Mac began his life growing up on a farm near Earlsboro, Oklahoma. He was one of four children born to Keziah and William McFarland. His parents were both from Tennessee and headed west looking for opportunities. They were farmers as were their parents before them, in a succession from a long line of farmers.
While heading west, Mac’s oldest brother Forrest was born in McGregor, Texas, in 1887. Etta, Mac’s only sister, was born in Nocona, Texas, in 1891. Mac came third, being born in Oklahoma in 1894. Six years later, his youngest brother Carl was also born in Oklahoma. Mac’s parents homesteaded land in 1891 in what became Pottawatomie County, Oklahoma Territory.
Mac was born three years later in the family’s one room cabin. The McFarland family struggled financially, and when Mac was eight, they moved temporarily to Okemah, in the then-Indian Territory, in search of better opportunities. Not finding those opportunities, the family moved back to their homestead. Since Okemah did not have a school at the time, the McFarland children were held back a year in their education.
Though not as small as Okemah, Earlsboro was also a small community. When Mac reached his junior year in high school, he was unable to continue in Earlsboro. The school, which was undergoing construction, only offered classes through the tenth grade. To continue his high school education, Mac moved by himself to the community of Seminole, ten miles away.
Living on his own and away from home, Mac worked as a janitor at Seminole High School to afford his living expenses. The following year, he returned to Earlsboro, where the new high school was completed. Mac attended his senior year there, and graduated in 1914 third in his class of three.
Though Mac came from a long line of farmers, he wanted something better than a life behind the plow. Unlike his parents were limited by their lack of an education, both never having attended high school, Mac wanted to do better.
His oldest brother, Forrest, may have been happy to follow his parents’ career path, but not Mac. Instead, he followed his sister Etta, who had earned a teaching certificate and began a career as a teacher.
Mac attended East Central State Normal School in Ada intending to become a teacher, as well. To do so, meant working odd jobs but he earned a teaching certificate and began teaching at Schoolton, a small community in Seminole County. He then taught math at Ada High School.
Mac decided to further his education and enrolled in the law school at the University of Oklahoma, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in law preparation. Then the United States entered World War I.
Along with many of his classmates at the University of Oklahoma, Mac enlisted in the military.
In his case, he signed up for four years as a second class seaman in the United States Navy on December 17, 1917, and was sent to Navy Station Great Lakes, north of Chicago, for basic training.
Unused to the cold winter weather of Illinois, Mac became ill with pneumonia and was hospitalized on March 3, 1918.
Within two weeks, it appeared he had recovered. Then, he had a relapse, necessitating surgery to remove part of a rib and drain fluids.
After his surgery, Mac’s conditioned worsened into emphysema, pleurisy, and pericarditis. He remained in the hospital through the end of the war and received an honorable discharge on January 31, 1919.
Though Mac did not see action in the theater of war, he never-the-less fought for his life in the service of his country, carrying the wounds of his battle for the rest of his life.
Like many with lung ailments, Mac sought the dry air of Arizona to improve his health.
The McFarlands had extended family members living in Peoria, a small community northwest of Phoenix. Mac traveled to Arizona, arriving with only ten dollars.
He stayed with his uncle, Poliet Smith, while looking for work, which he found with the Valley National Bank in Phoenix. Working as a bank clerk, Mac decided to continue with his education and enrolled in Stanford University with a dual major of political science and law.
Before leaving for California, he filed a homestead on 640 acres near the town of Casa Grande. The homestead was one of the few benefits available to veterans at the time.
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