CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- You might know Johnston Oehler Road as the way to Mallard Creek High School or Mallard Creek Park. But J. Mack Oehler once plowed the land where kids play soccer on Saturdays with a mule. He picked bales of cotton on the land with his own hands.
Now the land where his family has lived for six generations is being scraped bare for the last leg of I-485, which slices across the north end of the county like a red gash.
“It bothers me, you know, it’s got to bother me,” said Oehler. “Because I remember when you didn’t have nothing around here, but now you hear people backing up…with these track hoes.”
Graders and front-end loaders are clearing the land around Oehler’s home and the road that bears his father’s name. In the two years since NewsChannel 36 last visited him, the chickens are gone, the woods are gone and so is a lot of the pasture land for his beef cattle.
Oehler makes it clear he’s known the bypass was coming for more than two decades and never opposed it.
“They need 485,” he said. “I’ve never been against progress.”
But for more than two years he’s contended that the North Carolina Department of Transportation shifted the road toward his home in recent plans.
“And I ought not say this but there's a higher judge than the one you may go to in Charlotte,” he said. “I believe that. Maybe I'm old fashioned, but I believe it.”
The Oehler’s bought some land in Cabarrus County years ago bracing for this day, but he says the family doesn’t want to move.
“None of us wants to go anywhere, but we certainly hope they compensate for the damage they've done and that's been a lot,” Oehler said.
He’s met with a lawyer but he makes it clear he doesn’t want trouble.
“I’ve never been no trouble before,” he said. “This is the first time.”
He’s been through anger, denial and bargain with the state. But he’s yet to quite make it to acceptance.
“You just have to live with it.”