I was at our local Braum’s store for milk and eggs, ’cause I found out the dang things don’t grow on trees since Mrs I’m Going Home, up and went home. These stores are local to Kansas and the surrounding states to the South and have really good dairy and produce. I found myself stalled in front of the dairy case, peering at the expiration dates of milk. The wife had cautioned me to be careful because the sneaky little guys that set the milk out, push the old stuff to the front. And of course, my eyes can’t see the tiny little print, so out come the glasses and the next thing you know, you’re smearing up the dairy case with your nose prints.
As I was saying, I was looking the milk over, and a spry older gentleman sidled up to the case and opened the door. He nodded at me and made the comment “There’s only one milk to buy, whole milk.” I think he mistook my milk peering with indecision on what to get. He continued “Yup, whole milk,” as he grabbed a gallon jug. “Drank it all my life and I’ll take fresh from the cow when I can get it.” I smiled and nodded my agreement, grabbing a half gallon of whole milk myself. He gave me a nod of approval and headed towards the checkout. I followed him after carefully confirming the expiration date was in the happy zone.
As I approached the counter, he ignored the checkout girl, turned to me and said “Was born in 42 and we got electric in 49 and boy, we were in business then.” I was surprised at the late date of power acquisition, and asked him where he grew up, and why it took until 49 to get electricity out to the barn. He said it was in some tiny little town Northwest of here. “Yes sir, got electric in 49, and then we moved.” He hung his head at this revelation. “Didn’t have electric then and let me tell you, it’s a treat to milk 32 cows by lantern.” By this time the slack jawed checkout girl was looking somewhat incredulous in our conversation, and a few other somewhat oldsters were leaning our way, trying to pick up what we were talking about. I smiled again and shook my head in wonder. He nodded the last time and headed out to his truck. Miss I’m Too Cool For This, gave me a look and stated “That was nice” but in the ironic form. I gave her my best baleful stare and said, “Mind your elders, they’ll drop pearls of wisdom on you without even trying, you might learn something.” She just rolled her eyes and handed me my change. I left her with the standard “kid, you got no idea” and headed out the door.
I mused, while walking out to my truck, that you go to town to pick up some milk and you end up getting served a delicious slice of nostalgic Americana, hot out of the oven. Ranchers, farmers, small town businessmen and tradesmen, all will bless you with some serious meat knowledge, quite often on the spur of the moment and ribald in nature. Lest you think I am some back country rube, I have rubbed elbows with citizens on the mean streets of Phoenix and St. Paul and that was instructional in how to deal with the fast pace of people that don’t have time or the inclination to trade anecdotes of days gone by. I mean, how many stories are you going to get from accountants or investment bankers. Hmm, let me rethink that. I’m sure they’d have something to say about how to get the best of somebody financially and have a few laughs on how to get the best bang for your buck when bribing Mr Corrupt City Councilmen, so yeah, they have their own stories to tell. As an aside… I do recall, while working in Phoenix, the best way to insure your wiring met the electrical inspector’s approval, was to leave a C-note in the circuit box. Small residential jobs, you could get by with a half yard somewhere where the dude checking your work would find it. If you’re wondering how to fit a half yard in an electrical panel, it’s slang for $50. So that makes $100 a whole yard, or your standard C-note. On big jobs, it could require 3 yards or more coming out of your pocket and into what ever regulatory body that has their filthy little hands out. Keep in mind, not everybody was bribable, just most of them. Kind of got sidetracked there, but lots of stories out of some not so savory characters. One does what one has to, to be entertained and educated when you’re working in the big city.
Next time you’re out and about, put your stupid smart phone in your pocket and look around. Smile and say hello to the people around you and let them bend your ear for a bit. Although if they start talking about their medical problems, run. It might surprise you what they start chatting about. Think of this as training for when you get to the point where everybody needs to get off your lawn. Although for me, that point was about 8 years ago, so you guys got lots of catching up to do. Now, get off my lawn.