World Traveler Prefers Payson



If you thought only bumpkins chose to live in Payson, chances are you don't know Mike Macfarlane, world traveler and raconteur.

Macfarlane has made more than 100 trips to Asia, not to mention many trips to other parts of the world. He has also lived in Japan, Hong Kong and Austria.


Mike Macfarlane

"I'm a manufacturer's representative and I represent companies in the Far East -- Korea, Hong Kong, China and Thailand," Macfarlane said. "These are companies I've worked with and they're manufacturers and they need sales representation in the United States."

Macfarlane, who majored in English literature in college, came by his profession in a round about manner.

"I worked at factories for General Dynamics while I was in college, and they asked me to come and work for them in procurement when I graduated," Macfarlane said. "Then I went to Lockheed and then into medical products with Baxter Labs.

"That was back in the days of consolidation and Baxter shut their operations down and moved it back to Chicago. I went to work for Shaklee in the Bay Area and ended up running packaging and purchasing for Vidal Sassoon.

"All their hair dryers and curling irons were made in Asia and that's why I started traveling there in 1980. Vidal Sassoon got bought by Procter and Gamble and everything went to Cincinnati. I ended up in the catalog business and that's how I happened to live in Japan and Hong Kong.

Macfarlane lived in Osaka for a year.

"That was cool, because Japanese is fairly easy to learn," he said. "I can't read it to save my tail, but I can speak it well enough to get into trouble."

While he was in Hong Kong, Macfarlane learned to speak Mandarin and through his visits to Thailand he has learned to ride elephants.

"The trick to riding an elephant is getting up on it," he said. "You need help getting up on it."

Eventually one of Macfarlane's Chinese suppliers hired him as U.S. sales representative, so he moved back to Walnut Creek, a suburb of San Francisco. It was there that he began yearning for the small town life he had left behind in his home town of Herrin, Ill.

"After 45 years there I was tired of California," he said.

He began looking at possible places to live in the western states, especially Oregon and Washington.

"I also stumbled into Nevada, which is either glitz or trash," he said. "There's nothing in between.

"Then it came to me," he said. "I'd been coming to Arizona to do business for 25 years and I liked it here."

While spending Christmas with friends who live in Young, Macfarlane had the opportunity to check out Payson.

"I stayed here for five days during Christmas," he recalled. "I went all around -- to churches, to bars and restaurants and stores."

Two-and-a-half years ago, Macfarlane decided to make the move.

"Payson just seemed like the right place at the right price. If you're out and about you can meet people.

"I got associated with the library before it moved," he said.

"When I first moved here I didn't have my computer set up so Terry Morris and the girls over at the library took care of me. I used their computer every day to check e-mail.

"I got involved in tennis, taking courses at college -- which is just great."

Macfarlane's travel schedule has slowed somewhat, but he still averages one major trip a month -- often to the Far East. For those contemplating a visit to that part of the world, he offers this advice:

"If people are going to go over there they should get a tour," he said. "They'll take you all around, tell you how to exchange money, the customs, where to go and where to stay. If they're going on business and need somebody to show them the ropes, that's what I do."

Macfarlane believes Payson was the right choice for him.

"We have Wal-Mart, Walgreens, Safeway, Bashas', a bowling alley, a hospital, an airport, a movie theater and a bunch of places to eat -- including every fast food franchise known to man strung out along 260 and 87," he said.

While Macfarlane admits that Payson also has its quirks, its assets are more than enough to overcome one of the basic tenets he has always tried to live by:

"In his farewell address, George Washington said, ‘Avoid entangling alliances.' But I started in a small town in Illinois and I just like the small-town flavor."

Besides, if things get a little too entangled, Macfarlane knows it won't be long before he can hop on an elephant and get away from it all.


Name: Mike Macfarlane

Occupation: Manufacturer's representative

Employer: Asia Trade

Age: 59

Birthplace: Herrin, Ill.

Family: Two daughters (Kristin Leanne and Jill Marie)

Personal Motto: "Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned." -- Shakespeare

Inspiration: Proverbs 3 v. 5-6 (Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all the ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.)

Greatest feat: Eating an entire pecan pie at Christmas when I was 42.

Favorite hobby or leisure activity: Tennis, art, travel.

Three words that describe me best: Good-humored, tolerant, inquisitive.

Person in history I'd most like to meet: Benjamin Franklin. He was innovative, creative, an inventor, a businessman, a politician, a diplomat and also of interest, he was quite the ladies man. The guy got around.

Luxury defined: A 34-inch waistline.

Dream vacation spot: Southern islands of Thailand.

Why Payson? Friendly people, clean air, quality living, the Beeline Cafe.

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