Thursday, April 15, 2010

The true harbingers of spring

Not a springtime dawns without my fondly revisiting memories of Grover C. Hughes.

I can't say I ever really knew Grover, although I might have seen him many times when I was a child. He operated a little farm supply store right next to the railroad tracks in my hometown; the store sat across the street from a big, red brick feed mill.

Grover Hughes's store was a fun place to visit anytime. He had a variety of gardening tools, I believe, and of course he sold seeds; all the merchandise was arranged rather tightly on shelves that ran along the walls of the place. My memories are fuzzy; I know that it always reminded me of an old general store from ages past, sort of dark inside, everything made of wood, and the whole place contained in a long, narrow room that ran the length of the first floor of the building it inhabited. Going there was a fun diversion any time of the year.

But the most delightful part of Grover's little shop arrived with the balmy winds of the vernal equinox: on that breeze came the spring chicks.

Grover's old building featured big, deep windows on either side of the entryway, his shop's display space if you will, and that is where he kept the chicks. Because the windows were so large and level with the sidewalk, a little kid could see right into them with ease. Climbing the steps into the store afforded an equally close view, and once inside? There was no barrier other than the foot-high wooden partition that held the newly hatched babies in safety.

We had a clear view into those front window compartments, even from our family car as we drove past, and each spring we would watch for the telltale fluffy yellow window-dwellers. Then, we'd park the car and hurry in to gawk and pet.

I think I recall a few little ducklings mixed in there, too. I can't remember if we ever bought any; I don't believe we did, although I'm certain my sisters and I begged relentlessly each new hatch season. It was enough, really, just to be that close: to hear the sweet peep-peep sound those tiny creatures issued forth, to pet a tiny fluffball, to watch the beady-eyed cuties scurry around their sunlit window home.

I'm sad to say that Grover's store has stood empty for many years now, that the feed mill across the street burned to the ground some time ago; the rebuilt structure is so stubby, plain, and functional, it doesn't hold a candle to the stalwart beauty that stood in its place when I was small. Things change. Fires happen. Store owners grow old and close their doors forever.

But I still steal a glance at Grover's empty windows with a spark of hope every time I drive by that place.


chris h. said...

Would you believe I've never held a peep or duckling! Such a sweet memory to have. We have fond memories of "the little store" down the street from us -- the precursor to the convenience store that sold a treasure trove of penny candy, popsicles, and Hostess cakes (oh yeah, and boring stuff like bread and milk). I can close my eyes and hear the squeaky screen door and see the tiny, jam-packed place.

Unknown said...

This post brought back fond memories, as I lived just up the street from the Grover C. Hughes store. You captured the scene -- and the memory -- so well!

Though my folks moved away from Washington Street, I brought my girls there when we were visiting in Waynesburg for Easter when they were small, maybe 1 and 3. One of my favorite pictures is of them peering in the window at the peeps!

Thanks for sharing. (And now that I'm thinking of it, I'll have to dig that old photo out of the archives.)

Mel said...

yes, the "little stores" hold fond memories. I think Grover's had a squeaky screen door, too! those were well before the days of air-conditioned stores. as if. and Amy, I'd forgotten your proximity to Grover until, gosh, was that 9th grade with the fire and the move? what I remember best about the old house was going there and weeping profusely on the last day of 8th grade. what a silly bunch of girls we were! ; )