Tag Archives: general store

A Step Back in Time

Sitting under the overcast, gray sky, the river rolled past, heavy from the night’s rain. One could see their breath in the chill of the air; it was a wet, dampness that encompassed not only the body but the soul as well. Barney and Otis were my lunch companions, each patiently sitting apart, respectfully waiting without being imposing. I sat on the aged picnic table facing the Johns River, as it flowed beneath the bridge in Collettsville.

Once more, my mind sought a rest, something beyond what had become the daily grind, something that had the ability to enrich while reaching beyond the surface. Like the turbulent waters rushing past, time was fleeting. Should we pass from this life to the next without taking time to appreciate what God has made for us in this life, we fail to live to the fullness as He intended. Thrusting one’s hand into the confluence in an attempt to stop its advance was as fruitless as holding water between our fingertips; slipping away before its sustenance can press upon our parched, dry lips. Rather, it required an attention of fullness in order to find what it was that would find its permanence within.

The day before, as the gray light of dawn began to lighten my bedroom, there was a whisper to my heart about something so seemingly insignificant and frivolous, that at first, it was dismissed. However, it came again, accompanied by another likewise meaningless idea; wonder if they would ever get checkers and hot chocolate down at the general store? The thought caused me to chuckle. It had been over a week since I had stopped in to visit the store down in Collettsville. As a matter of fact, it had been at least that long since I had seen Barney and Otis, my four-legged friends who so loved to simply sit by my side and be petted; an inspiration in and of itself. It became a point of destination for my walk later in the morning after a sufficient amount of time had been spent encompassed by my studies and schoolwork. There I soon learned of two new additions to the store. You guessed it, checkers and hot chocolate.

The thought of the whisper to my heart returned, and it warmed my being. Too often we try to explain away the voice of God if we would only listen.

The children of Israel had fallen away once again, and through the prophet Jeremiah, he was speaking out to them, reminding them of the errors of their ways. He even gave them direct commands to follow, “Thus, saith the Lord, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk therein.” Unwilling to listen, they went on their own paths to destruction, disregarding the former and ignoring the law which God hath given them through Moses. Again, and again, they would face the wrath of God because of their own choosing. They pushed on, proving that there would be no rest for the wicked.

Yet, my journey was guided by His hands as the scripture tells us, “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.”-Prv3:5-6

Once more, guided by that still small voice, I found myself nestling the head of Otis in my lap as he napped, while Barney sat faithfully at my side while we occupied the bench on the porch of the general store. Content to rest and take in the world passing by, like the waters of the Johns River behind us, my thoughts wandered as aimlessly as the twitching leg in the sleeping dog’s dreams. Our repose was interrupted when the son of the store’s owner pulled up, Garrett. The tall, thin young man looked scholarly in his black-rimmed glasses. He was already quickly becoming a good friend, and today would encourage that bond even further. Walking up, he held an armload of vinyl records.

“What you got there,” I asked while continuing to find Barney’s favorite spot to be scratched.

“Oh, just some old records I found at a consignment shop.”

“John Prine,” I read out loud. “Wow, you like the old stuff?”

Smiling broadly, he began to show me the rest of the collection; names like Cash, Jennings, Daniels, Miller, Nelson, and so on appeared. It was like a walk back in time. “I even found a Roger Miller Greatest Hits,” he said holding up the nearly flawless album. My mind flashed back to that eight-track player my dad kept in the back of the Prowler that sat in the driveway back in Booneville. The sounds of that album would play continually as long as the power was turned on. Us kids would play in the driveway to the sounds of, “Dang me, Dang me, they outta take a rope and hang me,” blaring no-stop, until the word had been forever etched into our minds.

“That was one of my dad’s favorites,” I answered, pointing to the Miller album. “You like vinyl?”

“Yeah,” he answered respectfully, “I’ve been collecting them since middle school.”

“That wasn’t long ago,” I chuckled. He laughed at that too.

“Do you have a way to play them here at the store?”

“Yeah, I’ve got a little turntable I brought to play them on.”

Our conversation continued on, and we soon found ourselves stepping inside. Garrett pulled out a little portable record player, one that was a vintage remake, something he had bought at a Barnes-and-Noble; quite a sharp little unit.

“Got time for a game of checkers,” I said pointing to the barrel with the board stretched across the top?

“Sure, he said,”

“Want to play a record we can listen too while we play,” I asked?

“Yeah,” he said, “I was just thinking the same thing.”

“Got a particular one you want to hear?”

“I’ve never heard that John Prine 71 album you’ve got there,” I answered,  “How bout that one?”


“The only one I know on there is Paradise. It’s a Bluegrass Classic.”

