and county farm agent Marvin Owings would load up apples and haul them to Raleigh and set up elaborate exhibits that looked in photographs like watercolor paintings. Of course they swept all the apple awards.
Soon after I met him, Theron started calling me, too. Not with farm news but to invite me to church.
He invited me to Cedar Springs Baptist Church’s Easter Sunday breakfast feed, which had real country ham, and to the annual shape-note sing, which had a terrific country dinner. I guess since I grew up in Chapel Hill, wrote editorials favoring countywide zoning and ran a newspaper owned by the New York Times, Theron figured I was unchurched.

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Although Theron was known as the unofficial mayor of Green River, I thought of him more as the ambassador from Bob’s Creek.
“When there was something that he was passionate about relative to agriculture he would go to the commissioners and, as I told him a number of times, it was like when E. F. Hutton speaks everyone listens,” Owings said.
You can’t throw a rock in Green River, Tuxedo, Zirconia, Mount Olivet or Bob’s Creek without hitting a Maybin, a Baptist or a Republican. If you popped Theron, you hit all three at once. He traced his roots to Matthew Maybin, a Revolutionary War soldier who had sailed to America from Ireland in 1772. Cedar Springs Baptist Church was formed in 1847 by Cappses and Maybins, and of course Theron’s mother was a Capps.
We never appreciate until they’re gone how blessed we are to have crossed paths with certain people and to count them as a friend. Over the years, whenever I had the good fortune to run into Theron again, I always thought of the first time we met. I was just a stranger in a necktie hungry for fried chicken when Thurn sought me out, extended the hand of friendship and invited me to break bread with him and Chicken Man. For Theron that act of kindness was as natural as breathing. He always walked in the mission field.

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Reach editor Bill Moss at billmoss@hendersonvillelightning.com.