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Seen And Heard At The Country Store

Omer C. Addington

Writer & Historian (Sept. 6, 2000)

     The country store I am writing about was C. M. Perry General Merchandise store at Snowflake. Perry's Store was located in Moccasin Valley in the shadows of Clinch Mountain and the historic and rustic hills of Moccasin Ridge near the banks of Moccasin creek.

     In the store was the Snowflake post office and Mr. Perry served as postmaster. The mail came twice a day. The morning mail came down from Nickelsville and the afternoon mail came up from Gate City. The mail was brought to the Gate City depot by train and taken to the Gate City post office where it was sorted and sent out on the star routes. The rural free delivery had not been established in Scott County at this time. There was a fourth class post office in almost ever community.

     This story begins with the stock market crash on Tuesday, Oct. 29, 1929. This date is known in history as "Blue Tuesday."

     The depression affected the entire world. Factories closed their doors and people lost their jobs. Things went from bad to worse. Bread and soup lines grew longer.

     The suicide rate rose rapidly. The golden glow of the early twenties had faded into the blackness of insecurity, despair, resentment and fear.

     People fled the cities in despair. They sought out a place with tendible land where they could eke out a small living by growing their food.

     Farmers struggling could not make ends meet. Some had borrowed heavily. Taxes could not be paid and many faced foreclosures on their loans.

     To show how bad things were for the farmer, hogs sol d for four cents a pound, corn sold for thirty-two cents a bushel. Wheat sold for thirty-eight cents a bushel. My father sold a two months old calf for two dollars and fifty cents, and another time he swapped a calf for two six weeks old pigs.

     Farmer joined the urban unemployed and eked out a living as best they could.

     Near the store was a blacksmith shop, a carpenter shop and a grist mill.

     Perry's Store and the shops were gathering places for people in the community especially on Saturday afternoon. The men discussed farming, politics, religion, told jokes and some cussed President Hoover for the world wide depression.

     Some of the men who moved into the community didn't know how to farm. One fellow who stopped at the store with a large basket of plants he thought' were tobacco plants. Someone asked him, "What are you going to do? He replied I'm going to set tobacco.

     When the men looked in the basket they told him, "You have a basket of little mullen plants."

     After tobacco had been set out the men were talking how much land they had planted into tobacco. Some said an acre, an acre and a half, two acres. One old fellow had not said anything. Someone said" "George, how much tobacco do you have out?" He replied, "Three-thirds of an acre." Not knowing three-thirds made a whole acre.

     Another man that didn't know how to put the harness on a horse put the collar on up side down. The harness wouldn't fit, but he fastened them the best he could, hooked the traces to a bull tongue plow. The. horse ran away with him, tore up the harness and broke the plow.

     A Mrs. Gray came to the store wanting to buy the old man (her husband) some long underwear. Mr. Perry replied, "What style does he like?" She said, He wants them with a trap door."

     She asked, "Do I have any mail?" Mr. Perry said, "Not today." She said, "How do you know, you didn't look." He looked and said, "No mail."

     A lady in the community sent her grandson to the store with an old hen to swap for some items. He crossed the creek on a swing bridge and sat down to tie his shoe. The old hen flopped into the creek and drowned before he could get her out. He carried her back to the house and his grandmother rung her head off and dressed the old hen for supper. They then caught another hen. Another time he was sent to the store he lost the list she had sent with him. Someone found it. He said it read get two rolls of toilet paper and call for the mail.

     Late in the fall someone would butcher a beef about every two weeks. He would sell it out to the people in the community. Best steak ten cents a pound, stew beef five cents a pounds. A man butchered a beef and he sent his son to ask Perry if he would buy the cow hide. Mr. Perry said, "I don't buy green hides tell him to hang it on the fence and let it cure then I will buy it."

     All butchering was done on Saturday on a lot behind the store.

     In the summertime some of the men pitched horse shoes. Libern McConnell made four large horseshoes the men used.

     In the winter some of the men played checkers, while others told jokes, stories and general gossip.

