TOM BRYANT: Riding Away from Slim's Old Store
But for a little while, this is the place for us -- a good place too -- a place of good omen, a place of beginning things -- and ending things I never thought would end.
-- Beryl Markham
"West with the Night"
"I've thought about it a pretty good while, Tom, and I think now is the time to turn the old place over to Leroy."
Slim and I were sitting on the side porch of his old country store that overlooked the pond bordering the road back to his house. Dove season was in, and I was spending a lot of time in his area catching up on my hunting time, and also visiting some friends that I had not seen in a long while, Slim included.
The store has a lot of history with Slim's family. It was closed shortly after his grandfather sold it to a chain that drove it into the ground. Slim retired early after making a fortune out west in the real estate market, returned home to North Carolina, bought the old store back from the corporate crowd and restored it to its grand old state.
It is a place for hunters and fishermen -- anyone who has an interest in the outdoors has a place by Slim's pot-bellied stove. Any season will find the gravel parking lot loaded with pickups and SUVs.
A wide covered porch covers three sides of the building and is filled with rocking chairs and gliders, a perfect spot to kick back and watch a moonrise or sunset. The old store is the kind you don't see anymore, loaded with character.
Slim suffered a debilitating illness during the summer and Leroy, one of his younger cousins, kept the store running while he recuperated.
There was a heavy mist that morning and very cool for early September. A fish jumped in the pond and Slim commented about his lack of fishing time that summer.
"It's like a train ride. The destination don't count. As a matter of fact, it's best to stay on the train as long as you can."
"You lost me, Slim. What train you talking about?"
"Life! That's the train ride. Have fun while you're getting there. And lately I haven't had much fun. So I'm going to give the store to Leroy and climb back on that train."
The conversation drifted from here to yonder, and too soon I had to head home to some much needed yard work. I thought about our talk as I pointed the old Bronco toward Southern Pines. The analogy of life and a ride on a train worked for me. I've had a great trip and have shared some super experiences with friends and family. My ticket has been punched for several destinations and I hope I have some ride time left.
To the east, I noticed several Canada geese flying along, keeping pace with the old Bronco.
A good omen, I thought. Slim would love to see that.
Tom Bryant can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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