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Rooted in friendship

Chapel "Chappie" Mastin has been a farmer since he was 15 years old. That's all he ever wanted to do. Now that he is 77 and has six surgeries behind him, he relies on his two longtime workers to tend his cattle and fields of corn and soybeans. He still likes to drive his Kubota utility vehicle to survey his land from time to time.

If Chapel “Chappie” Mastin doesn’t show up to Biancke’s Restaurant by about noon each day, the waitresses begin to worry.

“If he has to go to the doctor, he has to call down here and tell us so we’re not freaking out,” says Cathy Bowman. 

Cathy has been a waitress at Biancke’s for 30 years -- about as long as Chappie has been a regular. He used to visit the restaurant with his wife of 53 years, Rachel, but she died four years ago from a lung infection. Rachel had a heart transplant 13 years before her death and was taking medication that compromised her immune system, making her more vulnerable to all types of infections.

Chappie always thought he would go first.

Now Chappie’s routine has changed significantly since his wife died, and he's mostly retired from farming. He’s at Biancke’s at least twice a day, holding court with his friends and bantering with the restaurant staff.  Walk into Biancke’s at lunchtime any day of the week, and you’ll find several old farmers and retired gentlemen eating together.

“We’re the table of experts!” says 84-year-old cattle farmer Lowell Clifford.

“If you need advice on anything, we got it,” adds Chappie.  

Once or twice a week after lunch, Chappie visits his longtime friend William “Billy Bob” Toadvine at an assisted living home just outside of town.  Billy Bob, 82, has been in and out of the facility since injuring himself when he fell off the top of a hay baler last year. The nurses here get the same ribbing from Chappie that the waitresses at the restaurant do. As Chappie passes by the nurse’s station where several employees are gathered, he smirks and stops to zing them with, “Y’all ain’t got nothing to do today?” 

He has been a farmer for his entire life. It is all he’s ever wanted to do, but after 60 years of hard labor and six surgeries, he is unable to do much in the way of daily chores himself. He still oversees his soybean and corn crops, and cattle, but this might be his last year of farming.  He recently signed a lease with a renewable energy company that will put solar panels on the last 200 acres he owns. 

Chappie's retirement from farming, and his wife's death, have brought big changes to his daily routines. He lives alone now, and time can stretch out in front of a television set. Social outings are important to him.

His friends and the waitresses at Biancke’s, the ones who notice if he isn't there, are often the best part of his day.

When Chappie drives his Kubota into the cow pasture, he is quickly surrounded by the naturally curious animals.
Chappie unhooks the electrical fencing that surrounds the cow pasture so he can drive through the field. He's unable to walk very far so he always needs to use the Kubota or his old pickup truck to get around his property.
Biancke's Restaurant on Main Street in Cynthiana is where Chappie goes for his two meals of the day, every day of the week.
Chappie speaks with his friends and fellow cattle farmers Lowell Clifford and Paul Tucker during lunch at Biancke's Restaurant.
Cathy Bowman has been a waitress at Biancke's Restaurant for 30 years. She has Chappie's phone number memorized, and if he doesn't show up by his usual lunchtime, she calls him to be sure everything is OK.
A black and white photo of Chappie and his late wife, Rachel, hangs over his usual table in Biancke's.
When Chappie goes to visit his friend William "Billy Bob" Toadvale at an assisted living facility right outside of Cynthina, he stops to say hello to the many residents he knows. When passing staff ask him how he's doing, he replies, "Just like an old man, honey."
Chappie visits his friend Billy Bob, who has been in and out of nursing care several times in the past year since he fell off the top of a hay baler he was attempting to fix.
Since Chappie's wife died and he largely retired from farming, this recliner is where he spends a lot of time when he isn't out visiting with friends.