Shackelford competed a year later in the fourth and final McKellar Lake marathon, but was eliminated after 240 miles when a new drive shaft in his boat snapped. Subsequently the Tennessee legislature effectively killed the event by prohibiting endurance contests of more than eight hours. Thus, unless someone figures out a way to negotiate the hazards of McKellar Lake at better than 100 miles an hour on water skis, Marv Shackelford's record will probably never be broken in his home state.
"That was a glorious time," Shackelford says of that glorious time. "It was similar to the '30s and all those crazy old marathons. There's a good feeling in knowing you've done something nobody else has ever done. I guess everybody wants to be an individual."
Well, Marv Shackelford does, and he probably struck his solidest blow for that agreeable state when he first decided to move out to McKellar Lake. He had not been water-skiing very long when the idea of life afloat began to make sense to him. He noticed, he says, that he was driving to work regularly with his boat trailer hooked onto the back of his car, then driving out to the lake after work to water-ski until darkness came. And he soon perceived that this was a frightful waste of time—not the water-skiing; all that driving and working. The solution seemed simple: he would move to the lake.
Working in his spare time, he first built a foundation for the boathouse out of floating steel tanks. Over that he assembled a shell into which, long before the boathouse was completed, Shackelford moved. He was the first man to establish year-round residence on the Memphis waterfront. Most of the time since then he has been the only year-round resident.
"Nobody ever lived on the waterfront before I came," Shackelford says. "I don't know whether the marina management thinks it's such a good idea, but they should. During the winter I thaw their pipes, and if somebody's boat is sinking I get word to them. They've got an unpaid watchman the year round.
"I'll never move from here. There's no grass to cut, no milkman, no door-to-door salesman, no bill collectors. I don't have any desire to move out, but if I found something better I wouldn't hesitate. I've even thought about finding some old gal and getting married, but you couldn't raise a family down here, and that's the only reason I'd get married. To have a kid.
"Anyhow, it's cheaper to live here than anyplace in the world. I've got everything I need, and I can do anything I want to. I can listen to stereo wide open till 3 in the morning. If I want to have a party, I don't have to tell people not to bang on the walls. The only time I dislike it down here is in the winter, when the waterline freezes over or if the power lines go down or if there's a real bad storm."
If Shackelford's personal life style is unorthodox, so is that of most of his friends. The entourage that sweeps in and out of Shack's Shack is an evanescent one, yet rich in texture and joie de vivre. Unlike their guru, most members of the Shackelford host soon tire of the nonstop fun and games, but while they last, they enjoy. If there is a commonality among them, it is that the men tend to reflect Southern, rural upbringings, their women a concomitant ripeness of speech and habit that appeals to such men. Communication is rustic and ribald, laced with one-liners from Shack himself (Sample: "I had a hula dancer hired to clean this place up, but she wiggled out of it.")
On a typical Sunday afternoon, Shackelford's McKellar mafia might ride motorcycles, pilot his inboard, mount his water skis or float above the peaceful landscape on the lake's lone parasail. For the indolent there are his model airplanes, his four telephones, his shortwave radio and his Donald Duck night-light. Activity at Shack's Shack is decidedly free form.
Girls must be rugged to survive in this milieu. They must endure endless psychic indignities, along with considerable physical roughhouse, yet manage to be feminine when the time comes. A surprising number of them—including a great many who arrive unknown and unannounced—not only survive but flourish. Shackelford is only half-kidding when he says of one female habitué, "She thinks I'm God and that when she dies she'll go to my boathouse."