Cowboy Don Butler was an original Villa Rica Saddle Club member and is an original cowboy of the “Goldmine Gang of the Flying S Ranch” Cowboys that you will see perform April 14 and 15, 2018 at the 2nd Annual Pine Mountain Gold Museum Cowboy Festival. Mr. Butler has been well known for years by many in this area and told most of the tale for this story. Folks who have lived in Villa Rica, GA early on added details so some of the first-person accounts in this story are not only Mr. Butler’s. The others prefer to remain private, as country folk often do.
The Villa Rica Saddle Club started out at Freddie Mae and Ray Tyson’s place in Villa Rica and ended up at the Stockmar’s Flying S Ranch (Today the Pine Mountain Gold Museum at Stockmar Park). Man, Freddie Mae made the best chicken stew anybody could make. Other people tried but they could never make it like her. She used to feed the whole crowd on Sundays! Mr. Mac Abercrombie and Ray Tyson started the club as something for the kids in the area to do. Everyone loved Mr. Mac, Ray, and Freddie Mae. They were three of the kindest people ever. Ray shod horses all around the area. They would give you anything, the last penny in their pocket if you needed it. They were always trying to do something for the less fortunate. You’d ride along and something breaks and you’re trying to fix it to get on to where the ride’s gonna stop and Mr. Mac and Ray were the first to help you. They would loan you a horse, loan you a saddle to get from point A to point B, then laugh and joke and go on with you.
The “forty-eleven some odd kids” they helped raise through the years and kept out of trouble went on to be some of the finest men and women in later life. We are now called “Barn Rats.” Don’t know if at the time we kids realized it, but those two men particularly kept an eye on what was going on. We were mean and rough but we never got out of line and started any fights cause we knew the two of them would frown on it. And Mr. Mac was not above taking you out back either. I don’t think he ever did take anybody out back, but we thought he would! If he looked at you and said, “Girl I won’t put up with that,” it was, “Yes, sir,” and you straightened your butt up!
Every Sunday, lots of folks would gather at their house and ride. Lord, what a good time we had! Bunch of us kids would play run around the barrel, in a flat field that would later become the ring for the Villa Rica Saddle Club. Ray Tyson said to Mr. Mac, “We might ought to have an arena and have events to keep these kids busy and they’ll enjoy doing that.” You’ve got to remember, there was no 4H or anything; just whatever we had we could compete on. Training was non-existent. It was basically just getting the horse to do what you wanted it to do. There were rodeos at the Tysons’ place. Old “Leather Pants” could be seen driving the six-horse hitch. But that’s another story.
We would all ride from the Flying S Ranch in Villa Rica to Douglasville sometimes and then sometimes from Douglasville to Villa Rica, and then have a big street dance. Doc Win Burnett’s band would play frequently and Doc would do it for next to nothing just for the saddle club and the townspeople to enjoy. He also took care of a lot of folks’ animals that couldn’t afford to pay. After a few years at Ray’s, we started doing wagon trains and the ride turned into a Chatsworth, GA week long ride and wagon train. We would ride to Chatsworth, then over the mountain from Chatsworth to Ellijay. There is a ride in Chatsworth now, but it’s really just a parade.
Yep, It was a marvelous time we lived in back then and it’s gone cause there’s not any Mr. Macs or Ray Tysons out there anymore.
Media Credits: ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Steve Lawler, John Hutchenson, and Cheryl Wright of the Mr. Mac’s Barn website
Doc Win Band website
City of Villa Rica Pine Mountain Gold Museum at Stockmar Park website