Years ago, as a reporter for the Marion Star in Marion, S.C., I came to know and appreciate the incredible knowledge and expertise of a man named Gault Beeson. He was the county administrator, in which role he exercised an infinite and mind-boggling store of knowledge about the geography, geology, infrastructure, demographics, topiary, ingress, and egress of the county, and -- as the person who drafted the annual budget -- how much all of it costs to maintain. He knew the location of every single dirt road, every housing development, every boat dock, and every trail.
This knowledge was on full display every couple of weeks at county council meetings, and I mean it as something of a tribute to say that I always dreaded his reports, because there was nothing really interesting about them, and he was so detail-oriented. If there was a neighborhood that lacked proper drainage, for example, he had to explain where it was, and what it would take to fix it, and he so fully anticipated that someone would ask an extremely complex question that he answered well before anyone had a chance. His reports could go on for an ice age. After meetings were over, I'd usually go back to his office for the short version, which I always got. He was not averse to boiling things down to the bare essentials, or answering -- in chapter and verse -- any question.
I haven't seen Gault Beeson in a good 25 years, so the news in today's paper came as a horrible, horrible shock -- lessened only very slightly by the knowledge that despite years of being a full-fledged workaholic, he had made it to the age of 85 and was still mobile enough to go check up on his hunting dogs.
My prayers and condolences go out to his family and his many, many friends.