This time around, we feature a short piece from Anthony Wood.
We hope you enjoy his work!
Going to Town
I held onto the oversized calloused finger I could barely get my hand wrapped around as Papaw pulled my cousin, Bruce, and me along on the sidewalk. It was Saturday, when farmers and their wives came to town for groceries and to catch up on the latest gossip. Bruce and I were all smiles because Papaw had promised us two peppermint sticks each from the drugstore.
We rode to town that cool spring morning in the cab of Papaw’s 1947 Chevrolet pickup truck. I felt extra special getting to push the starter button on the floor to crank the truck. As Mamaw went over her grocery list one last time, Bruce and I elbowed each other as we watch the gravel road passing under us through the holes in the floorboard.
Bruce and I knew that after Mamaw looked at sewing machines, bought a few items at the five and dime, and picked up the groceries, we’d get to ride in the back of Papaw’s truck on the way home. But not before he made his weekly trip to the drugstore.
On the way, Papaw couldn’t resist inspecting every new car he passed. Each one was perfectly parked diagonally along the street with its nose sticking over the curb. He poured over every feature like a lady window shopping for dresses.
“One of these days, boys, I’ll get your Mamaw a brand new car.”
“But Papaw, why do you have to look at each one?”
“It beats having to fend off those pesky car salesmen at the car dealership. This way I can take my time and look ’em over like I want to.” I thought we’d never get to the drug store and our long awaited treats.
The little bells on the door rang as we stepped inside quickly to not let out any more of the store bought air than necessary.
Bruce and I made for the kids’ section to ogle over the Red Daisy Ryder BB Guns. We both knew we’d never own one. Our mommas reminded us every time we begged, “A BB gun will shoot your eyeball out. So forget it. You ain’t gettin’ one!”
“You boys come on up here now,” Papaw yelled. “I got something for the both of you.” We knew exactly what it would be.
Four peppermint candy sticks with red and white stripes like a barber’s pole lay on the counter along with two cans of Prince Albert crimp cut long burning pipe and cigarette tobacco.
The cash register drawer closed with a ring and Papaw handed us our candy. “Eat one now, and save the other for later, okay?”
“Here boys, take these too.” He handed us each an empty Prince Albert can. We flipped open the lids and took a long deep sniff. It was a good smell that reminded us of Papaw.
The store clerk leaned over the counter and rubbed our heads. “You’ve got two fine lookin’ grand boys there, A.E.!”
“The best I could ever have.” We left the store crunching our peppermint sticks and Papaw lighting up his pipe.
Mamaw signaled us from across the street to come help her carry the groceries. Papaw held the door open as Bruce and I each proudly carried a brown paper sack.
When we passed by a brand new red and white 1956 Ford, Papaw stopped dead in his tracks and set his two grocery sacks down. He slowly ran his hand over the hood marveling at the flawless paint job. I could see his grinning face in the reflection of the shiny chrome bumper.
“One of these days, Hattie.” Mamaw pulled him close, happy that Papaw wanted a car like that for her.
After we loaded the groceries into the cab, Bruce and I climbed up into the bed of the truck.
“You boys stay seated, you hear?” We nodded sitting on a bale of hay with our backs against the cab, sticky peppermint juice on our chins and shirts. As Papaw drove along the gravel road in no hurry, we breathed in the last bits of smell left in our Prince Albert cans.
Even today, when I eat a peppermint stick, I can still smell the sweet aroma of Prince Albert tobacco. And I’m reminded of my Papaw.