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Bob Macy carries himself with a Zenlike grace, the kind of carriage obliged for those who have had some sort of life reclamation, a reparation of spirit. He is at once self-effacing and self-assured.
He was born in Wyoming 50 years ago, the third of seven siblings. They all grew up in a little town called Edgerton (population 300). He graduated from high school in 1967 and went to work in the oil fields. A friend who was in the Navy invited Macy to New York City, an offer he accepted. Macy spent three eye-opening years in Manhattan, an experience he jokingly likens to Jon Voight's as the small-town kid from Texas redeeming himself on the streets of Manhattan in Midnight Cowboy.
He left New York swearing he was "never going to spend another day where it is cold," and arrived in Arizona in 1971. After numerous visits here from his parents, they, too, relocated to Arizona. He has a brother here now as well; the rest of his siblings are in Wyoming and South Dakota.
In 1982, Macy met 25-year-old redhead Debbie Rye at the same bar where, 17 years later, their daughter would have a release party for her second CD.
"I met her at Country City, then called The Silver Dollar, got married not much later, and we've been together ever since," says Macy, whose voice carries a kind of Western movie world-weariness. He looks like old cowboy character actor Ben Johnson: thin, almost tired looking, with some well-placed wrinkles.
"And when I was 40, we had Cody, and life had changed. Everything changed."
Debbie Rye, 42, was born in San Manuel, a small town northeast of Tucson. Her father was a miner. The family moved to Mesa when she was 12, and Debbie started singing on Channel 5's Lew King Ranger Show, a Saturday morning kiddie talent contest. Tanya Tucker was a frequent guest on the show as well.
"Tanya Tucker and I started singing at all the same places," Debbie recalls fondly. "Same contests, same clubs, same family fish fries, same Elk's club. Tanya was a year younger than me."
Tucker's parents told the Ryes to sell everything and go out on the road to give young Debbie a shot at a singing career. That's exactly what the Tuckers did, and Tanya scored her first country hit with "Delta Dawn" when she was 13.
"Tucker's dad was such a charmer, and he just knew the right things to say. He just was wonderful at it," Debbie says. "If some place told him, 'No kids can sing here,' I guarantee within 30 minutes she [Tanya Tucker] was singing there. He was great. And my dad had a second-grade education; he was from Arkansas; he said, 'ain't,' every other word. He was a wonderful man, but that's just the way he was. My parents wouldn't have had any idea of what to do or what to say or where to go or how to go."
Bobby Thomas--then Wayne Newton's producer--saw promise in Debbie as a singer and had her fly to Chicago to cut a 45. "White Wedding Dress" backed with "All the Rest" (both songs written by Phoenician Phil Barnes) was the result. The single didn't take off, and Debbie lost interest in singing. She says she lacked the ambition to do it right in the first place.
After her marriage to Bob Macy--on New Year's Eve, 1983, in Las Vegas--the couple, armed with Macy's burgeoning earning power and fueled with Reaganomic optimism, soared to dizzying financial heights. They had the mansion in Payson and broke ground for a second one in Paradise Valley.
Debbie got pregnant in 1985, but had a miscarriage after five months. The Macys were so saddened that they weren't sure if they were going to try again. Cody Lynn was born in 1987.
Then--almost overnight--they became homeless.
"Basically some people out of Wyoming had these coal leases," says Bob. "And a friend of mine, that's been a friend of mine forever, called me up and said, 'They got these coal leases for sale, could ya help 'em out?' I said, 'Yeah, I'll help 'em out.'"
The leases gave the rights to mine coal on state land. Macy and some of his closest friends invested heavily. But his belief in the investment outweighed his formidable bank account. He had to sell 60 acres in Chino Valley. The huge house in Payson went next. Debbie even handed over the title to her Corvette.
The Macys and their friends lost millions.
"It was downhill, and finally we hit completely to the bottom," he says. "It was greed on my part. You know, when is enough enough? When we hit the bottom, we looked at each other, and she said, 'What are we gonna do?' And I said, 'The only thing I know to do is start all over again.'"
Debbie adds, "And when you believe in something that strong, there was no way anybody could have talked us out of it. Whatever they [the coal lease holders] wanted for money, we would find. No matter what they needed, we'd sell it. We sold our cars. We sold our land. We sold everything, because we believed in it that strongly.