“Yea, I know how to play that one too,” my young friend replied.

Garrett and Tim playing checkers at Collettsville General Store.

My thoughts rambled on to how we need to sit down sometime and just pick together. “This young man just continues to impress me the more I get to know him,” were my thoughts at that moment.

Not long after that, we settled into and began playing that ancient board game. In the background, the hiss and pop of the needle finding the groove in the record only added to the nostalgia of the moment. It was only fitting. The new owners had spent countless hours and dollars to remodel the store to resemble an old fashion country store, complete with hardwood floors, and ship-lap siding bare wood walls. Our checkerboard sat atop a seasoned antique wooden barrel, like one that might have held crackers in one of the old Carolina style general stores. As our play lengthened, we shared stories about places, times, and events in our lives. It wasn’t so much the game we were intent upon, but rather, the fellowship through its activity. Like those old days sitting on the porch at Sharpe’s Store back in Chatham, it wasn’t about why you came, but rather, what you learned through the fellowship of being there, and pausing long enough to take in life.

Daily, in my classroom, I watch as children try to keep up with the light-speed pace of the world around them; memes, social media, snapchat, viral videos, ad nauseam; many becoming frustrated and exacerbated by the feeling of being left behind. Their peers challenge them to keep pace, and if not, face ridicule if they don’t. Too few have any idea from whence they came beyond what the textbooks have told them. However, once in a while, you will find an old soul, an outcast of their own choosing; one who finds shelter in the old songs, old traditions, or ways of the past. Their upbringing often reflected in their manners.

The young man that spent time playing checkers; this past Saturday was just that, an old soul in a young man’s body. His upbringing has been well done, to which his parents should be congratulated. But even better, he shared with me his devout faith. Like a youth after my own heart, he plays music for his church and shares the gospel through the gifts by which God has endowed upon him. “If only there were more Garretts in today’s world,” I thought to myself as I pulled away from the store later on.

Yes, the whispers of frivolous things, as they appeared to me at that time, led to greater things than had been possible to imagine. Hot chocolate and checkers would find a way to replenish and refresh a weary soul.

“When I was a child my family would travel
Down to Western Kentucky where my parents were born
And there’s a backwards old town that’s often remembered
So many times that my memories are worn.”

That afternoon, we took time to step out of the torrent of the day-to-day grind and paused. There, a young man and an old friend stopped to step back in time, allowing their souls to rest. Like those moments of repose upon the bench with my friends Otis and Barney, Garrett and I chose to take the path God had intended, the old paths, the old ways.

Yes, there is hope for the next generation. It is up to us to pause long enough to spend time with them to share where we’ve been, and how God has helped us to get where we are. Like reaching into the roaring confluence of time, we can’t stop it, but we can grasp just enough to spill a few drops that may inspire those tender hearts who have yet to live.

Allow yourself to spend time alone with God and listen to that still small voice. What you might hear may sound insignificant and frivolous at first. But if you follow his call, the path you take may turn into some far more glorious and precious than you could have imagined. “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, evidence of things not seen.”-Heb.12:1

Thanks be to God.


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To Live the Simple Life….

Sometimes I yearn for simplicity in living life.

Many years ago, when I was in my early teens, once a week each summer we loaded the push mower, coolers, and grocery bags of clothes into the old Ford pickup, and then headed down south, deep into the wilds of Kentucky to spend time at the old home place located on the banks of the Green River, somewhere near Sebring. I can recall the long, hot drive with the warm summer winds beating us through the open truck windows. Our skin numbed from the open air ride welcomed the slower pace once we neared our destination. The narrow paved roads quickly vanished into gravel trails with ruts separated by grass paths, which eventually lead to what appeared to be an old abandoned house. This was the old home place of my step-mother’s parents. It had no running water, no indoor old houseplumbing and no electricity. There was a two-seater outhouse and hand dug well, all covered by weeds and vines that had accumulated from the previous year. The vegetation would be so overgrown, that from the front gate, there was hardly a dwelling visible. Just outside the dilapidated front gate would unload our weaponry from the truck; mowers, sling blades, axes and hand saws. Then before the sun would set, we would begin our assault. We always worked the first day on the area immediately around the house and make paths to the vital out areas such as the kitchen, well and outhouse. Before getting too involved, we first would cut the path to the kitchen so the women folk could carry in the food and cooking utensils. I never recalled much past this part since I was always hard at work on the jungle outside. What I came to discover was that the reclamation was as much ongoing inside as it was outside, from a year’s worth of emptiness having being replaced by all manner of spider webs, nests and other surprises. We never heard the screams from inside since the lawnmower drowned them out. Outside, we likewise would always encounter some new infestation or pest that had to be dealt with in order to preserve any semblance of civilization, yet we kept the screaming to a minimum.

