Thursday, May 22, 2008

why I prefer small stores

So. I AM working on the comic(pages 26-28 and 30-31 are penciled ready for inking), but a nice thing happened this evening and I want to share it.

Last month when I was splitting up the last of the unused winter wood, I took a swing at a monster piece. The maul head struck and stuck and when I pulled back, the head stayed and I had an empty handle.

On the way home from work tonight, I stopped at the local hardware store where the handle had been put on. I was directed to a rather older man in a faded orange polo shirt and ball cap. I showed him my maul (which he called a "splittin' hammah") and we went outside and around to the store's workshed. After a few pauses (to get a shim and then a hacksaw) the handle was on* and secure.

I asked him if I owed him anything and he replied "Nope. Shoulda wuhked roy-eet the fust toym"**. So, I offered to stop down at Jacobs' (the local general store) and pick him up something for after work, but he again declined. Then, I think I got to repay him.

I casually mentioned that I could have bought a new maul last year (the head is 30 years old), but I really like how this one splits. He replied that he really liked that design and really liked splitting wood, but since his heart attack, he doesn't split anymore.

Then we talked for over a half-hour. Well, I mostly listened. He talked about lots of stuff.

About his heart attack and how he felt bad for the Indian doctor because the doctor spoke softly and with an accent he the old guy who was in pain and slightly deaf to boot had to keep asking the doctor to repeat himself.

About when he was a kid and his dad came stumbling out of the barn and he assumed his dad had been kicked by a feisty horse but, it was, in fact, kidney stones. He was only about ten but had to drive his dad back to the house so they could call the doctor.

About logging and haying with horses instead of tractors.

About working in a mill that ground fine aggregates.

How they used to get spruce oil for medicines. They used a big silo filled with spruce boughs and they pumped steam beneath them to evaporate and re-condense the oil; he said if he had a cold going into the silo, he never had one coming out.

The thing was, this chat wasn't a chore. His talk of his heart attack wasn't 'old man whining'; he made it interesting. We stood there and talked in the sun with the trees and mountains and I wasn't all that anxious to leave. I waited until he was ready to go and we walked back to the store so I could pick up my reel lawnmower that had been sharpened. We said our goodbyes and the german-accented lady that works there went out of her way to hold the door for me and my mower. All in all, a day you wouldn't have at Home Despot.

*When he put on the handle, he did the coolest thing. He wedged the handle in as far as he could by hand. Then he flipped the maul over, held it by the handle end, letting it swing free, head down and then hit the handle end with a mallet. Instead of dropping off, the maul head crept upward and seated itself! What's up with that? Where's Bill Nye when I need him?

** The Vermont farmer accent is hard to describe. It's rather like Midwest farmer + Maine lobsterman + a dash of cockney. If my transliteration didn't work for you: "Nope. Should've worked right the first time"

Listening to while posting: "Cool Change" by The Little River Band (though I'm not sure why I am...)


Don Snabulus said...

That is great stuff and getting harder to find. I know the rising gas prices have people down, but if there is a silver lining, it is that opportunities like this may be back on the rise.

We are lucky enough to live in a neighborhood where the people talk and interact with each other when the sun comes out. I barter my mad geek skills for a little mechanical and landscaping help when the need arises. It works out good in our old-timey section of the suburbs.

(Guilty, I love Cool Change and all the schlocky stuff from that era.)

Hypatia said...

I like local haunts for the very same reason. Sometimes I'm in a hurry though....

I like the bakeries and sewing stores the most (I'm a girl, remember?!?) Lots of folks to talk about what you want, and give you a fairly good price for it too.

Arkonbey said...

Snab: barter! Yay! I once traded a brake job on my car for fixing my mechanic's son's bike. (I grew up on light FM. It's an indulgence. I can still sing most of the words to Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald)

Hypatia: Hey! I like bakeries, too! Within walking distance of our house is a small breakfast place /bakery as well as an artisan bread maker. Also down the street is a small yarn shop (good for gifts for Mom).

Swinebread said...

The big boxes are killing America imo.

That personal touch is nearly gone.

your story is good reminder on why we all need to visit the mom and pop shops.