Ray Shackelford – The Most Interesting Man In The World

When I was first developing Pouregon I visited Depoe Bay Winery which is part of Nehalem Bay Winery. I saw this fantastic article on Ray Shackelford, the owner of Nehalem Bay Winery, written in November 2007 by the Oregonian. Tried as I might I couldn’t find it online so last Wednesday when the city was broiling I headed out to Depoe Bay to take photos of the article they had in the tasting room. Of course I have now found it online.  Maybe I just needed the trip. Page one and page two.

Dos Equis beer has the commercials where they show The Most Interesting Man In The World. A man they actually give permission to touch things at the museum as the ad says. Every time I see those commercials I think of Ray Shackelford. The following is taken from that Oregonian article written by Lori Tobias.

“I once spent the entire year outside of the U.S.,” says Ray Shackelford.  “For as long as I can remember, I did not want to live a normal life in a house with a white picket fence.  I wanted to be myself.”  Currently (November, 2007), Shackelford is in Tansania helping a friend he met 12 years ago in Ecuador fix up a house. Already he has been out of the country five times.

At 25, Shackelfod had married, fathered two children, divorces and served a few weeks in a Cuban army prison after showing up to help Castro win his revolution. In the winter of 1964, a new girlfriend in hand he set off for Mexico. While playing in the beach and sand he lost his wallet and his draft card. Shackelford recalled that you didn’t go anywhere without your draft card so he went back to Oregon.

Thirty days later Uncle Sam called. “I looked at it as a new adventure. I wasn’t doing anything anyway.” He applied for officer training and volunteered for Vietnam. By the time he left in 1972, he’d spent 3 1/2 years there, suffered two bullet wounds and permanent damage to his ears from an enemy hand grenade he managed to toss away from his bunker – barely. He earned two Silver Stars, suffered a punji stake wound, and grew fond of the locals.

“I like the Vietnamese  people; I always did,” says Shackelford.  “Just because you go to war doesn’t mean you have to hate.”  He went back twenty years later, almost hyperventilating quite a few times.  He walked down the same trail where he triggered an ambush.  On that return visit he met Chan Kem Lang, who worked as a bicycle driver.  It turned out that Lang was from the same village Shackelford had served as a senior adviser to an artillery battalion.  A friendship was born.

Shackelford help Lang upgrade his bicycle to a motorcycle and then to a car, and he helped pay for Lang’s schooling. Then Shackelford learned that the village had never had a school, he built two.  It was a start, but it wasn’t food on the table.  Lang suggested a sewing room, and in the summer of 2007 Shackelford came back with $1,500 from sales of colorful silklike handbags, backpacks and wine bags he sells in his tasting rooms. (They still sell these today.)

In the past few years Shackelford estimates that he has spent $25,000 to $30,000 helping out in Cambodia and other developing countries.  “People in Chheng would like to name you ‘Red Cross Without Sign,'” Lang wrote in an email to Shackelford.  “I and my family would like to extend the deepest than you for to spend your valuable time to save the life of ethnic minoriy when they face starvation. You are a wonderful person, who I, my family and the whole Chheng villagers will remember and inscribe in their heart forever.”

In 1991, Shackelford came to Oregon to bury his father.  Feeling the blues he headed to the Oregon Coast and winded up Wheeler’s River Sea Inn.  He ended up sitting down next to Pat McCoy, owner of Nehalem Bay Winery, and listened to McCoy’s woes.  “He was telling me how broke he was,” says Shackelford.  “I got drunk, and threw out a figure.  I have him $2,500 and bought in on half of the business.”

The next day he drove to the winery, paid McCoy $6,000 for 50 percent of the inventory and took over.  “I wanted to move from Texas anyway,” says Shackelford. “So I did.”  When McCoy died in 1993 he bought the winery outright.

His contributions to the community are the stuff of legend.  Friends tell of his “world famous” Blue Grass Festival, his efforts to spearhead the local oyster bake, the Ken Kesey reading, and the time he had the lumberyard deliver plywood so there would be a place to dance at a concert in the park.  He sponsored the first Oregon Coast Symphony production on his stage where the audience wept to hear Back played by their neighbors,” says Barbara Matson. “He always rose about the mundane and came up with some new way to support his passions for music, gatherings, charities – and he was successful beyond anyone’s dreams.”

Lastly, a couple of side notes in the article:

  • As a child he traveled to the United Kingdom in 1954 as one of The Oregonian’s 1954 newspaper carriers of the year.
  • He was robbed four times for the total US equivalent of .52 cents on his way to Battambang, Cambodia.
  • Took tea with leng Sary, brother-in-law of Pol Pot, and ranking officer in the Khmer Rouge.

I hope the story left you a little more inspired then before. Have a great Monday!

Check out Depoe Bay Winery
22 S. Highway 101
Depoe Bay Winery, OR 97341

Nehalem Bay Winery
34965 Highway 53
Nehalem, OR 97131

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  • […] I was at Depoe Bay Winery to take pictures for yesterday’s post on Ray Shackelford, Angie told me about Brent at Big Mountain Coffee.  I talking to her about how interesting I […]

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