Should have been a cowboy

Published 12:03 am Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Buddy Harper shown riding a horse, one of his most favorite pasttimes. | Courtesy photo

Buddy Harper was a man, who more than anything in the world, wanted to be a cowboy.

Hundreds of acres, filled with horses, barns and livestock, surround his home, which is an exterior mirror to Southfork, the mansion in the television series “Dallas.”

Growing up in Andalusia, he and his brothers, Johnny and Robert, used to spend hours watching cowboys rope and ride. At one time, Buddy Harper got to play a cowboy on the big screen as an extra in “The Return of Josey Wales.”

Harper, who died Sunday following complications from a two-year battle with cancer, will take his final ride Friday, pulled in a horse drawn, glass-windowed cowboy hearse. Someone will lead his favorite horse.

He was 71.

“Everyone could relate to my dad,” said daughter Marrianne DuBose. “He totally overcame his beginnings. What he had, he earned out of pure determination and work. He said it was because people gave him a chance, and he never forgot it.”

Harper, a 1960 graduate of Pleasant Home School, began his electrical career at what is now PowerSouth.

Charlotte Maughon, who for the last 34 years, has served as a family friend and company secretary, said, “That man loved his family. He started this company in a three room singlewide trailer that was next to his house on Brooklyn Road. Now, it’s a multi-million dollar electrical contracting company. He did that through hard work.”

Maughon’s description of Harper couldn’t be more true, said his daughter and his brother, Johnny Harper.

“Tough jobs didn’t deter him,” DuBose said. “People used to say that he was the only one who could get the most amount of work with the least amount of time, equipment and men. And, he’d get it done before anyone else. Swamps, mountains, it didn’t matter to him. He’d get it done.”

DuBose said it was that determination and will to fight, as well as the care given by her mother Diane, that served Harper well in his last days. She said Harper’s cancer was discovered after an injury to his arm required surgery and didn’t heal correctly.

“It just wouldn’t get well, and they couldn’t figure out why,” she said. “A body scan revealed the cancer. Whatever the doctors thought would work for him – chemotherapy, whatever – he’d say ‘Let’s try it.’

“My daddy was a tough man,” DuBose said. “I don’t say that to say that he was mean. I say that to say that he didn’t just talk the talk. He proved it with his actions. He proved to us (children) that was the way to do things.

“Just a month ago, he was out there watching them drive cows because he had to be in the middle of things,” she said. “Up to the last minute he was alive, his body didn’t want to stop. If it wasn’t for the pneumonia, I have no doubt he’d still be fighting.

“His battle, his fight, it is a testimony to who he was,” she said. “Dad truly enjoyed life. He lived it to the fullest.”