I didn't know if he would remember me. I didn't even know if he remained alive. Did he still operate the store out of his house? Had he remarried? Did he have a dog? If he did remember me, would he give two cents of a care?
He always seemed to like me, but I doubted he even knew my name. He never called me Zane, not once. But I had the time, the truck, and the nastolgia so I pointed the front of my Nissan Frontier north and headed out Money Road.
Where Money Road ends at Highway 8, I turned east and motored to Highway 35 before heading north again to Cascilla Road. Cascilla Road leads into the hills and a few miles on it brought me to that familiar, old country blue Jim Walter home that was Grammar's Old School Store as well as James Grammar's home when I was spending whole days bicycling Tallahatchie County.
I turned in and noticed someone sitting on the edge of the porch. By the time I put my truck in park, I knew it was James. He gave me a blank stare at first but then a gentle smile broke across his face. That answered two of my questions.
We shook hands, and I felt my face smile big as I watched his do the same. I sat beside him on the porch where the steps are. We chatted and more of my questions got answered. He no longer runs his store. "Tired of it," was his reason. It never was much of a store. Mostly he sold beer to people who parked on his lawn on weekend nights. He walked from truck to truck delivering cold ones and collecting money. But he became weary of it. He tired of the fights, tired of the hassle, tired of providing a place for people to do drugs. "I would pick up hand fulls of syringes after a Saturday night. I never felt good about that."
|Me 'n James chillin' on a hot day.|
So he closed his "store" and now works a regular job. "Night shift. I like the job, but hate the night shift. I can't sleep in the day time. I come home and sleep a couple of hours and then I'm up." Big white blobs of clouds dotted the blue sky and jaybirds squawked in the background as we sweated and sat beside each other. Sometimes we went minutes without saying words.
I asked him how the churches around Cascilla were doing. "Heck if I know," he shot back at me before taking a long pull on his big beer. One reason I asked was he used to help his ex-wife clean the Nazarene Church just up the road. And as little as I know about Cascilla, I am actually acquainted with a couple of current pastors in the area and one former preacher. He mentioned Mark Moore, who serves at the Stonefield Church of God two miles west of downtown Cascilla. "A lot of people like him and go up there." I brought up Jerry Hill who pastors North Shady Grove a mile or two north. "I grew up with Jerry." Oddly, he didn't know Robby Rykard who once pastored Cascilla Baptist. "Nobody stays over there more 'n a few months," he told me.
When I asked what was new in the town, he got real talkative, said there's a new night club that opened and hosts bands and stuff such as that. "Is that where your former clientele went?"
"Naw. You have to pay to get in. I don't know where my folks went." A breeze blew across our backs and James noted how good it felt. I asked about the kudzu growing on the trees bordering his pasture. "Don't know what to do about that." I asked him about the horse by the kudzu by in the pasture behind his house. "My daughter-in-law's."
When I asked about a piece of a store that used to be in an ancient building downtown, I learned some stuff. "Closed. He never had much in there. Mostly it was a front for him to bootleg."
"Bootleg? You mean moonshine?"
"They still do that around here?"
"As many people hunt and go into the woods, how can you get away with such as that?"
"They put their stills in barns and sheds. Naw, you couldn't put one in the woods. The helicopters would see it if the hunters didn't. They fly over here all the time looking for marijuana. When they first started flying around out here looking for weed, it was right after I bought this property and there was nothing here. They landing the copter right there," he said pointed a few feet away. "Then they brought in big trucks and for weeks they hauled out marijuana. Weeks. There was weed in every gully in the county. All the stores around here was doin' good. Then one day, one of the store owners was dog cussing the drug folks for 'ruining the economy.'" James laughed out loud.
"Now it's drugs. Drugs is everywhere. At work, we hire and fire constantly. The company tries to give 'em a chance, but if they have to go to jail, they're fired."
I looked at my watch. "I guess I better go. My wife will be home by the time I get back." We shook hands.
"Things sure have changed," he said standing up and watching me walk to my truck. "I miss some of the people who did business with me. They was a$$h0#e$, but I liked 'em anyway." I opened the truck door. "Think I'll go see one of those guys. He never gets out much anymore. Think I'll go see him."
"Do that," I said while I shut the door and cranked the truck. James was looking my way when I pulled out onto Cascilla Road and drove away.