By Laura McMillan
Clarence Reed knows the bug business.
He has been walking slowly, defiantly, and with determination up to the front doors of houses that are being eaten away by termites armed with his trusty sprayer since 1958.
Reed enjoys what he does because, at 67, he says, "I do it all." From managing his exterminating business to killing the roaches in client's homes, the veteran pest control man says he stays involved in the companies he and his youngest son, Jeff Reed, 36, run together.
The Reeds said they do not rely on employees because licensing and paper work make employing a large staff difficult. "It's just me and him," Reed says gesturing to his son, Jeff. "We don't fool with employees. If there is a job to do, we do it."
Nowadays, though, the semi-retired Reed leaves at least one day a week untainted by the familiar smell of bug-be-gone chemicals. "I don't even start the truck up on Sunday," he said.
On Sundays and other occasional free times, Reed has an ambitious hobby. Buying, fixing, and selling houses is a passion he has had for 15 years.
Reed owns three houses. He lives in one, is prepared to sell another, and has just bought a third in Forest Park. "I repair them myself," he says proudly. Giving credit to the one man who helps him in both his business and his hobby, Reed said, "Old Jeff, he's my right hand man. I don't believe I could do it without him."
Raising three children, Jeff, Carrie Mae, and Clarence Jr., running a business, repairing houses, and now helping one son with another business is enough for anyone, but Clarence Reed, who is divorced, does so with a sixth grade education.
Although he is proud and grateful for his own success in life, Reed said school is important and everyone should go. He is proud of his oldest granddaughter, Kimberly Ann Reed, 18. "She's the only one of my family that's graduated high school yet," he said.
Kimberly and Ashley, Carrie Mae's daughters, are Reed's only two grandchildren. "We're very close," Reed said of his relationship with Kimberly, with whom he spends much time. "She stays with me when she's not in school."
Reed has come a long way geographically, in business, and with his family life since quitting school and leaving Tennessee for Ohio.
Even before he left, Reed knew that he was very different from his family. "I don't think my parents ever left Rockwood Tennessee."
Reed, who was so adventuresome that he tried unsuccessfully to get his parents to sign for him to go into the Army before he was 18, said that he left Tennessee on good terms.
He occasionally visits his relatives there. He is the third youngest of nine children, and one of only four still living. His two younger sisters who are in their 60s and his older sister, who is 82, mention the possibility of having their brother move back to his home, but Reed said, "I could go up there today and want to leave home in a couple of hours."
Reed said that he needed more variety than was present in his little Tennessee home town. "They just don't move. They must need greasing."
After Ohio, Reed enriched his life with more variety by uprooting himself again. He made for Indiana where he picked tomatoes in fields he described as being too long to see the end.
A stint in Kentucky where he first entered the pest control business still lay between Reed and Georgia.
When the company for which he worked moved south, so did Reed, and in 1961 Reed found himself in Georgia where he has been killing bugs ever since.
After all his travels. Reed finds that he favors one place above all. "The Smoky Mountains," he said, "that's my favorite place. You can always see something new." He tries to visit once a year.
As Father's Day approaches he remembers one person with whom he used to raise bees: His dad. The most important advice his father ever gave him was, "Always keep your word. Do what you say you're going to do."
In all the states and all the houses, Reed has had his fair share of close encounters of the creepy-crawly kind. "Probably the worst time," Reed said, "was when I found two or three water moccasins under a house."
One time, while raking out under a house, he came upon a rat. "This rat did not want to run," Reed said as he reminisced about his fight with the rodent.
And after all these years, the only job he will not take is one with praying mantises.
"I never kill them," said Reed who admires that the praying mantis gets rid of harmful bugs. He is, however, happy to meet the challenge of killing the German cockroach that can build up immunities to most insecticides.
"We help the public," Reed said of his profession. "If it wasn't for us the bugs would overrun the people."