Do you know my neighbor Jerry Zmick?

Published 8:00pm Monday, April 28, 2014

“It’s a beautiful day in my neighborhood, a beautiful day for a neighbor,” to quote Mr. Rogers, and I’m enjoying the sunshine with my neighbor, Jerry Zmick.
It’s a cool spring day and we’re warming up on the sunny porch of his “Margarita House,” named after his ability to make the world’s best margarita! We’re reminiscing about past years and past exploits and Jerry has many.
It all began in 1933 when Jerry was born on a dairy farm in Minden City, Mich. When old enough for school, the children walked near the railroad tracks.
The engineer, noticing the children walking, would stop to give them a ride and this began Jerry’s interest in trains and railroads.
Airplanes were his other fascination.
“When I was a sophomore in high school, I bought myself an old military surplus airplane,” he tells me. “Then I taught myself to fly!  I’d go up in the air a ways and then down again.  Soon I was able to take my parents flying.”
He pauses while remembering, “I even designed and built my own airplanes. One had folding wings so I could put it on a trailer. In 1966, I won an Individual Achievement Award from the Experimental Aircraft Association.
“I was in the Air Force and went to Flight School. I returned home to run the farm, but stayed in the reserves. After we sold the farm, I started as a fireman on the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad. A year later, I was an engineer. The railroad was my career.”
In Frankenmuth, Mich., Jerry operated Pine Park Farm, boarding, training, and showing horses.  It was a showplace. Busloads frequently stopped for a visit. He became a National Horse Show Judge, which led him to Tryon.
“I enjoyed the area, so when we retired, we moved down to South Carolina,” he explains. “I started the Carolina Carriage Clubs, built carriages, helped with the establishment of FENCE and was a member of the Paso Fino Association. I’m always thinking, starting something new, starting new organizations.”
We amble into the Margarita Barn as he shows me his vast collection of memorabilia.  The barn is like a gigantic scrapbook, chronicling his endeavors.
The walls are covered with his life depicted in photos, winning show ribbons and a picture of his championship horse, Clarabelle.  Another photo shows Jerry playing the saxophone with his high school band. As Jerry says, “Been there, done that!”  And these walls prove it!
Jerry likes to joke around—says he has a PHD.
“I’m a post hole digger,” he chuckles. I notice a collection of old keys hanging from the ceiling.  “You know, people are always leaving keys and no one knows what they go to. So I just string ‘em up,” he smiles.
A collection of shoelaces from the time he worked at Southern Carolina Elastics hangs on the door, oil cans of all sizes are lined up on a counter, “I’m a picker,” he admits.
We amble out into the sunshine and hear a hawk screeching overhead.  “Look,” he points.  “There’s the hawk’s nest.”  We watch as one hawk leaves the nest and the other settles down inside it.  Again, to quote Mr. Rogers, “ It’s a neighborly day in this beauty wood!”
And I’m lucky to have Jerry Zmick as my neighbor!

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