Granny's Roughnecks

Out at Mack's, there are skeeters, gators, fried catfish, pig hunts, and freedom -- with a few strings attached

The headline of Nell's Sun-Sentinel obituary read: "Nell Jones, Owner of Mack's Fish Camp; She Enjoyed Conversation."

"That's where she used to sit, right there," says Marshall, pointing to a kitchen chair next to a window in the store. The store used to be covered with old photographs documenting the camp's colorful memories, but they're currently in storage. Ancient, rusted, cross-cut saws belonging to Mack Sr. hang above the door, along with a gator head and '70s kitsch. Several hundred reels of eight-millimeter film are also in storage, waiting for a time when the Jones brothers can begin exploring and exploiting the historical significance of their home. "A lot of historic times were spent there, that's for sure," Shirley says.

"This place has the extra nostalgia," Marshall adds. "When you're in here, you can feel it."

John Keith Jones swings low.
Colby Katz
John Keith Jones swings low.
Way down yonder, not a-very far off: Mack's welcomes you.
Colby Katz
Way down yonder, not a-very far off: Mack's welcomes you.

And it still has the old-fashioned hospitality. Complete strangers are handed cold cans of soda and offered bottles of beer. Granny would've liked that, though she didn't drink herself.

"We had to deal with the death of our grandmother -- which was like our whole family all enveloped in one person," Marshall explains. "We had to pick up all these pieces of our lives and try to put it back together."

Probate court sorted out the tangled legal hassles that stood between the twins' inheriting the property. Through the "wheel system," the court appointed a Miami attorney, David Glassberg, who couldn't understand why the young men wanted to fight for a busted collection of trailers.

"Why is it so important to you guys to keep this place? Why don't you just sell it?" Keith remembers Glassberg asking.

"From the very beginning, they made it clear it wasn't up for discussion," Glassberg says today. "This was where they were born, and they weren't moving, period."

"My family worked hard for what little bit we got. I'm not gonna walk off," Keith confirms. "We were basically given the opportunity of a lifetime."

The twins now raise their own children at Mack's Fish Camp. Love Lea Jones, on her mom's lap, wears a bonnet to avoid burning her tiny, almost hairless head. She grabs a handful of her sundress and thrusts it into her mouth, gums clamping down on it wetly. Brianna Jones runs barefoot in a white lacy princess dress and flings open the door to the store. Keith greets her with "What's up, Pretty?" She smiles, revealing two tiny clenched rows of teeth, executes a daintily cute pirouette, and giggles. "Daddy," she asks, "Can I have a Slim Jim?"

"All I want to do is make this place better," says Keith, grabbing a meat stick for Brianna. "Not for myself -- I want to hand it down and give it away, just like my grandmother did."

"This is a paradise for children," Marshall adds. "Me and my brother had a fairytale childhood out here. Who wouldn't want to live here?"

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