My years of part time work have come to an end. Though only part time, it afforded me a glimpse of the community I live in I would not have garnered any other way. I really think that if you work in the hardware business, you get to see people as they are. They are solving problems of which they have little knowledge, Plumbing, electrical, what to feed a hamster, which tomato grows best and earliest, why won't the pump work...on and on. Tell you the truth, I didn't know any more that they told me, not enough to do more than make an educated guess...but we guessed with two heads and a store full of "stuff". It mostly worked out alright.
I think men probably gossip as much, or more, than women. If it happened in the county...wreck, you name it, you knew it at the hardware store in a matter of minutes. Who, Why, What, When, and How Many. The store seemed to be the command post for everyone in the area. Everybody knows everyone, and most of their business, church affiliation, number of kids, whose daughter so and so married, what kind of car they drove in high school, etc.
If you want to know what's going on...go to the hardware and ask. If we don't know the answer we'll make up some plausible answer until the first hand witness comes through the door. The funny thing is that once information is gathered and dispersed, it disappears in thin air. The next day, no mention of the day before news/gossip. There is a whole new "County Inquirer" to be gathered as the customer/reporters come through the door bearing tidings of woe, hilarity, death, wrecks, drug raids, army worms, weather reports, etc.
One thing you don't have to guess about in Madison County Hardware. Everybody who works there is a card carrying Republican, a Baptist, and so conservative that they squeak when they walk. Democrats, anyone who isn't a Southern Baptist, hippies, college professors and the like are suspect. They won't outright say it, but they don't deny the prejudices. One has to prove himself at the hardware...as an employee or a customer, and once accepted, will be greeted with "Oh God, here comes that damn ______ (fill in the blank). A sign of affection. I know, I immigrated to Madison County 15 years ago, and I have two names...Little Fat Boy and Shrek.
I've broken down enough boxes to fill a railroad car. I've carried a couple hundred tons of feed, and sold pl ants for most of the gardens in the county, as have my co workers. We've played music in the evenings, heard most every joke that comes around, had our fair share of drunks, misfits and crazies in the place.
I hate to wax nostalgic, but I had that two day a week job for 11 years...longer than I've ever done anything except breath and play music. It wasn't about the money, really...that pretty much sucked, but I knew that going in...it was about the people, the personalities, the smells and merchandise. It was the 105 on the counter thermometer a 5:00 one afternoon in August, and the three layers of clothes you wore in the winter.
It was meeting all the old men and women who told great stories about the county, who weren't much older than I, but seemed much older than their years. They grew up in a poor Southern county in the Great Depression, and Second World War...on corn bread, beans, collards and pork all winter, and a wonderful garden in the summer. They plowed and hoed and picked cotton, corn and made sorghum 'lasses. They attended Brush Arbor revival meetings...made moonshine, fished, hunted and raised families under harsh condition. Had I not met these people, and many are gone now, I would not see this place I live in the same light.
Thanks Guys, I be in every day or two to see what's going on!