The Big Sandy Mountaineer -

TALES OF OLD BIG SANDY: Cliff Gullickson Was A Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich


October 30, 2019

Welcome to another chapter in my recounting of the tales of Old Big Sandy (which means "old" by the standards of my lifetime, mostly the 1960s and early 1970s). This column is not meant to be a telling of Cliff Gullickson's life story; it is instead a summation of my observations about the man as I knew him during the time that we were both part of Big Sandy.

People might not have thought about it at the time, but a small community is made up of people who play varying roles in the lives of residents of the town. These roles are diverse and, back then, they ran from a cordial mayor to a happy drunk who danced in the Club until his pants fell down. There were community leaders who were looked up to, and there were scourges of the streets, such as Ben Oliver's hound dog, King.

We never really thought about people playing the role of "civil servant" or "community advocate" back then. Such terms are more common now in the egg-headed vocabulary of a more complicated society. As I remember him, Clifford Gullickson was a man who fit into this slot – uncomfortable at times, perhaps; but he filled those shoes in Old Big Sandy.

Cliffy was a happy guy in a simple sort of way. He learned, somewhere along the line, that the true nature of personal contentment comes from providing happiness and comfort in the lives of others. Some of us never learn this simple truth. Many will read the words here and not take them to heart. But Cliff knew it, and he put it into practice.

He contributed to the community in different ways. Not only did he own and operate an Enco service station for ten years; not only was he one of the cornerstones of the Pratt and Svenn service station (a sort of combination Starbucks and good old boys' club – like a "Hooters" without the girls or the food). Cliff Gullickson also committed to operating a fireworks bus on the edge of town for a week or two before the 4th of July. He also owned and operated a mobile hamburger stand, which sold "Cliffyburgers" at local events, like the Warrick Rodeo each summer. He was an active supporter of almost every community undertaking, including school sports and other programs.

Most importantly, he had a wink and a smile (and maybe a snide remark) for any and all comers. He was a grown man who had an easy laugh and who called everybody "Honey" – didn't matter if they were age eight or eighty.

He was a guy who always made me smile. I am smiling now, just thinking about him.

Clifford Gullickson was the equivalent of comfort food for the town of Big Sandy. He was a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, right when you needed one the most. If your butt was dragging just a little bit, you could talk to Cliff. He would perk you up. He seemed to do it without effort. It was a natural thing for him.

Cliffy was not without his flaws; same as every man, woman, or child who might be reading this; he had to battle his inner demons from time to time. The thing to remember is this: he never gave in, he never gave up. He always walked away with a smile on his face. That smile was a gift he always had for me, and he never asked for anything in return.

Cliff Gullickson died in a farming truck accident in 1999, when he fell asleep at the wheel and ran off the road. It was during harvest, and I think what happened after Cliff's death was a pretty good testimony on how he lived – with his harvest unfinished, over 100 people showed up on August 18, 1999, to help out. They brought about 35 combines and 40 trucks with them – the Gullickson harvest was completed in 4 ½ hours. Over 600 people attended Cliff's funeral; in other words, probably more people than live in the entire community today.

Cliff's immediate family – his widow, Doris, and his children Lynette, Nancy, Gary, and Greg – continue to have ties to the community that Cliff loved and served. I believe he is well

remembered by those of us who knew him and who are still around. If you never knew him, I hope that this piece has given you a sense of who he was to the community of Big Sandy.

Now put down the newspaper and make yourself a big peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Use fresh bread and have a glass of milk with it. Or maybe a cold can of beer.


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