There are little white country stores up and down Route 10 all the way from the Ohio River to . . . well, frankly I have never been past Germantown on Route 10, however, I suspect there are stores like that all along the length of the road as it winds through the Trans-Bluegrass. I used to favor the one at Lennoxburg, but after Jake retired, I have been trying others. It is a lot like finding a new church; you visit around a while until you find a place that is comfortable.
All these stores are the same and yet quite different. They may look fairly modern on the inside until you look down and see floors that were laid during Grover Cleveland’s administration. Some serve franchised frozen pizza or broasted chicken. Most all have a little dust on their soup cans. They can all be counted on for a quick baloney sandwich. I look for one with a wood burning stove and a few metal lawn chairs, and at least a few deer heads hanging on the wall. You will know I do not mention establishment names. The reason is that I do business in all of them from time to time, and I want to stay on good terms with the proprietors.
The current one I favor is close to camp. We came to it after O.D. was thrown out of another one. You know already about O.D. and his brothers, so I will not go into the whole lineage. I was not there for the incident, but I know O.D. has a real knack for suckering people into stories. He will wait until a stranger’s back is turned and then say something outlandish to get them hooked and then rely on the help of his confederates to reel them in. In this case, he overheard a customer ask about the vegetable soup.
“I tell you I had a bowl of that soup last week.” said O.D. like he was talking to the other guys. “Back then, the green ones were the stronger swimmers.” The prospect changed his mind on the soup and left the store in a hurry. The owner tossed O.D. out. The rest left in sympathy. I showed up a few days later and commented on all the empty chairs. I got told off, and I am biding my time before I venture back. Well, at least I was. I have heard since that the store is closing and they owner is looking for a buyer. It took a while for the whole flock to settle on a new roost. This new one has a chair that favors my back.
I came by a while back and O.D. was already there with his poodle. Now you may wonder how a dog gets to sit in with us, and you may wonder why a guy like O.D. would own a poodle. However, the dog and the man are sort of a package deal. The poodle is a standard/toy mix and so comes in about 40 lbs. She’s sturdy and wickedly smart. O.D. acts like he ignores her, but you can tell the two dote on each other. O.D. swears she is the best squirrel dog he ever owned and does a fair job running down rabbits as well. He also claims she calls deer for him.
The dog has her eccentricities. For instance, she keeps a squeaky toy with her at all times. She gently cradles the toy for months on end, and then one day she will get it in her head and tear it apart in minutes. Whoever has O.D. holding court in their store knows to keep a small supply of dog toys handy. The toys have varied over the years. One February, it was a paper valentine that O.D. gave his dog. Another time she favored a blue bandana, but usually it has to have a squeaker in it. The current one is a plastic Santa Claus.
It was getting on towards Noon, and a fellow drove up in a fancy 4-wheel drive truck with camo panels on the hood and sides. There was a $20K ATV in the back, and all sorts of white hunting decals filled the back window. O.D. motioned with his eyes as we all sat talking; we all scoped the guys out. You could tell O.D. was planning something.
The two men, in their knee-high lace up boots and Under Armour shirts and $300 Fart-lok suits, came in and started straight back for the deli case. The proprietor followed them and talked them into corned beef sandwiches. While the sandwiches were being made, the two hunters roamed the store, browsing. This store, like many has a small hunting and fishing section. You have to be careful in places like this. Some of the stuff does not turn over real fast, so the plastic worms you buy may crack and crumble when you try to put them on your hook. However, the ammo turns over pretty rapidly, as does the turkey calls. O.D. caught one of the guys thumbing through the deer calls.
“Now, you may not believe this,” said O.D. to his friends, ” but I have seen this dog call deer. She takes her squeaky toy out when we’re hiking about, and while I’m resting she’ll get out away from me and hit that squeaky toy-” O.D. paused and then added ” Show the guys how you call deer.” Babette is very jealous of her squeaky toys. A man might draw back a bloody stump reaching for one. O.D. is the only human that can touch it, and Babette only lets him,because he carries it for her in his pocket when they are traveling. O.D. reached down with his hand and Babette responded as she always does, growling and snapping and mouthing the toy so it would squeak.
“Call the deer!” said O.D. “See that? That’s just what she does, and I borrowed it from her last week of season last year and I tried it out. It worked for me too. ” He then snatched the toy up from the dog and started hitting on hit like it was a fawn in distress. “Big buck came trotting up behind me, and caught me on my blind side. I put the toy back down, and this buck came in and stole the damn thing! I look up and see this buck with a squeaky toy in his mouth and there he goes ‘SQWEEEEEKEEEEE ! SQUWEEEEEEEEEKEEEEE! ‘ Running through the woods like a Jack Russell Terrier. I could not believe my eyes.”
“What happened?” I asked. O.D. almost had me sucked in now.
“Well, ” said O.D. ” I could not get a shot at first, but eventually he started to tire, and he stopped and laid the toy down to catch his breath. I put the B.A.R. on him and nailed him– didn’t go more than 10 yards before piling up. That was that 6 pointer y’all saw. He looked bigger when he was on the hoof; that rack was a fooler– only six points. I would have thought it was eight.” He dropped the squeaky Santa back to the floor and the dog growled menacingly and began guarding her toy again lovingly.
We all started talking about the buck, and managed a glance at the two guys waiting on their sandwiches. Sure enough, the one went over to the other and pointed our way. They went over to the little rack of stuff next to the dog food and found a squeaky pork chop an a big-eyed squeaky frog and put them on the counter next to their sandwiches. They made sure they didn’t look over at us until they were just leaving. One finally did acknowledge us and mumble something about having a nice day before walking out.
O.D. waited until the door shut before saying, “And that Gentlemen is my work for today! I think Charlotte’s cooking something good for lunch. ” He reached down and grabbed the dog’s toy, shoved it in his pocket and got up to leave. The dog followed in perfect rhythm so that it would not appear O.D. was holding the door for her. They hopped into the truck and left.