     Less came to the store early one Saturday morning. Someone said, "You're out before breakfast." Less replied, "No I ate five cat heads with gravy." Mr. Fuller said, "Killing your cats and eating them." Someone said that is what Less cal1s a biscuit.

     Jim was talking about his new eighteen inch high boots. He said, "I paid five dollars for these boots. It took a whole bull hide to make them." My father said, "why didn't you pay fifty cents more and get the bull's horns."

     Archibald came by the store With his shot gun. Someone said, "Where are you going with that gun, 'Arch'? He replied; ''I'm going up in the mountain to hunt me a young groundhog for supper - you know they are kinder getting scarce .. "

     Someone asked, "How do you fix a groundhog?"

     He replied, "Well, I put it in a pot and boil it till it is almost tender then I put it in the oven with some taters and bake it till it's good and brown."

     Old Arch went to a, revival at Mineral Hill Church. He said, "I got religion and now I'm so good I can never sin again."

     Andy said, "I'll be damn somebody art to knock you in the. head and let you go on you will never be that good again."

     There was an old fellow living in the community whose wife had died. He then married a very young girl. He was old enough to be her grandpa. One hot summer afternoon it came a cloudburst in the Snowflake Community and did a great deal of damage. A Mr. Fuller walked over the community after the storm to see how much damage had been done. He walked by the old man's house, who was sitting on the porch with the young girl on his lap. He spoke to Mr. Fuller and said, "We have had a fine shower."

     Archibald's cousin said she got religion and than it came a rain. She said, "I walked home through the rain and didn't get wet. I did not have a coat and when I came to the creek the waters parted and I walked across on dry land."

     There was a fellow in the community that had a bad speech impediment. He only used two pronouns, - him and her, never using he or she. Mrs. Perry was in the hospital. A lady in the community came to the store to trade. She asked the son, "How is Mrs. Perry?" Before the son could answer, Luc mouthed in and said, "Her is still in the hispistol." One of the men standing near by said "Luc that's hospital." Luc replied, "Dats what I said her still in the hosspistol."

     Mr. Wilhelm sent Luc with a wagon and team to the top of Moccasin Ridge to haul a load of rails. He told Luc to follow the road. Instead Luc came down the steep place on. the ridge. He was riding the brake and hollowing, "Hoe em, hoe em at the horses.

     Near the store was a grist mill, a garage, a blacksmith shop and a carpenter shop. The mill ground corn for the people in the community. The garage worked on T model Fords.

     The blacksmith shop was run by Lilbern McConnell and the carpenter shop by his son, Palmer. People referred to them as Lil and Pal. Lilbern could make most anything out of iron. He could measure a horse's foot the length and width and cut a piece of iron and make a horse shoe to fit. He also made mule shoes, iron tires for wagons and bull tongue plow points.

     Palmer was a carpenter. He made chairs, benches, magazine racks. Anything that people in the community wanted. He made a beautiful porch swing out of oak lumber and Lilbern made the iron hangers.

     Some of the things they made in their shop they swapped for food at the store. One Saturday about noon someone said, "Here comes Pal with a horse shoe to swap for a can of tomatoes so him and his pap can make tomato dumplings.

     Palmer didn't have a car but he made himself a fancy wheelbarrow to haul his tools. He always took them home at night for fear Someone would break in and steal them.

     There wasn't any electricity in the country at this time. Palmer bought a battery-powered radio. He traded for an old car generator and a car horn. He rigged something at the grist mill to keep his radio battery charged. He attached the car horn to his wheelbarrow.

     Kay Wilhelm said, "I had a young calf that slept in the barn hall. One morning about day light Palmer came through the barn hall. The calf was in the, way, so he blew the horn and the calf took off. I never saw that calf for two weeks."

     Women would come to the store and trade, but they didn't stay and gossip like the men did. As the sun begin to set and the shadows grew longer the men begin to depart for home to do their chores, eat their supper and inform the wife and family of the gossip at the country store.

 

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