I saw a wedge of hoop cheese in a grocery store the other day. It was a beautiful thing to behold.

The thought of cheese and crackers took me back in time to the old country stores of my youth.

When I think of old country stores, a thousand sights and smells and feelings crowd my memory. Those old stores spoke of neighbors and friendship and local commerce. Creaking, oiled floors, ceiling fans, potbellied stoves and shelves filled with merchandise made for a place where you wanted to be. In the back of every store, there was a table covered with red and white oilcloth. And in the center of that table stood a bottle of Louisiana Hot Sauce, along with a salt and pepper shaker.

It staggers my mind to wonder how many tons of boloney, cheese and sardines were enjoyed in those old stores … and don’t forget the crackers.

Any growing boy or girl loved to make a stop at the local store.

In the summers of my youth, my father would take one of us boys with him when he cut cedar in Brim Hollow. Brim Hollow was on the other side of the county. It might as well have been on the other side of the world. It made for a long day.

Fortunately, there were four of us boys, so I only had to go every fourth time. When it came your turn to go, my father sweetened the deal by offering to buy our lunch at “the store.” That was some more incentive.

To be honest, we boys considered it a luxury. I can recall it now in vivid detail — boloney and crackers, cheese, Beanie Weenies and ice-cold Pepsis … well, maybe not ice-cold. We left them in the springhouse until lunch time. To top it off, there was a dime cake. I’ll bet that whole lunch didn’t cost 50 cents, but it sure made the prospects of a long day seem much shorter.

My brother, Dewey, made one memorable trip with our father to Brim Hollow. Being the youngest of the four, he had not quite learned the ropes on stopping at the store and purchasing lunch for the day ahead. You had to get your order in early, because our father had a tendency to be in a rush when we stopped at the store. On that particular day, our father bought lunch without Dewey’s input.

Later in the day when it came lunch time, our father pulled two cans of sardines and a pack of crackers out of a brown paper sack. Dewey went into shock.

Dewey recently described the conversation between them regarding the sardines.

“How do you eat them,” Dewey asked.

Our father answered, “Like this,” as he laid a sardine on a cracker. Then, he bit the sardine and the cracker half in-two with one big bite.

“Next, he fixed one for me, “Dewey said. “I looked down at that cracker, and that fish was looking right back at me.”

Seems it wasn’t Dewey’s best day in Brim Hollow. I’ll bet he got his order in early the next time.

So many lessons in our early life were tied, in some way, to those old stores. It was always a treat to stop and spend a nickel … that’s right, a nickel.

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