Memories of Old Country Stores

Someone posted a photo of an old country store on Facebook that reminded me of two stores that you just don’t find many of anymore. They are the old wood frame buildings with a wooden screen door. I guess if I ran across one these days, I’d probably feel like I was in a movie.

The last one I remember was in the 1990’s. We had hiked a trail in the Big Thicket called The Woodlands Trail. On our way home we stopped at a little store in a small community by the name of Dallardsville, if I remember correctly. It felt like we were sharing our childhood with our three sons as we went up to the door and went inside to get sodas and snacks. I usually got a root beer after hiking the Thicket.

The other store was in a tiny town by the name of Fred. If Fred wasn’t on a hill you could probably see the back of the sign that says ‘Fred’ on the southbound side of the highway while at the same time, standing next to the sign that says ‘Fred’ on the northbound side. I loved going to the store in Fred to get the Sunday paper when my grandparents lived up that way back in the late 60’s and on into the mid-70’s.

This was a really cool old store. Of course, the floor was made of wide wooden planks. The owners had a cat that hung out inside the store, just like it was a normal thing. I guess it was. There were comfortable chairs up front, close to the counter so that customers who were of a mind to could sit and visit with the owners while the cat listened in. Several of my friends have heard me tell of the day I went there with my grandma and we sat in those chairs and shared a bag of pork rinds while she visited. I can’t hardly eat pork rinds now without thinking of that little store in Fred with the comfortable chairs, the wooden floors and the cat.

You know, next time I head up that way I think I’ll see if that store is still there and stop by for a visit. I’ll have to get some pork rinds while I’m there.

What Was Happening At My House On June 11, 1960

So, 55 years ago today, as if there wasn’t enough excitement already, I was riding my tricycle around in our house. The rooms made a loop from living room, kitchen, bedroom, hallway, bedroom and back to living room. It was like a race track. Howcome a 3 1/3 year old kid was riding a trike in the house? What was all the excitement about? Why was my grandma there and my parents leaving? Because they were going to the hospital to get my new baby brother that God had delivered to the hospital for us. Yep. That’s the only thing I would believe. My mom told me there was a baby growing in her swelling tummy and I just didn’t believe it. I had no problem believing God could just bring a baby from heaven or someplace and leave it at a hospital. Oh, and I knew it was a brother. They told me it could be a sister, but I knew that was wrong, too.

California Dreamin’ On This Dreary Day

So, today I stood on a corner and held a sign. They said this one wasn’t so big that it would blow me away. (The last one I held was way bigger than me and almost knocked me off my feet a few times.) This was an arrow sign, so it was much smaller and easier to handle, but still big enough to have a little fun with when the wind blew, like leaning into the wind to see how much of my weight it could support.

The weather was dreary again. There was a little misty rain to go with the gray skies. It was all just enough to make me glad I was outside rather than cooped up in the house, which can sometimes make me feel like I’m surrounded by the dreariness. It was dreary enough that the song California Dreamin’ was playing in my mind.

It’s interesting the things you see when you are standing on the street corner. Someone in a plumbing truck waved enthusiastically. I think I know who what was; I’ll have to ask him if that was him. Two other people in a car waved at me and I’m not sure who they were. They sure seemed to know me, or else they just didn’t want the sign holder to be bored.

Sign holder. That’s what I consider myself. They called me a “sign spinner” at the place where I picked up the sign. Spinner? Seriously? Where would I even practice that, I wondered? I don’t have a practice sign, and what about that pesky wind that blows almost every single day here? We couldn’t stand summer without it, so it has its good points. But, have you seen those guys on YouTube who really spin the signs? I just watched the 2013 competition. There wasn’t a single lady of a certain age. Like grandma age. Like me. So, I rock it like the grandma that I am – just gently in my hands, keep it moving to attract attention. They’d have to pay me more to get me to turn cartwheels and stuff. People would be having wrecks because they’d be laughing so hard at grandma all tangled up in the sign. Better not do that.

Speaking of wrecks, I saw two almost wrecks. The only folks who have a “left turn yield on green” sign are the ones that are turning in front of traffic that passes right by where I stand. The first wreck would have been two heavy pickup trucks, and the one coming through was going fast enough that vehicles and their parts would have been headed in my direction if they collided. That’s when I thought about what I’d do if there was a crash. I’d drop the sign and run, that’s what I’d do! The sign will be OK laying on the ground and I can go back and pick it up when all the flying parts have landed. Then call 911 and check on my fellow travelers and see if they are OK.

