The Landscape Artist

Words by Terrell Manasco | Image by Blakeney Cox

 

“If I could do this for a living, I’d jump out of bed every day to go to work.” That’s what Mark Goodwin told his wife Stacey before he opened North Highlands Lawn Care. He wasn’t kidding.

Thirteen some-odd years later, Mark leaps out of bed five times a week, and before the sun wipes the sleep from its eyes, his white Ford pickup is en route to the job site.

On a warm March afternoon, Mark slides into a chair at a shaded poolside table. “Have you met Mr. Euel Glaze?” he says, nodding toward one member of his crew working nearby, the fondness and respect unmistakable in Mark’s pleasant baritone voice. “He’s 81, retired from the military, and from First Baptist Church. He will outwork anybody. The twenty-year-olds will tell you that. He’s the salt of the earth. He’d do anything in the world for you, and is honest as the day is long.”

Born and raised in Cullman and the son of a NASA engineer, Mark, with the help of a friend, mowed his church’s cemetery at the age of twelve for the grand sum of thirty-five dollars a month. “We split that,” Mark laughs. “That was back when you didn’t have a weed eater—you had hedge trimmers, salt you put around the graves, and a push mower.”

He later went out on his own, earning two dollars per yard.

After studying business management at Jacksonville State, Mark managed a Birmingham manufacturing company, but missed the lawn care business. When the contract was up for renewal at Jasper’s First Baptist Church, where he serves as a deacon, Mark hit his knees. “I prayed to God, ‘If You want me to do this, give me the business.’ Mark says, “…and He has.”

The business primarily services Walker County, with tentacles stretching out to Birmingham, Huntsville, and even Mississippi. “We do commercial and residential maintenance, landscape, hardscape, irrigation, and we do a lot of stone work,” Mark says.

Unlike a 9 to 5 job, the days can be long. “Normally we start at 7:30, and it’s usually until,” Mark says. “When I was on the maintenance crew, we did twenty-six properties in one day. We had a storm coming in the next day. We did the last one at 9:30 at night, using the headlights on the mower.”

Despite the long days, Mark relishes every minute. “I love my work,” he beams. “I like taking something that’s like a blank canvas, and seeing it before and after.”

Remarkably, Mark insists no rivalry exists between him and other similar businesses. “I don’t look at them as competition, but friends,” he says. “We look out for each other and have a good relationship.”

If you ask Mark the secret to his success, he will tell you his parents instilled in him a good work ethic. “I’ve taken landscaping courses, but they won’t tell you how to do something. The Good Lord has given me an eye. That’s a gift from God,” he says. “The Lord has blessed me with good customers, and Walker County has been very good to me. He gets all the credit. You just can’t count what He’s done. Without Him, it wouldn’t be anything. I just want that pride to be shown in what we do.”

And with that, Mark rises from his chair, smiles, and resumes working at his large outdoor canvas. It may not be a Picasso, but who says you have to use paint? 78

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