By Otis Griffin
Going back in time and unless you lived during this important era, no one can realize the importance of country stores that dotted the universe.
Ask yo’ granddaddy where else could you buy groceries, livestock feed, gas, or farm equipment for the field s or the backyard gardening. Can you attest to the importance of coal oil and a million usages?
Try coal oil for starting fires, or funnel some oil in lamps to furnish reading light. Did you ever traipse out to the chicken house to ward off a hungry fox or prowlin’ ’possum in the middle of the night balancing a heavy glass container? The wick was turned up so high the hand held, hot glass was coated with black smoke billowing upward resembling a smokestack leaving a trail.
Maybe my country folks snared their arm on a protruding nail in the stable wall. What about stepping on a rusty nail jutting from a hidden rotten plank under some trampled corn shucks?
The cure-all remedy was a good dash of coal oil as effects were immediate and this healing was cheaper than sending money to the squalling television preachas.
Talented locals could sharpen a handsaw or cross cut, so keen that a quick slash through the atmosphere would slice tiny molecules, splitting them, causing an eerie vibrating high squeaky sound through the country side.
Can you remember how news traveled so fast, the sages residing on the front porch knew more about yo’ business before it ever happened?
If you wanted to know the price of top hogs or bovines at the Dixie National stockyards, right off Jackson Avenue, just inquire amongst the ever present soothsayers. The up to the minute price was recited before Derek Rooke could blare it out over his noon farm show radio news. Weather inquiries would induce, “well we need some rain and I ’member in twenty-nine, I seen ’em same kind of clouds and it’ll be heah soon.”
Mr. Ernest Sanders and Son grocery on Armour road included all the above and much more. There was a universal grist meal for corn grinding. Fine powdered grinding for cornbread fixing or coarse hammering for bulky chicken feed.
A phrase that is still part of our culture today was initiated from a country store. Ever heard of, “necessity is the Momma of invention?” I don’t know who coined that intellect as I wasn’t there, but I’m positive it was one of our famous rational and profound brilliant Southern forefathers. The Northerners ain’t invented nuthin’ ’cept carpet baggin’ and politickin’. (same thing)
When the time was right, a little revamping of the equipment from corn gristing provided for delightful apple squshing and smooth tasting, lip smacking, brow bending Southern cider.
Apples by the truck loads, tubs and to’ sacks were slowly fed into the banging and churning hopper. After calculated sorting and sifting, wangy and tangy drippings produced another Southern product we admired, enjoyed and slowly sipped.
For a sweet tooth as a dessert Mr. Ernest set up a sorghum molasses squeezing business. His reputation enticed distant customers from Arkansas as sugar cane was trucked across the big ‘crick’ and occasionally stacked two stories high. The end product provided future sorghum for the kitchen eating table and skimmings were salvaged in a drum as nourishment for the cows and hogs.
This constant adapting provided a skillful trek to the future. To us rednecks this was a way of life, stamped and approved. To think back will bring a tear to a glass eye, but it is our eyes that miss the actual focus. Perhaps our only comprehension is remembering, whereas in the wonderful South, we commoners refer to as ‘Bygone Memories’.
Southern Bred, Southern Fed, But My Southern Memories…Ain’t Dead….GLORY!
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