I saw a vacuum cleaner salesman drive by who has been selling those things for years! He must be about 80. At least. He sells Electrolux, and he sold vacuum cleaners to my grandma and to my mom. Guess where they got the bags for those vacuum cleaners? From this salesman! He came to their houses regularly to sell them more bags. And he’s still at it! Can you imagine? Wow.

If you like to watch people and make a few bucks while you’re at it, this isn’t too bad. Hey, maybe I’ll know the Corvettes by the sound of their engines before too long. Ah, love that sound.

No More NCIS For Me

Well, Tuesday nights are about to change for me. After last week’s propaganda on NCIS, I quit. I’ve been watching this show for years and the new one, NCIS:LA, from the beginning. There have been a few times that I’ve wondered if those NCIS shows are a vehicle for government propaganda. Now I suspect that I was right.

The new character who is there to replace Ziva, and who seems to be a very interesting character, is from the NSA. You know the NSA. That’s the National Security Agency, the people who are freaking out the whole world with their spying. The new character said to another character, Abby, who had a low opinion of the new lady and her association with such a despicable organization, that at the NSA they don’t just sit around listening to people’s phone calls. She said they have to get a warrant. Yeah, right. A warrant from FISA court where they get pretty much whatever they want.

This may have satisfied Abby, who is only a character on a TV show, but I’m not satisfied. Real people who see this show promote things that are not in the best interest of U.S. citizens and our Constitution won’t like it. Surely, I’m not the only person who has seen this?

By the way, if they are recording your phone calls you will hear some clicks. At least on a land line phone you will. I don’t have a cell so I don’t know about those. If you want to see how it works, try discussing history or chemistry with someone. Talk about things like the Kennedy assassination, the Bay of Pigs, the Cold War, missiles and such things that set off their little roaming bot-like thingys. I’ve had it happen twice.

Yep, Tuesday evenings will be different, and I know I will miss the characters. It’s funny, but when it’s rerun season and I’m not watching, I do miss them. Oh, well. I’d rather not have my entertainment laced with propaganda, thank you. I wonder, in those polls that rate congress as compared to things such as hemorrhoids (congress is rated lower), where the NSA rates?

The Artist Is A Superhero?: a fish story

Hubby wanted to show me a place where he and one of our sons went fishing last month, so we went to this place today. It’s a wildlife refuge down by the beach. Nice! It’s quiet. We were sitting on a little fishing pier eating our lunch and I was thinking about how all I could hear were birds, the wind blowing through the grasses and the waves of the lake lapping against the rocks at the shore. No ghetto sounds, no traffic sounds. Nice. Quiet. Relaxing.

As we were leaving, we drove over a narrow wooden bridge where a couple of guys were fishing, and one, Fisherman #1, had hung something big. Hubby slowed down to see what he had on his line, but he couldn’t pull it in. He was hollering at us asking if we had a gaff hook. His buddy, Fisherman #2,  was headed over to him with a crab net. We didn’t have a gaff hook or anything that would be helpful, but out of curiosity, we got out of the truck and went over to see what he had going on there.

He had hung a good-sized gar on half a mullet. We watched for several minutes as he reeled it in and then let it run a bit, trying to tire it out so he could try to drag it up on the shore. During the battle, there was some discussion about what a fish tale this would be, hung a big gar on half a mullet with a 10-pound test line and a old ragged-out fishing rod. While all this was going on, hubby walked a few feet away just looking at the water, while I stayed there watching and asking how the fish would be cooked when he finally caught it. The two fishermen (possibly taking advantage of hubby being out of earshot?) decided to talk a bit rough about the fish and use the word “ghetto” two or three times. I wanted to laugh, but I know sometimes I shouldn’t do that, so I didn’t. I just thought that they must be trying to horrify me or something, which is what I thought was so funny since I live in the ghetto myself.

Then hubby came back over and they started talking about how if they had something to hit it with, they could konk it in the head and drag it on out of the water.  Fisherman #2 said if he had a pistol he could just pop it with that. I told him I was thinking the same thing. They looked kind of surprised and Fisherman #1 said he left his pistol at home. I said I did, too. Then we probably both wondered if the other one had a gun with them or not.

Finally, Fisherman #1 told his buddy to use the crab net to push the gar. He would get it close to the bank and his buddy could get the tail in the net and it would keep the fish from being able to thrash about, and with one of them pushing with the net and the other one pulling on the line, maybe they could get him out of the water. It worked! They got the fish out of the water, but he was on the bank and it was sloped and he was still close to the water and if he started flipping and flopping, he might go right back down the bank and back into the water and they’d have to start all over.

So, there was a big discussion about what to do between the two of them. That’s when my Jones kicked in. At some point, I become all action. I’m done with talking when I see what to do and I’m ready to do it. I forgot it wasn’t my fish and before Fisherman #1 could say, “Lady, what are you doing with my fish?!” I had moved over to where the fish was and told Fisherman #1 to keep the line tight. I stooped down and grabbed a fin behind one of the gills. Boy, that was slippery! I was surprised by how heavy this fish was, and said so, then I grabbed his gill, then his other gill and pulled. That’s how the fish got to the top of the bank.

So, now what? I just jumped in and did that and what would they think? Uh, I wasn’t sure. As I stood up, I said, “Y’all don’t tell nobody I did that!” That’s my ghetto talk. I didn’t think they would want to tell their friends that a 102 pound white lady just grabbed their gar by the gills and pulled him up a hill. They said, “What? Don’t tell nobody you did that?” Fisherman #2 said, “She wasn’t even scared!” and Fisherman #1 said again, “Don’t tell?” In the middle of all their surprise and discussion about not telling, and about getting this posted on some board someplace, I noticed the pretty pattern on the gar’s head and scales and so I told them, “Look at the pretty pattern, isn’t that pretty?” and I told them I’m an artist.  I’m sure it was all pretty surreal to them at that point!

Fisherman #1 was still not wanting to not tell, and along with a “God bless you” and a handshake, he said, “I’m tagging you on Facebook! What is your name?” I just laughed and told him I’m an artist. So, he said “The Artist” is what he would call me on there, and hubby and I left. Just like a Superhero, do the deed and skeedadle while everybody is still happy.

Memories and Reality

This evening, I watched an episode of The Twilight Zone. The main character, Horace, had idealized memories of his childhood and he wanted to go back to his old neighborhood.  He did, and his experience was like quantum physics where time goes all warpy. Everything looked the same, the same people were there, and they were all the ages that he was when he lived there. Of course, his wife thought he was cracking up, even though she was a bit freaked out by the kid from the neighborhood who kept showing up at their apartment every time Horace went there.

Have you ever felt like you could, in your mind, go back in time? We know the memories are in there, complete with smells and sounds and emotions.  What if we could access them? We could smell our grandma’s perfume (mine used Avon, one of her favorites was Cotillion), and a favorite meal (one of mine was her fried chicken, corn on the cob and green beans with potatoes).

Maybe it has something to do with living in the 50th decade of my life, but there are times that I almost feel like I could just dig these places out of my brain and experience them all over again. I can almost smell the Pine O Pine that my mom mopped the floors with, along with the Pledge that she used to polish the furniture. If you just add in the cookies and the pine tree in the living room, it’s Christmas in 1966.

I know the memories of conversations that I heard have to be in my mind somewhere. If I could pull this stuff up from the memory files, I’d see myself on the floor playing with dominoes, lining them up and making them all fall while I listened to the adults talk, and I’d actually hear the whole conversation.

I don’t have an idealized concept of my childhood like Horace had in The Twilight Zone, and I wouldn’t want to go back and be a kid again. I’m happy with my life in the here and now. But do you ever wonder what it would be like to pull those memories up to the level of feeling like you are there again?

Well, it’s after midnight and I need to hit the sack. I wonder what I might dream about tonight?

Ya’ Reckon These Eggs Belong To Our Rat Snake?

A few months ago, I was getting the concrete blocks around the garden all in order, and preparing to put up a fence. We had expanded the garden and I needed to fill in some space with blocks, and also there were weeds to pull. We have some of those concrete block with holes in them laying on their sides, with the holes up, but with some concrete scallop edging laying on top of them. It covers the holes and I like the little scalloped edges.

Why keep the concrete when we’re putting up a fence? Because an armadillo won’t dig under it if there’s concrete there. Well, maybe not just one armadillo. Sometimes in the morning, my yard looks like there was a whole group of drunken golfers out there all night.

Anyway, the edging wasn’t all lined up perfectly, and a snake found a way into the hole. “What a nice protected place to lay my eggs,” she thought. I’m sure she thought that, and also, thanked me.


Snake Eggs

Snake Eggs


Since finding the eggs, we’ve seen a huge rat snake at least three times in our garden. (I don’t know where the babies went; haven’t seen a single young one.) She’s (I just know it’s a she and she’s the momma of those eggs) almost as long as my broom handle. I figured that out by seeing where her head was and where her tail was at the same time and putting the broom on the ground where she had been. I speak to her every time I see her. I’ve tried to work along side of her. She’s just not friendly. She runs from me. Which is why I tell folks not to run from snakes. Why run from something that’s already running from you?