Ben Gilleland has been having serious medical problems for quite a while, including a rare case of blood cancer. He cannot walk even a very short distance without using a cane or a walker.
Eight years ago, he got a wonderful gift for Father’s Day.
Early in the day, he got a new shirt while his son, Joey, had been given a recliner.
Joey and his family live nearby. After lunch, Joey drove to his parents’ house on a Kawasaki Mule. The grandchildren were piled in with him and yelling, “Happy Father’s Day.”
Dot said Ben had a look on his face that said something like, “Joey got a recliner and a Mule and I got a shirt.” After learning the Mule was for him, Ben was surprised.
His Mule is green, has a cover overhead and two seats. Where a back window would be, it has an American flag.
Riding on his Mule, it was almost like he got the use of his legs back. He could cut the shrubbery, pick up pine cones, check on the garden and even visit the nearby neighbors.
When he was not using it, the Mule stayed under the carport. It was safe there until last weekend.
Last Sunday, when Dot and Ben came out of the house on their way to Sunday School, they saw the Mule was not there. The thief or thieves had taken Ben’s walking stick and shrubbery cutter out of the back of it and placed them neatly beside where the Mule had been parked.
One thought was Joey had borrowed it. When they called him, he knew nothing about it. Soon afterward, they called the Sheriff’s Office.
A deputy came out and took a report. Thus far, the Mule has not been found.
Under the hood, Ben had a box of tools. He does not remember why, but for some reason he had a “Roger Garrison for Sheriff” campaign card on top of the tools.
The thieves were bold. The carport is a part of the house and a security light nearby shines under it. Ben believes they rolled the Mule out from the carport and some distance away before they got to where they were going.
Ben needs his “legs” back. Their beautiful yard is large and their garden is farther behind the house. He cannot get there without his Mule.
He has a message he wants to get out to the thieves. If they will bring the Mule back, there will be no questions asked and he will not place any charges against them. Or, if they ask him for the Mule, he will give it to them.
This is another case of something bad happening to good people. The Gillelands have worked hard for the comforts they are enjoying in their retirement.
Both are Cherokee County natives with traditional values. Dot was born near Waleska and Ben is from Lathemtown.
Dot and Ben met when they were students at Old Canton High School and married when she was 18 and Ben was 20.
Although they expected Ben to be drafted into the Army, they started building their house on Univeter Road in Canton. They hastily “dried it in” before he had to leave for Fort Jackson, S.C., and later Fort Sheridan, Ill. Dot went with him during his Army years.
After coming back to Canton, Dot and Ben finished building their house. Ben worked at Bradshaw Supply and Colonial Stores before becoming Cherokee County Director of Roads and Bridges.
Dot worked at Gold Kist Poultry, then at Johnny and Mary Sparks’ furniture store, before becoming a full-time mother while raising their children, Molly and Joey. After they were both in school, Dot became the well-beloved secretary at Holly Springs Elementary.
Involved in their children’s lives in church, school and sports, they were the kind of parents children need. Most of all, they were role models for them and are now involved in the lives of their grandchildren.
In other words, Dot and Ben have lived lives that have earned the respect of their family, friends and neighbors.
While the Mule was important to Dot and Ben, something more valuable was stolen at the same time. It is their sense of security. That is one of the things most important to all of us.
Some of you may be members of a Neighborhood Watch. We can all do what they do. Keep our eyes open. Look around. If we see a Mule like Ben’s in a suspect place, we can call law enforcement.
Remember, Ben needs his “legs” back.
Marguerite Cline is former mayor of Waleska.