Like W.C. Rice and others I’ve featured here, Harrison Mayes was a person who made a deal with the Almighty and saw it through.
As a young man, he had a near-fatal accident in the coal mine where he was working. When he said that he would work for the rest of his life in service if given the opportunity to live, he wasn’t kidding. Here’s part of a beautiful article by Frank Brown and carried by Scripps, published in 1998:
But from the 1930s until he died in 1986 at age 88, Harrison was a man who ran on a tank of religious energy that was always full. He was a hot-footing apostle and a fast-digging man.
The night of the accident, Harrison Mayes danced a two-step with death, but by the next morning, he was awake and praying, asking the Lord to save him. He promised that if he were allowed to live, he would dedicate his life to working for the Lord.
God got a good deal on that one.
Before advanced age stopped his traveling plant-as-you-go mission, Harrison had erected crosses, hearts and signs in some 44 states.
He also mapped a plan to put crosses on the moon and other planets. He envisioned big cement crosses in Egypt and Jerusalem as well. As Harrison Mayes widened his horizon of influence, he also began signing his name in a strange code — P.A.E. He revealed the meaning only to two granddaughters.
After his death, one granddaughter recalled the initials were his religious shorthand for Planetary Aviation Evangelism. He fully intended to go out of this world.
He created a large sign with an arrow pointing toward the skies and fastened it to his bicycle, which he rode everywhere, since he didn’t have a driver’s license or own a car.
Mayes collected bottles of all description — plastic and glass — in which he stuck religious messages. He floated them in streams across the land. Some estimate that he sent some 50,000 bottles downstream.
Until warned not to, he scribbled on the sides of railroad cars. He tacked large letter signs to wire fences along airport runways. He built his home in Middlesboro in the distinct shape of a cross.
“He didn’t ask permission to put up his crosses and signs,” says Clyde. “He usually put them along fence rows so they wouldn’t bother the farmer or the road. He called that no-man’s land.
“He also put a sign on his crosses saying that if they were torn down, that would be between the person tearing down the cross and God. If you wanted to go to hell, that was your own fault.
Harrison Mayes didn’t believe in belonging to one church. He felt he was a member of God’s own church. He was non-denominational and never hesitated to attend any church of any denomination, including Catholic, black and Jewish synagogues.
After all, Harrison Mayes was God’s own messenger. The way he figured it, he would fit in just about anywhere.
As Leslie and I were going up Highway 11, we found one of Harrison Mayes’ signs: