After helping local companies and individuals for decades as a master metal fabricator, Mack Brock’s response was predictable when deer ruined the white half runner beans in his backyard garden one night four or five years ago.
Brock, who is retired and lives on Brocktown Road in Moravian Falls, made a machine to scare deer away.
He calls it his “Thumper.”
Brock, now 93, fashioned an “arm” (narrow strip of steel) about 10 inches long and attached it to the side of a small electric geared head motor on a platform. The arm slowly goes round and round, extending several inches beyond edges of the motor.
With each revolution, the arm strikes the side of a metal juice can that dangles by wire from an overhead wooden frame. Two small rocks are inside the can. The motor and a small electric fan that keeps the motor from overheating are shielded from rain by a plastic bucket.
The sound of the arm hitting the can and the rattling sound from the rock inside, as well as the movement of the arm and the can, are enough to scare deer away from Brock’s garden and from his closest neighbor’s garden also.
The sound, about as loud as someone kicking a can, at first made another neighbor wonder what Brock was up doing all night.
“They tell me that something moving is what really works” to keep deer away, Brock said. “I believe it because I first put a radio out and they (deer) quit paying attention to it.”
Brock spent around $25 on parts for the Thumper and turns it on each night during the gardening season.
In his career as co-owner of Brock & Triplett Machine Shop on 13th Street in North Wilkesboro, Brock produced devices and mechanical parts that were considerably more complex than the Thumper.
Much of this work was for the many manufacturing operations no longer in Wilkes, like American-Drew furniture, Blue Ridge Shoe and Golden Needles Knitting.
Around 1980, for example, Brock designed and made a life-size metal hand for Golden Needles that would open and close its fingers.
Golden Needles, the largest glove manufacturer in the world at the time, requested this to test industrial gloves made from a fabric that included metal.
“They wanted to know how many times you could open and close your hands (while wearing the gloves), before the metal came out,” said Brock.
Fingers on the mechanical hand were hollow and opened and closed with special hinges where they were attached to the palm.
“I sprayed it gold-colored because of the company’s name, Golden Needles.”
Brock added, “They also had me make a machine to cut the material off at the right length for the cuffs” of the gloves.
He said he never heard what happened to the mechanical hand after Australia-based Ansell acquired Golden Needles in 1997 and soon moved the operation to Mexico.
Brock received his initial training as a machinist in a school sponsored by the federal government at Meadows Mills in North Wilkesboro as part of the nation’s mobilization for World War II.
He worked in the Norfolk Naval Shipyard in Norfolk, Va., for two or three years before enlisting in the Navy during the war.
Brock and Warren Triplett started Brock & Triplett in 1961. The business is still in operation.
Brock is known for his woodwork, particularly with furniture and the many grandfather clocks and smaller clocks he has made for others.
His skills as a rock mason are seen in the native rock siding on his house and elsewhere.
Brock and his wife, Agnes Craven Brock, recently observed their 70th wedding anniversary.