Gentle, solitary transient dies in Marysville river bottoms
He didn't say much during the years he lived in the river bottoms outside of Marysville, and what he leaves behind is mostly mystery and speculation.
But those who looked after Mason Jackson, an elderly homeless recluse who spent the last several years of his life in the former Hollywood trailer park, said they will miss him.
Jackson was found dead outside his tent on Sunday afternoon. He was 79.
"There were stories about him getting his (Social Security) checks and giving his money away," said Capt. Mike Wilson of the Marysville Police Department, who befriended the gentle, solitary transient.
"I would have liked to know what happened in his life that made him want to walk away from society. That's a big step," said Terry Hammonds, a preacher at Bethel AME Church.
Hammonds, a Yuba City resident, took food and water to Jackson about once a week. He found Jackson's body in the spot where the quiet transient often slept during the day.
He appeared to have died of natural causes, according to Wilson.
Jackson told the Appeal-Democrat in June 2009, that he grew up in an all-black community outside Oklahoma City and moved with his family to San Francisco when he was 9, and that his dad had been a preacher.
"It sounded like he had a normal social life at that time," Wilson said Tuesday. "I know he had a car when he got here. Then over the past few years, he stepped away from it all."
Jackson had said he picked fruit outside Marysville when he first arrived, but could not recall when that had been.
He lived out of his car, and when the car was impounded, he took to living outdoors.
He lived in Yuba Park for a while, "but people would call and complain," Wilson said.
During a heat wave in 2010, Wilson decided to try and get Jackson indoors.
It took some coaxing, Hammonds said.
"He didn't trust too many people. He wouldn't come out of his tent," Hammonds said.
Donald "Shortstack" Oliver, who lived in a camp site nearby at the time, was called in to persuade Jackson.
"Shortstack was the only one he would talk to," Hammonds said. "He said, 'Come out. Everything is OK, go to the hotel, I'll watch your stuff.'"
But after a day or so in the rented room, he went back to the river bottom, Wilson said.
When asked why he left, Wilson said, "He told me that he did not understand how to use the television because it did not have a knob on the front.
"He said the room had a box to cook with, but he didn't know what it was. I assumed he meant a microwave," Wilson said. "That's how long it had been since he lived indoors."
Jackson had a leather jacket that he wore constantly, Hammonds said. He would never take it off.
And he kept leather scraps in his tent with which he sewed handmade wallets, according to Hammonds.
Last year, the homeless community that camped near Jackson became concerned because they hadn't seen him in a while.
Rumors spread that he had been found dead. But after five or six months, he reappeared and would not acknowledge that he had ever left.
"Maybe aliens picked him up. You never know," Hammonds said.
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