Blog, memories

Country Store Memories, Part IV Final: Ruth Esther’s Store

If you look up the definition for a holler it will say something to the effect of it being a hollow or a valley in the mountains. A holler is much more than that. It is a community within or an offshoot of a larger community. Where I grew up, a holler was somewhat isolated, but populated with a close community. A holler has one way in and you must traverse the same road out.

Our holler was a little more open that some around where we lived, but it was definitely away from the central part of the Valley. At one time (before I remember) there was a small foot bridge that crossed the creek providing a shorter journey into the Valley itself. I believe it was washed out during a bad storm and never rebuilt. The walk into the Valley could be a 30 to 40 minute walk even by walking the railroad tracks which provdes a shorter path.

When the depot closed, Arthur’s store was still not such a long walk, but once he closed his store, that meant everyone in the holler would need to walk all the way to Clarence’s which was in the upper end of the Valley. I have no way of knowing if this is why Ruth Esther opened her store, but it was definitely closer than walking into the Valley.

Ruth Esther and Vernon (her husband) lived in a large white house at the crest of the last large hill before the road dipped down heading into the holler. (When we finally got bikes, climbing this gravel covered road might have been the place you would choose to get off and walk your bike to the top.) I believe Vernon built the bluish block building in front of their house which became the store.

I always loved Ruth Esther. If you read my earlier story about the train depot, you may remember she worked at the train depot when I was a child. I thought she was beautiful with her vivid red lipstick and her vivid red nails. She looked like a movie star to me. She was always well dressed and as I said, such a kind woman.

Writing these stories now makes me wonder what must have required to maintain these little stores and also manage a house and a farm. It could not have been easy, although I am not sure what, if any, regulations they may have been required to follow. Back then, however, this store made a nice halfway stopping point to get a cold drink or a snack heading to or from the holler.

The inventory was slim as I think the intent was to provide basic necessities. Unfortunately, the lack of necessary staples still forced people to go to Clarence’s store to get the supplies they needed. I cannot tell you how long the store was open, but it was short-lived in comparison to the other stores. The building still stands, echoing memories from the past.

The last I knew, Ruth Esther was still alive, living in the same house on top of that last hill heading into the holler.

Blog, poetry, Writing

A Writing Challenge – Opposites

I am taking on this writing challenge this week. It has to do with articulating different perspectives. If you would like to join in, just save the picture and give it a shot.

The idea is to write a short fiction piece, poem, haiku, etc., that reflects the emotion or situation you feel the photo evokes.

Photo Courtesy of StockSnap on Pixabay

After you write the first piece, write a second piece exploring an emotion or situation opposite of what you first perceived. Different situation, different character traits, or different feelings.

In a week, I will share posts of anyone who decided to take on the challenge. Use the hashtag #OppEmo or link back here if you would like for me to share your post.


Waking up to a Quake

Image courtesy of Pixabay

Sunday is our day to sleep in. This morning as I was sleeping soundly, I was awakened by the house shaking. It took a few seconds for it to register it was an earthquake. The USGS reported a 5.1 quake near Sparta, NC, near the Virginia border. Our family in parts of South Carolina felt it, too.

When I lived in Alaska, earthquakes were not unusual. I would wake the kids and have them stand under the door frame. This one did not last long enough to even get that far.

The hits of 2020 just keep on playing!

I have been meaning to mention some WordPress oddities I have noticed. For self-hosted sites, I can often not like posts. I must return to the Reader for a like to be registered. Also, when commenting, if I hit the “W” to connect to WordPress so it picks up my WordPress credentials, it often just spins, never making the connection. Then it is back to the Reader to post comments.

Now I am going to have some pancakes then settle in to finally watch “Hamilton”.

I will complete my country store series tomorrow. Have a good Sunday everyone!

Blog, SLS

Song Lyric Sunday – Long Train Runnin’

Jim has given the most difficult prompt thus far for me. Not because I could not think of a song to feature, but because there were so many really worthy choices I had a hard time deciding. I think I changed my mind at least 10 times. The prompt instruction from Jim is: This week we have something totally different where you are supposed to find a song with a harmonica in it and hopefully this will fit for everyone.

My first marriage did not last very long, but I learned very quickly that we can always take away something good from a bad situation. In the case of my marriage, my positive takeaways were my daughter and my love for the Doobie Brothers. I do not think there is a Doobie Brothers song I do not have committed to memory.

The song I selected is “Long Train Runnin’ written by Doobie Brothers co-founder Tom Johnston. The song started out as a jam the band played at live shows, but it had no lyrics. It was a great ad-lib jam performance that often went on for half an hour during live shows. It had a few different names on the playlist for the band. ‘Parliament’ (a cigarette brand) and ‘Rosie Pig Mosley’ appeared among others.

Producer Ted Templeman finally pushed the band to record the song. According to Tom Johnston, the music always came first and easiest for him. Later the lyrics would be written to fit the music. When Templeman insisted they record it, Tom Johnson retreated to the bathroom in the Amigo Studios in North Hollywood where they were recording at the time to work out the lyrics. There is no particular meaning to the words and there is no mysterious Lucy in real life. According to Johnston, the tile in the bathroom provided great acoustics.

