The Big-7 was my favorite thing in the little town of Leitchfield, Kentucky. Dimly lit and cool, even on the hottest of summer days, this old fashioned “department store” was the place to go in town if you needed housedresses, overalls, or straw hats. Deep and cavernous, with sloping wooden floors that announced your progress through the store with a symphony of creaks and moans, the Big-7 was the spot to be if you were “in town” on Saturday mornings. The clerks greeted every customer with a cheery “How y’all doin’ today?” and sent you on your way with “Y’all come back now, y’hear!” I always insisted my mother buy something, anything, because I didn’t want to hurt their feelings by leaving the store empty handed. (Actually a pretty smart sales strategy, if you think about it!)
The Big-7 was only one of many things that were different about the country. We visited my mother’s hometown every summer, and the plethora of relatives scattered throughout the countryside was a never ending source of delight for me, an only child growing up in post -WWII suburbia. There were cousins of all ages to play with, and big family dinners every night, the table groaning with fried chicken, homegrown beans, tomatoes, sweet corn, and fresh baked pies heaped with ice cream we took turns cranking out of the wooden ice cream maker.
I loved our visits to the country – with the exception of trips to Aunt Dessie’s house, which lay at the end of a winding one lane road skirting a deep wooded gorge. I was always petrified a car would be coming the other direction and force my dad’s big Buick off the road into that bottomless pit. Once we got there, things weren’t so great either. Aunt Dessie’s house was right across the street from a huge chicken farm, and the odor emanating from that place on a humid summer day was indescribable. Didn’t bother Aunt Dessie, because she’d lost her olfactory sense many years before – in self defense no doubt.
Yep, country life was great – at least for those two or three weeks every summer. By the end of that time, though, I was ready to trade barefooted treks through the hills for concrete sidewalks and my new three speed stingray bike. And after a couple of trips through the aisles of the Big -7, I had pretty much exhausted my interest in Osh-Kosh coveralls and was ready to roam the new indoor shopping mall at home.
There is definitely a romantic sort of appeal to life in the country, and it calls to me every now and then, especially with the pace of life here in the suburbs growing faster and more complex every year. As they say, the grass is always greener…and I’m pretty sure I’d find myself leaving the Big-7 before too long and going in search of a little more variety and excitement – not without buying something first, of course.
for more town and country tales, head on over here