It would be nearly dark when the call for supper would come. We had another full day’s work ahead but for now, we had fought to reclaim the yard and area immediately around the house. Sweat laden, weary bodies were glad to find a hot plate of food, regardless if we were able to bath or not. This was the first time I had recalled having SOS. for supper. However, instead of the rich man’s version I found in the Air Force years later made with chipped beef, this SOS was simple and plain, made with homemade sausage and whole milk; simple but the best. The biscuits made from scratch were cooked in the old wood stove on the back porch of the old place, which was still functional. We drank cold water dipped from the long thin pipe that was lowered manually by a rope into the hand dug well. The fresh cold water, hot biscuits and SOS made for a meal fit for a king.

Since we had worked to nearly dark, after supper and a quick bucket wash, we would find our bedrolls and claim our sleeping arrangements for the night. My favorite was the whiskey slat hammock that hung between two oak trees in the yard. From the high end, you could lie through the night and watch the barges move up the river, which was just down the hill from the house. The drop off from the yard to the river was so steep that it would appear that you were eye level with the tops of the barges as they forced themselves up river. More than once, I was awakened during the bargenight by a barge operator who had found my bed in their spot lights and felt it necessary to blow their air-horn, which would nearly roll me out of the hammock. I soon found that covering myself with dark blankets was necessary in order to hide my bed from detection of the practical jokers driving the barges. It was the only way of securing a full night’s sleep. Of course, if rain was in the forecast we would pile into the few beds inside the house, like firewood, in head to toe fashion. I still don’t know how we got any sleep other than the fact we would be so exhausted from working to fight the forest during the day, we quite literally fell off to sleep without any effort.

Once we finally reclaimed the property, one swing of the sling blade at a time, we finally had time to enjoy the wonderful old place and the reason for our recovery efforts. The house set on a bluff that overlooked the Green River. The confluence was deep enough to support barge traffic, which was of course already obvious from the hijinks of the barge captains. The drop off from the tree covered yard to the river was very steep, but somehow there had been a small pasture separating the two with a small pole barn that had seen its share of floods. In order to get to the river you had to follow a path from the yard, through the overgrown pasture, past the old pole barn, to the river bank green river 3below. This is where we eventually would take our baths. Years later, I would recall these first open air baths while I was building my cabin in North Carolina. There too, I would find the open water bathing refreshing and invigorating. Just knowing you were getting clean and taking the risk of being caught doing so seemed to add an exhilaration all its own; barge captains or not.

The rest of the week was spent either fishing, cooking over an open fire or just finding ways to amuse ourselves without T.V. or any other games; there was never enough room in the truck to pack toys. There was a Mulberry tree in the yard that always seemed to ripen during our stay. Here we would find sweet treats and learn the song and game of “Here we go round the Mulberry bush”. It was games like this that soon took the place of the meaningless board games we had left behind. As the week would progress, we would find more about ourselves and how living in the past could still be fun. We often spent time in the evenings reading from the old Bible that was kept in the house and talking about the stories while sitting around the campfire in the yard.

Here we learned what it meant to live with nothing.

I can remember as a between-meal-treat we were given a slice of loaf bread, with butter spread on it, sprinkled with sugar. If we were lucky, we might get to go into the nearby town and visit the old general store and get a soda. The front of the store was the skinny double-door type, which had the  screen  door that creaked when you opened it. Inside, it was dark and cool regardless if it was a hot and humid day. If we wanted to go farther south, it required crossing the river. There was no bridge, only a ferry that would run during the day, when the ferry operator was around. The ferry boat was only big enough for two cars, so heavy traffic was never expected. The ferrygravel road to the south wound around from farm to farm through crop lands of corn, soybean and tobacco. We took this trip once, going somewhere that made my step-grandmother cry; an old graveyard where her family was buried. I can recall the solemn silence, the dust and the trip back to the river and the ferry boat ride back to the other side. We never took the trip to the other side of the river after that day.

Although these annual summer retreats were only short periods in my life, I can vividly recall the feeling of having to create something from nothing; knowing that the amenities of life were not at your fingertips and that you had to plan ahead. Everything from the trip to the outhouse, to the next meal, you had to be thinking in stages and not living for the moment as we so often do today.  I can be thankful that a part of me remembers those few days each year when we would step back in time and live as our ancestors had generations before us.

To know how simple life can become when all else is removed and to focus on what living truly is; this is one of the most precious gifts we can give ourselves.

When life slows down to a crawl and with it, we can once again find out what really matters most; this is what I yearn.

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