The song was finally finished and included on the 1973 album “The Captain and Me” and the song was the first (and a surprise first at that) from the album.

Tom Johnston plays lead guitar and sings lead vocals. He also plays the harmonica solo which was something they were not generally doing in live shows.

The Doobie Brothers had three eras. The Tom Johnston Era, the Michael MacDonald era (when Tom Johnston was ill and had to leave the group), and the reunion era. I loved the Tom Johnston Era most of all.

Long Train Runnin’
Lyrics from

Down around the corner, half a mile from here
See them long trains run, and you watch them disappear
Without love, where would you be now
Without lo-o-o-ove

You know I saw miss Lucy down along the tracks
She lost her home and her family and she won’t be coming back
Without love, where would you be right now
Without lo-o-o-ove

Well the Illinois Central
And the Southern Central Freight
Got to keep on pushin’ mama
You know they’re running late
Without love, where would you be now
Without lo-o-o-ve

Well the Illinois Central
And the Southern Central Freight
Got to keep on pushin’ mama
You know they’re running late
Without love, where would you be now
Without lo-o-o-ve

Well the pistons keep on turning
And the wheels go round and round
The steel rails are cold and hard
For the miles that they go down

Without love, where would you be right now
Without lo-o-o-ve ooh
Where would you be now

Mmm, got to get you, baby baby, won’t you move it down?
Won’t you move it down?
Baby, baby, baby, baby, won’t you move it down?
When the big train run
When the train is movin’ on I got to keep on movin’
Keep on movin’
Won’t you keep on movin’?
Gonna keep on movin’


Why not join in on this Sunday blogging ritual. If you want to “Listen to the Music” head over to Jim Adams’ blog to check out the rules and read some of the great responses to the weekly prompt.

Blog, memories

Country Store Memories, Part III: Clarence’s Store

You could divide the Valley into three parts, each divided by a bridge that crossed a creek. Clarence’s store was ‘above’ the orange Valley bridge. Even though it was the farthest for many residents, he carried more inventory than most.

Clarence’s store was an old wooden building. In the early days, he sold gasoline — the pump having three small plastic balls that floated around as the gas was pumped. Outside the store was a scattered array of old metal milk crates, turned upside down and used for makeshift stools.

Inside the store was a wooden counter with a base encased in glass. Clarence was almost always in the store, more often than not sitting around the old cast iron pot bellied stove where a game of checkers was always in play. This was the gathering spot and safe haven for the men in the Valley taking a break from the summer sun or the boredom associated with a cold winter and yapping women.

More often than not, you would find Clarence sitting in the back of the store jawing with someone when you entered the store. He would stand and meander over to the counter waiting for you to select your purchase.

The glass-front case protected the goodies from being handled by kids. These treats were usually things like horehound candy, licorice, Tootsie-Pops, Red Hots, Fireballs, Sugar Daddys, Mallow Cups, and Necco Wafers. On the counter were glass jars that contained individual cookies. There was often a cardboard display that contained Moon Pies and Nabs (Nabisco crackers).

Milk and drinks were kept in a cooler with doors than opened on a hinge from the top. Milk was often in glass jugs, produced by local farmers. The selections of pop ranged from King Cola (a local Virginia company), to Nehi Grape, Orange Crush, RC (Royal Crown), Mountain Dew (with its hillbilly graphics), Yoo-Hoo and Chocolate Soldiers (both chocolate drinks), and of course 7-Up. Oddly, I do not remember drinking much Pepsi or Coke. Trust me — pop pulled from one of those coolers was the coldest I’ve ever had! There was a bottle opener on the side so you could pop the top and drink your pop on the walk home.

Of course, Clarence sold things to adults, too. Corn meal and flour, a small selection of canned foods, bread, fishing lures and of course tobacco products (chewing tobacco, snuff, and cigarettes). Chewing tobacco was the favorite for many farmers and snuff was used by a lot of the older generation women.

Clarence spoke with a slow drawl. Once you made your selection, he would do his figuring on the side of an unfolded paper bag while he spoke as he computed: “2 and 2 is four, plus 7 is eleven carry the one.” It would all be written on the side of the bag he put your purchases in.

Clarence had the misfortune of living beside the store. I can remember so many times my grandmother saying “Go up and ask Clarence to open the store. I need some shortening.” Oftentimes, his wife, Mary Ellen, would open the store on these out of hour requests.

Almost everyone in the Valley had a tab at Clarence’s. I assume this was because people only got paid at harvest time, or perhaps at the end of the month when checks would come in. People were honest. No one would think about reneging on what they owed him. I liked Clarence. I can still see his face vividly.

When Clarence passed away, his son Eddie took over the store. It soon became “Eddie’s store” and a new block building was built beside the old store. The gas pumps were long gone, but the milk crates and checkerboard remained. Eddie passed away last year. It is hard to think this will be the end of such a long legacy.