My brother, Jimmy, and I painted the outside of Joiner’s Store last year. The store has been closed a long time, which allowed us to grow comfortable with its badly flaking paint. We were about a decade late on this project.
Patches of bare wood and an empty barrel of excuses finally beckoned us to the job. There was nothing major to repair, but a few boards had rotted because of neglect. Others were moving closer to the front of that line, needing some filler for substantial gaps in the clapboard sides.
It’s a small white frame building, typical of the era when country stores were common. It was a gathering place for our rural community of Third District, especially for the farmers and men who helped them. Some of them came six days a week for cold drinks. That was back when sodas came in glass bottles like God intended. They visited on the porch in seasons of warm weather or around the gas heater during the cold days of winter.
Painting the store brought back a lot of childhood memories, none of them noteworthy to others perhaps, but all of them special to me. It’s nice when little moments from the past still pleasantly surprise us.
The earliest recollection I have involving the store is of my grandfather, Jim Joiner, standing on the front porch calling out to Jimmy and me, “Come on and get a Coca-Cola boys.” He died three months before I turned five. His offering us free drinks somehow has stayed in my memory bank, probably because he did it more than once.
Uncle Emmett ran the store after Papa Joiner’s health failed in the mid-1950s. I frequently went there, beginning at a young age. The trip to the store from our home was an easy walk and took even less time on a bicycle, especially after the dirt road was paved.
A big round cheese cutter sat on the far end of a long counter on the left side of the building. Uncle Emmett would slice a wedge from the hoop of cheese, trying to cut however much someone wanted. He’d tear a strip of white paper from a giant roll, then weigh the cheese in the metal pan attached to a scale that hung from the ceiling. He usually came close to what was requested with one cut.
The large pointer on the scales could be read from either side of the counter. It was later in life before I realized not everyone places the scales so both parties can see.
Uncle Emmett would call out the weight and the customer would say, “Close enough,” or something along those lines. Then he would wrap the white paper around the cheese and secure it with a piece of masking tape he pulled from a heavy metal dispenser.
When I was a child my father told me a story about a young boy who came to the store wanting to buy a nickel’s worth of cheese. Papa Joiner politely explained that he couldn’t slice that small of a piece. The youngster asked if he could cut a dime’s worth and Papa Joiner affirmed that he could. As soon as the blade sliced through the cheese the boy quickly added, “Now how about cutting that in half.”
That humorous tale was probably shared at other country stores. The young lad, whether he’s real, fictional, or something in between, helps remind me that solutions are often simple. Some problems are complicated, but many times the answers are not hard to find. That’s not a concept I can take credit for. I read about it in a book.
Jesus said we don’t need but two commandments. One is to put God first. The other is to love our neighbors like we love ourselves. (Matthew 22:35-40) Following those two rules seems a simple way for our country to approach some divisive troubling issues. Not everyone will agree, but that’s no excuse for me.
“Did Papa Joiner sell that little boy a nickel’s worth of cheese?” I asked my father long ago.
“No,” he said with a teasing smile. “He gave him the cheese and a Coke to go with it.”
It’s nice when little moments from the past still pleasantly surprise us. That happened more than once while painting Joiner’s Store.