Texts: Jonah 3:1-5, 10; 1 Corinthians 7:29-31
Ray Philbeck’s Country Store was located about a mile from the house that I grew up in. As I have shared with you before, that country store was the first stop my sister and I would make on our way to school each morning. Our breakfast choices were predictable-a Sundrop and honey bun for Allyson; chocolate milk and peanut butter crackers for me. As far as I remember, no money was ever exchanged between Ray Philbeck and me and my sister. Once our breakfast items were displayed on the counter, Ray would simply pull out a box from under the counter, take out a piece of paper on which he would make some notes, and then send us off with a simple reminder to “do good in school.” While my parents still live in the house of my childhood, Ray Philbeck’s Country Store on New House Road has long been boarded up. But the boards that have covered the windows and doors for over two decades now do not shut out the memories I carry of my childhood experiences inside that country store.
As I remember, the store was divided in half by a pot-bellied stove that kept the men who sat around the fire in straight back chairs drinking their morning coffee toasty in the winter months. To the left of the front door were the candy, snacks, and canned food isles. Across the back of the store were all the drink boxes-the kind that had lids that you either slid or lifted. To the right of the front door was a table that held a cheese hoop, a barrel of dill pickles, and a jar of pickled eggs. And just beyond that, to the right, were all the dry goods, fresh vegetables and the basic household items that one might need in an emergency. Ray Philbeck’s store was one of my favorite places to go-especially on Saturdays when my father and I would go there after cutting the grass and doing all of our outside chores for our reward of a coke and a pack of peanuts. And yes, we poured our peanuts into our coke. But possibly my fondest memory about being in that country store was a question that I would get asked at least once a week by one of those men sitting around the stove. Invariably, one of them would look at me and in a gruff but kind voice ask, “Who do you belong to, gal?” My answer was always the same, “I’m Don and Cora Petty’s youngest daughter.” Sometimes my response would elicit a knowing nod. Other times, I would hear, “So, your Don’s girl.” Or “Tell your grandpa Ryburn Buck said hello.” On my way out, I would smile and nod, promising myself I would try to remember to tell my grandpa that Buck said hello.