I stopped by the grocery store this afternoon to buy some dog food. I usually don’t buy dog food from the grocery store, the dog food you find there is expensive and of poor quality, but when I slack off and manage to run out of food on a Sunday I have little choice. It seems that the dogs would rather get expensive poor quality dog food from the grocery store than have nothing to eat at all.
On the way into the grocery store I saw Mr. Herman. When I was a child Mr. Herman’s store was the local country store in my community. Like most country stores, Mr. Herman’s store was so much more than just a grocery store. It was a hardware store. Mr. Herman kept nuts, bolts, and screws, as well as a few of the most commonly needed hand tools, like screwdrivers, pliers, and of course hammers. Mr. Herman’s was a sporting goods store. He kept crickets and worms and all the fishing tackle you needed, as well as a few shotgun shells, just in case you run out. Mr. Herman’s was a restaurant, you could get a Hot Dog or as Sausage Dog there any time you wanted. If you wanted variety, there were always cold cuts in the refrigerator and you could buy a loaf of bread any time. Of course you could stop in for a nab, candy bar and cold soft drink whenever the desire struck as the store was just a couple miles down the road from the house.
When I was a child it was a real treat to go to Mr. Herman’s and get a bag of candy. There were jaw breakers, Jolly Ranchers, caramels, and several types of bubble gum, including my favorite, Bazooka, as well as an assortment of other candies that could be bought. Most were a penny, but none were over three cents, and for a quarter you could get a bag full of candy. Then Mr. Herman would throw in an invisible ball for free. It was always a treat to get to see that, he would toss it up in the air, but you couldn’t see it, you could hear him catch it in the bag, but when you got out the store you could never find it. I’m sure I would have thousands of those invisible balls around if I could only find them.
Mr. Herman closed his store a dozen or so years ago. I can’t blame him. He had the opportunity to become a fire marshal. That job came with benefits and retirement, things that he didn’t have running the store. A couple other folks tried to run the store after he left, but they couldn’t make it. Running a country store is a lot of hard work, and you really don’t make all that much money. There is no country store in the community now, and if you want a drink you have to drive all the way to town. Then you get a drink out of one of those mega coolers that never keep drinks very cool. I miss that store.
My children ask to go to Wal-Mart to get a toy all the time. They ask to stop by a gas station so they can get a drink and a candy bar. The people that work in the stores are nice and helpful enough, and my children get more candy and toys than I ever did, that’s for sure. But they will never get the chance to stop by the store with a hand full of change and get a bag full of candy, with an invisible ball to boot. Being teased by Mr. Herman was something I took for granted, and they have no idea what a community country store is all about. That really is a shame.
I guess we will just have to keep going on, reinventing experiences when we need to, The Briary River Way.