I had a good friend in the army named Jim Never who always amazed me with his strength. He could do 80 or 90 pushups so fast that he’d just be a flash of motion. I talked to him recently and asked if he was as strong as he once was. He said no, but that after a recent full workout he bench pressed 225 pounds (about his body weight) 22 times. That sounds strong to me.
Over the course of my lifetime, I’ve heard from numerous local old-timers that the strongest person they ever knew was Wells McCall. His feats of strength are legendary. When I was in the army twenty-five years ago, I had a recurring notion that I’d like to introduce Jim Never and Wells McCall to each other.
In the late 1940s, McKinley Weems put in a spring-fed water system for Wells on his farm east of town. McKinley had driven his work vehicle, a four-wheel drive Willys Jeep down under the hill where the spring was located. There were a number of rock shelves that the jeep had to traverse and it was unable to get traction. Wells said if McKinley would drive the jeep so that two wheels were able to grip, Wells would lift the other end of the jeep onto the rock shelf. And that is what he did.
Another time, Wells had a sick draft horse that was down and needed to be stood up. Wells cut a hole in the floor of the barn loft and lowered a sling that he put under the horse’s belly. Using heavy rope that he tied on either side of the sling and looped up into the barn loft, he squatted down with the rope over his neck and then stood up, lifting the massive animal to its feet.
Obviously, I only knew Wells in the latter part of his life. He died in 2006 at the age of 94. In his senior years, he was still strong, but did not look like a classic symbol of strength like a Charles Atlas. Wells was not overly tall and was somewhat rotund, with thick, heavy arms. I’ve seen photographs of him in his youth, though, and he looked like a bull.