Building a respite for those less fortunate
Alabama surgeon derives gratification from mending both broken bones and damaged fences. But his ultimate reward comes from sharing his 350-acre farm with friends and the underprivileged.
Guests are welcome at the Maddox farm.
Situated just outside of Dothan, Ala., (pop., 66,000) is a 350-acre expanse of dense woods, picturesque fields and pristine lakes that the owners, Dr. J. Paul Maddox and his wife, Linda, feel compelled to share with others. For the Maddox family, it's a place that exemplifies values, responsibility and environmental stewardship. Over the many years since acquiring the property, this gracious and devoutly spiritual family has — with open hearts — hosted hundreds of friends and special guests.
The Maddoxes purchased the land after Maddox — an orthopedic surgeon with Southern Bone and Joint Specialists — completed medical training and returned to Dothan to begin his practice. His desire to acquire the property was motivated by cherished childhood memories of times he and his brother, David, spent on the 40-acre farm of a family friend.
"It was absolute heaven for us," Maddox recalls fondly of those special times. "Being on that farm opened up a world of endless adventures — hiking in the woods, riding horses, building things — all those activities that kids want somebody to introduce into their lives."
A Toolcat 5600 utility work machine and attachments helped Dr. J. Paul Maddox with countless projects on his 350-acre farm.
It was from those boyhood experiences Maddox grew to realize the spiritual bond that can be derived from the physical connection of working the land. So among the first of priorities for the good doctor and his wife was to locate a special place of their own, where they could share the same types of experiences that the young Maddox cherished so deeply as a boy.
"I'm blessed to have a career that's meaningful to me and provides the chance to help others medically," Maddox says. "But I also need this physical connection to the land. This place speaks to me in a very special way and I feel it's important for me to share that with others."
Dr. J. Paul Maddox keeps his Toolcat 5600 busy on his farm.
Build a haven
When he wasn't in the operating room or consulting with patients, one would likely find Maddox — and the entire family, for that matter — at the farm, affectionately referred to as their second home, putting up hay, building fences or digging new drainage ditches for one of the farm's many small lakes and ponds. At the time the Maddoxes purchased the property, the land was composed primarily of peanut fields and serried woods; no fences, no well and no electricity.
An unspoiled, somewhat primitive place, the Maddoxes had a vision of how they could provide valuable experiences for so many others, without compromising the environmental integrity and inherent beauty of the surroundings.
"Even though we had a nice home in town, this is where our entire family really wanted to be," Maddox says. "Building fences, the barn and shop, and putting up hay — all the aspects of farm life — really brought us together as a family and gave us experiences of life on a farm that few ever have the chance to experience. We all felt it was a place that should be shared with others."
Maddox relies on his Toolcat™ 5600 utility work machine, purchased from Bobcat of the Wiregrass in Dothan, for help completing a variety of tasks. He chose the Toolcat 5600 primarily because of the machine's versatility and steadfast reliability.
Dr. J. Paul Maddox delivers bedding to his barn.
"With such a variety of different projects here, we needed a machine that was versatile," Maddox says. "There is always plenty to do and the Toolcat 5600 is a valuable asset that we can adapt to perform several tasks, simply by swapping out attachments. I've built miles of fence with the auger and moved hundreds of hay bales using the bale fork. Frankly, this farm wouldn't run without our Toolcat machine."
Attachments extend versatility
The Toolcat 5600 combines many of the best features of several different vehicles into one machine. It's a pickup truck, compact tractor, skid-steer loader and utility vehicle, all wrapped up in one great package. The Toolcat 5600 can be outfitted with more than 40 Bobcat® attachments — all of which can be changed in less than a minute — thanks to the Bob-Tach™ attachment system — making it one of the most versatile and functional machines available today.
The four-wheel independent suspension system and automotive-inspired cab features give the Toolcat 5600 the fit and feel of a comfortable pickup. At the same time, however, the rugged Toolcat 5600 is built to Bobcat equipment standards, enabling the sturdy machine to power through tough jobs with ease. It also has the capacity to tow up to 4,000 pounds with the 2-inch standard receiver hitch, and — with four-wheel drive — easily powers through tough, often muddy soil conditions. Maddox especially likes the front-mounted attachments with a lift arm capable of lifting 1,500 pounds up to 7 feet high.
The compact size and tight turning radius of the Toolcat 5600 enables it to easily travel in and around the Maddox barn.
"The front-mounted attachments are great," Maddox says. "It gives me great visibility by providing a direct, head-forward view of my work that eliminates a great deal of neck strain. I can also haul up to a ton of materials, supplies, horse feed, etc., in the hydraulic dump cargo box. The Toolcat 5600 does so many things so efficiently, it has eliminated the need for other equipment because it can handle so many of the various tasks we frequently call on it to complete."
An unconventional workhorse too!
A family of deep faith, the Maddoxes were eager to share the spiritual fulfillment derived from spending time here with friends, family and those less fortunate. Jeremiah Maddox, the eldest son of the four Maddox children, became close friends with Tommy Tolleson, who spent a lot of weekends and after-school time on the Maddox farm. Tolleson remembers the gratifying and emotional feelings of the many occasions he spent there with his good pal and mentor.
"There's truth to be found in hard work," Tolleson says. "It's a lesson I learned spending time outside and helping with chores at the Maddox farm. Dr. Maddox believed in me and inspired me to do better. He was also a powerful soul-motivator. To have someone like him believe in me and offer the farm so unselfishly certainly changed my life."
For several years now, the Maddoxes have hosted a trail ride to benefit the Alabama Baptist Children's Home, an event that brings hundreds of horses and scores of people to the farm. Church and social groups hold bonfires near the many lakes that dot this serene place, and local football teams — through the Fellowship of Christian Athletes — have come to the barn to hear inspirational messages. In these venues, the Maddox Toolcat machine has often shed its functional, workhorse role to serve a different purpose.
"The Toolcat 5600 has many of the same comfort features as a car," Maddox says. "I have taken countless friends and young kids on sightseeing tours of the farm, navigating the Toolcat 5600 through the thick woods and wide open field expanses, with brief stops to catch reflections of white puffy clouds from above in the shimmering water of the many lakes. We just strap on our seat belts and take it for a spin around. It's great therapy as well as great fun."
Tolleson is all grown up now, but has remained close to the Maddox family. He credits Dr. Maddox with inspiring his own work with youth today.
"I'm involved with the youth at my church thanks to what he did with me," Tolleson says. "It's just about the greatest teaching platform you can have when you really work with someone like he did with me. At the time I thought he was simply teaching me how to build things. But in reality, he was teaching me how life should be lived."
All in a day's work for this fine doctor who takes it all in stride, but certainly a sense of fulfillment and pride having helped so many struggling youths find their way.
"There's a privilege in spending time with a young man, doing something tough and physically challenging. But there comes a moment with that young person when you just pause for a bit, and say ‘good job,' two simple words of encouragement that speak volumes to an often confused and neglected youth. Perhaps it is a good lesson for all adults as well, to offer some encouraging words during those times when we all too often get caught up in our daily work routines. Perhaps we all could use some positive childhood mentoring from time to time."