Hot Days: Cooling Off at Bubba's Country Store
“Now, you know I’ve seen it hotter than this, Coot.”
“Yeah,” I replied. “I’d like to know when?”
I was up at Bubba’s country store visiting for a spell. I hadn’t been back since Bubba held his grand reopening after buying the place from Leroy, Slim’s cousin. The old store had a long history beginning with Slim’s grandfather.
Slim ultimately ended up with the store, running it more as a hobby than a moneymaker. It was a great place for the local hunters and fishermen to hang out, and I tried to drop in whenever I was in the old neighborhood. As Slim put it, he only kept the place so the reprobates and ne’r-do-wells had a place that would let them in.
Leroy inherited the old store after Slim passed away, but he couldn’t make a go of it. Then Bubba bought the place. He said he wanted it because he knew he would always have a full cup of coffee and a place to go where there was no TV. He kept Leroy on as manager.
Not only was the old building sans TV, but the nearest air conditioning was across the road in some of the houses being built on Johnson’s old farm. Johnson had sold his family farm to a big developer from Charlotte right before Slim died.
It was rumored that the same developer wanted to buy the store from Bubba to make it into a New York deli. When I asked Bubba about that, he laughed and said, “Do you think we really need a deli out here? Most of our customers like sardines and hoop cheese. A deli would scare ’em to death.”
We were sitting on the front porch drinking the iced tea Leroy had made to go with lunch. Strangely, we were the only ones there that day. Usually, on Saturday, the old store’s front porch rocking chairs would be crowded with people from all over the area.
“I’ll tell you when,” Bubba finally replied to my heat question. “You see Johnson’s pond across the road? Or what’s left of it after those developers finish messing up what was a beautiful, Angus beef cattle pasture? Back in the summer of ’66 I saw catfish crawling out of that pond to find some shade under those ancient oak trees. It was that hot.”
“Right,” I replied. “Bubba, I thought Slim was the champion exaggerator. Boy, you’re worse than he ever was. Must have something to do with owning this old place.”
“It’s the truth, Coot. You know what else? I believe this country has been taken over by a bunch of whiners. Just take today, for example. Here we are sitting out on this delightful porch all by ourselves. Where is everybody else? Hiding at home in air conditioning at 72.6 degrees watching the weather channel explain to them how miserable they are and that they should not go outside because they might break into a sweat.
“That’s the trouble with us now. Too much communication. And it’s all bad news. I’m thinking of getting rid of all my TVs. Now answer truthfully, Cooter. Are you miserably hot?”
“Well, I could stand to be a little cooler,” I replied.
“Good Night, Nurse! We’re in the South. Remember? Just think back to when you were a kid, Coot. I know it’s hard, it was so long ago. The only buildings air conditioned in those days were movie theaters and maybe a couple of high-class restaurants.
“Look at your old home place down in South Carolina. It was built for the summer: high ceilings, tall windows, and a great columned rain porch across the front and a sleeping porch on the north side for naps. It faces east to west to get the prevailing winds and was built high off the ground so it had its own cooling system.
“On top of that, it’s located in the low country, a place not known for cool summer breezes. You didn’t hear people whining about the heat in those days.
“I swear, Cooter, I’m gonna get Leroy to bring the big fan out and hook it up on the porch. You’re getting soft in your old age. I wouldn’t be surprised if you didn’t put an air conditioner in your old Bronco.”
Bubba went inside to confer with Leroy. Hmm, I thought, an air conditioner in the Bronco is really not a bad idea.
Contact Tom Bryant at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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