I’ve been thinking about one of my grandfathers — the one who lived in Merry Oaks. I’ve been thinking about how most every afternoon he put in an appearance at a nearby country store.

Back during that seemingly pleasant period when the decade of the 50s blended into the 60s, I would often spend time with my grandparents there. I quickly learned that every afternoon at about the same time, Granddaddy would head down the road to the same place to assemble with the same small group of men.

“You got your billfold?” Grandmother would ask as he readied himself for the daily ritual.

He would nod.

“Got your belt?”

It was never clear to me why she didn’t simply look at his waist line to determine that. Yet, she would always ask, and he would always nod.

“Got your handkerchief?”

I never understood why it was important for him to carry a handkerchief. He never used it, that I noticed. Still, he always had a clean white one in his back pocket, just in case.

“Got your keys?” The reminders continued.

With a final nod, he would head out of the house, toward his Studebaker. It was less than a half mile to the store from where he lived on a hill overlooking U.S. 68/Ky. 80. He could easily have walked the distance — would have been good exercise for him. That stretch of highway, though, was heavily traveled in those days before I-65 cut its ribbon through our landscape and he thought it safer to drive.

I learned early on that this was a man’s trip, so he would never take Grandmother along. He would invite me if I happened to be around at the time.

Once inside the store, the scene was always the same. The men sat around a nail keg with a checkerboard flopped out atop it. Two would be taking their turns playing, and others would be watching and offering advice. Some would be drinking from cold drink bottles and some would be munching a Moon Pie or peanuts.

These were farmers, taking a break from their chores. Their talk concerned cattle, crops and the weather. Sometimes they talked politics. There was always something to add about the events in the neighborhood.

Granddaddy would often tell a joke. As I listened, I would become impatient, anxious for him to get to the punch line. With a gleam in his eye, he would tell it as if he had all the time of eternity and milking time was still a long time off. That was his approach to almost everything he did: slowly and with good humor.

On one of those trips back to the house, I asked Granddaddy why he went to the store day after day after day.

“Oh,” he started to answer, and then took a moment to think. Because it was a short trip, he just barely got around to offering his response before we turned up the driveway. “I go there to loaf.”

That seemed a pleasant activity to me back then: to loaf. And, as I recall it now, it still seems so. As a matter of fact, thinking about my grandfather has given me a sudden urge to go somewhere and loaf for a while, myself!

So, if you’ll excuse me. . .


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