The Country Store
Our local country store is a real working man's hangout, not a tourist destination. Like a bottomless wine jug out of some Greek myth, this store has everything. If you are in need of tools for painting, car repair, or rough carpentry, they have them. You can also find stacks of duct and masking tape, road flares, Tung-Sol auto lamps, and Goof Off paint remover. If you are sick, they have shelves packed with all the usual pharmaceuticals plus Dr. Seltzer's Hangover Helper and a box of ginseng tablets for energy. Hunters purchase their licenses here by the day, week, or year. If you need ammunition, that's no problem either; they stock everything from 22 shorts to 12-gauge shotgun shells for dove and quail (number 8 shot), rabbit and squirrel (number 6), and pheasant (number 4). You can also buy plenty of supplies for black powder rifles, including Pyrodex powder, .50-caliber lead-saboted boat-tail bullets, ramrods, nipple wrenches, cleaners, and patches, as well as standard rifle-cleaning equipment such as bore butter. Fishermen can find a broad assortment of Umpqua flies, including a Gray Yellow Hackle, an Elk Caddis, and a Trico Spinner. There is also plenty to chew on, from Skoal Long Cut to Red Man Tobacco, as well as Zig-Zag papers for rolling your own.
The proprietors, Doug and Nancy Schorn, have lots of merchandise to attract the kids as well. You can find Hacky Sack Footbags, Tippy Toes Finger Puppets, Jetfire Gliders, a jumbo bag of My Farm animals with 16 pieces, an Explorer H20 Rocket, a Woody Woodpecker Magic Draw, removable tattoos, Giant Outdoor Chalk, and a Bible Song Sing Along. For candy, there are bags of jelly beans, gumdrops, candy watches, and the original hard-chew Bazooka Joe bubble gum.
The real attraction, however, is the round table in the back, right next to the coffee shelf. This is the heart and soul of the town, especially early in the morning when the carpenters, electricians, and plumbers stop by for a cup of coffee and the opportunity to complain about the town selectmen, or the new town garage, or the seccession of our sovereign rights to the United Nations. A book entitled Redneck Classics lies open on the table, offering plenty of good advice. Former patrons have left a wall of hats behind, advertising everything from the Mall of America to Daytona Bike Week, Wilcox Lumber, Tri-State Mega Bucks, UPS, and Salem cigarettes. Although seemingly out of place, "Cat In The Hat" style headgear abounds as well, stuffed onto the head of a mannequin sporting hunting gear and propped onto the head of a buck, towering over its branched eight-point antlers. A postcard of the board of directors is posted right above the table: four donkeys staring out of a desert scene. You can also purchase copies of Bass & Walleye Boats, X 4 Power, Vermont Deer Camp Recipes, or American Astrology.
But what really makes a Vermont country store is the unexpected. You can still buy a small green can of Antiseptic Bag Balm for your cow, a one-dollar postcard from a grab bag, Larvex Cedarized Moth Balls, a candy apple kit, or bumper stickers that read, "My Kid Beat Up Your Honor Student" or "Just When You Think Life's a Bitch It Has Puppies." When the door opens, the old cow bell still rings with its deep, low clang. And as you walk in you can't help but see the sign that reads, "If We Don't Have It, You Don't Want It."
When I was a kid, a trip to the store meant a handful of Mallo Cups, dark chocolate rounds spiked with crispy coconut and filled with gooey marshmallow, or a box of Black Snake fire tablets, or a green plastic water pistol that would last about 24 hours, the trigger hanging loose from the fingerguard after just a few fill-ups. I usually stopped by after milking for an orange or grape soda, my T-shirt stuck with small spikes of hay. Although the Mallo Cups disappeared a few years back, the water pistols and snake tablets are still there, as are the balsa airplanes, smoke bombs, and cap pistols.
I sit out on the porch with a can of Dr. Pepper, watch the cheap American flag flutter occasionally in the hot breeze, listen to the clank of the cowbell, and wait for my children as they excitedly flit from one attraction to the next, trying to decide between candy lipstick and bubble gum tape or the small yellow plastic bank and the miniature finger puppets. I feel as if I have been sitting on this porch for 40 years now, winters and summers having come and gone, my kids first as newborns, now almost teenagers, soon to set off on their own journey, one that begins on the road that runs by this little store. They may go left or right, drive slow or push forward with great anticipation, but this old country road always comes back around. You find yourself, many years later, sitting on this narrow front porch, knowing that your grandchildren will someday take your place, listening to the dull clang of the same cowbell that greeted you so many years ago.