The end of an era

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By Elroy Riggs

There was a customer of mine who ran a store along a narrow blacktop road on the Kentucky and Tennessee line. I'll call her Minnie. I'm a little shy of using names in stories since lawyers are now advertising.

Anyway, she had run a store there since 1944. The front part of the store used to be a corncrib. When Tennessee raised its property tax, Minnie and her husband jacked it up and put skids under it and dragged it across the road to the Kentucky side with two teams of horses and built living quarters behind. She and her husband sold groceries and bought cream and eggs from the local farmers there.

Minnie remembers lying in bed at night and listening to the eggs crack after their wood stove lost its battle with the winter cold. Minnie and her husband had two boys, waited 10 years, then had a girl. Her husband used to say they were the best crop they ever raised. The boys went to a one-room school. Poor disadvantaged things. No swimming pool during gym class. No teachers fretting over their self-esteem. Not knowing any better. The boys went off to college, got degrees and made something of themselves. Then danged if the girl didn't go and do the same.

Minnie and her husband had a straightforward parenting philosophy - hard work, good food, lots of love and church on Sundays. They also had the good fortune to raise their children at a time when television reception was pitiful and there were no video games.

They watched The Ed Sullivan Show on Sunday nights. But the Beatles were always upside down and green and pink. A little of that went a long way. Her husband died in 1990, and Minnie sold off the farm and equipment but continued to run the store. A lot of the time since, the orders she bought weren't worth my time, but how could I not call on her after so many years of being a loyal customer?

The girl went to college, got married, and has a family of her own. None of her children want to live there, and Minnie is having to move to a mini-home. Now 61 years of running a store along that country road will come to an end. I try not to think about that.

On the last trip around before she closed her store, we sat for more than a half hour on her front porch, as she reminisced about her life: "Up until this year, I have always had a garden. I can't hardly keep from working now. But I can't go," she complained with a chuckle. "It goes hard with me. I was always used to hard work."

Elroy Riggs