Saturday, May 19, 2018

Bubblegum, a Store and Tar

This post appeared on my other blog in 2009, but belongs at The Ruralhood.  
There was not a nicer man than Ernie the storekeeper. Growing up in a rural area, his store was located diagonally from my childhood home, across the highway.

When my brother was old enough, we would sit together on the slope of our yard and watch people buy gas and groceries at the store. There were days when Ernie would step outside the store, walk to the edge of the sticky tarred highway and toss Bazooka™ bubblegum to us. He would announce that he was going to throw it our way and that we needed to catch the wrapped gum. We would race to our yard’s boundary limit and proceed to catch the gum. I can’t remember ever catching the gum in the air. 
I’ve always been a people watcher and loved spying on the patrons when they visited the store. I also loved visiting the small country store filled with counters of candy and shelves with other food items. Oh and let’s not forget the pop cooler. RC Cola™ was my favorite. Outside the men would sit on a bench visiting. Inside the store, the women would shop and the men could also sit near the woodstove, hot or cold, at the back of the store where the post office was located. Everyone seemed to know your name and your family.
As I grew older, I was thrilled to be chosen to cross the highway to get our mail. I was told to hold the mail tightly, so not to lose it. When spring turned to summer, I would shake my shoes and go barefoot all summer long. (My feet still cry when cold weather arrives in MO and I have to stuff my feet in regular shoes.) Not only was I instructed to be careful with the mail, I was also told to look both ways for traffic and then run fast over the highway. And I did. I would run like heck over the bubbly hot and sticky tarred surface that paved the highway. My feet did suffer some minor burns, but I was always up for the exciting challenge. By the time I returned to our side of the highway, the bottom of my feet were coated with hot tar, gravel (from the road that ran in front of the store) and grass (from our yard). I didn't share with Mom that the road burned my feet because she might have made me wear shoes. I would meet mom at the front door, deliver the mail, then find a shady place in the grass to pick the offenders from my (not so tender) soles.  

This picture of the store was taken six to seven years ago when I was photographing my grandchildren. Today, most of the front half has caved in.
Even though the store is a mess and Ernie is long gone, he is not forgotten by me. As long as we tell the stories of the places and people that filled our childhood, they will be remembered.
Childhood is  only a whisper in time.  Spread the memories!


Saturday, May 12, 2018

The Mary Tyler Moore in Me

During my high school years, a friend and I were looking through some of my childhood photos. He told me that he thought some of those pictures looked like the actress Mary Tyler Moore.

Like this one.

I argued, but I saw it, too.

And this one.

This one, too.

But I didn't see it in this picture, still don't. All I see is an awkward girl morphing, lips growing fuller ( thanks, Mom!) and hair getting its red tint (thanks, Dad!).  

Mary Tyler Moore! One of my favorite actresses. No relation, no MTM talent, but perhaps a slight resemblance to a wonderful actress.


Sunday, May 6, 2018

Young Marrieds

I should post this now while the memory is still clear. The snowy part of the lingering 2018 winter reminded me of my first bad weather related experience while driving. 

As young married people, eighteen years old, we were hardly a step away from childhood and most definitely not old enough to navigate or cope with life issues without more instruction or experience. Right decisions were iffy.

The year before I married, I traded in my light green 1965 Ford Mustang for an orange AMC Gremlin. Neither car traveled well on Missouri snow covered roads. 

A week or so before we married, in February, a snow storm visited our area. Soon after that, we had another. 

This is clearly not a snowstorm, but shows you
how young we were. Picture taken the summer after
we married. In case you were wondering these
were the longest shorts that we owned. 😏  
The snow fell fast through the early morning hours. My new husband had left our home, located near a cool truck stop, with his carpool buddies and headed to his welding job forty miles away. I worked at a garment factory in a small town five miles from home. In spite of dangerous road conditions, I knew that my attendance was required in order to keep my job.

The first road I pulled out on was the main highway, in front of our house and  snow covered. I traveled slow speeds to the small town where I worked and used the  more traveled streets to get to the final street, leading to my workplace.

That particular street was the worst. No plowing had been done. As my orange car struggled through the snow, the back end slid right and left. I tried correcting, but didn't know what I was doing. When I reached the sharp corner that led up the small hill to the factory, I accelerated, not because I thought it would help, but because I was scared that I wouldn't make it. Once I reached the nearly empty parking lot, I saw that the lot had been plowed, but was still a mess from packed and falling snow covering everything again.

I drive my Gremlin as close to the door as I can and stop against a mound of plowed snow. Feeling weak, sick to my stomach and the need to cry, I rested my forehead on the steering wheel. In those moments, I considered just leaving without saying anything to my supervisor, but I'd gotten that far so I trekked through the snow to the building. 

Inside, I found Carol at her desk. I told her that I was going back home, that I barely made it there, and the roads were horrible to travel. Her face showed surprise and I thought that I would be fired for my word vomiting. Instead, she told me to go back home and that I shouldn't have tried coming in. 

Back in the car, I turn around and headed down the snowy hill without much trouble. The next corner was another story. To clear the corner, I needed to find a compromise between slowing down and speeding up. All went well until I cleared the corner and needed to accelerate again. The tires spun some and I gassed it. The car made it a couple more feet before stalling in the middle of the street. 

Out of nowhere, a man showed up at my window and knocked, and I cranked down the window. Snow blew inside the window hitting me and the man in the face.  

“You got it stuck! We'll push you out, but once we get it free, you've gotta gun it." He motioned to another man standing behind my car. Both were bundled up in coats, gloves and hat. "Keep it rolling until you get wherever you’re going.”
I thanked him, rolled the window up and waited until the back of my car rocked. When it moved forward a bit, one of the men  pounded  on the car and I gassed it.  The car moved forward, and I drove on down the street, the lightweight backend still swaying side to side. When I saw the stop sign at the end of the street, I gassed it more, prayed and glanced in the rearview mirror for the men, but they had disappeared. I kept the car going, drove through the stop sign at the end of the street without stopping and up on the next better plowed street. 
Five miles later, I passed the truck stop where several semi-trucks idled in the parking lot, perhaps waiting on drivers eating breakfast or waiting out the storm. Ahead of me, I see the prize: my little  house and its driveway! I remember saying out loud, “When I get home, I will never leave again.” 

In the distance, I also see a big rig barreling down the highway coming in my direction. Believing at that moment that I should not wait on the truck to pass or I would get stuck again in the middle of the highway, my feeble mindset influenced the heaviness of my foot and I accelerate the car to get in the driveway. It was at that moment that my car bucks and slides sideways, in the road. I don't look again at the massive vehicle coming towards me. Instead, I take my hands off the steering wheel in surrender. In that odd moment, a calm filled me. I pressed the gas petal and the car jets into the snow packed driveway and stops. The semi-truck blows its horn at me as it passes which did not make me feel any better.

For a  few minutes, I sat in my car, head on the steering wheel and sobbed. 
Not knowing me, you might think I vowed to never drive on snow covered roads again. In spite of a desperate declaration of never leaving home again, I did leave, and I became more determined to conquer inclement weather driving. Don't get me wrong, I don’t like driving in the pouring rain, icy or on snow covered roads, but over the years I've made myself drive it as needed. 

I don't like feeling a hostage to anything.
I learned my share of lessons that day. God took care of me the entire way in spite of myself and still does. I learned about angels in human form coming to the rescue, my first experience, but not my last. At eighteen, I learned about the fighter in me who surfaced that day. I will need that fighter spirit again and again.