Bartering may be “old style” in the U.S., but I think that’s just in cities. Because in the country, a lot of bartering still goes on. The countryside … where the cows outnumber people and only the horses look fat and happy.
“I’ll write your brochure if you’ll frame a couple of pictures.” Done!
“I’ll clean your kennel if you’ll groom my Scottie.” Done!
But then there are the old-fashioned people. “I’ll plow your driveway because you are a member of our church, even though you never show up. How about I dig you out — and you come to church this Sunday?” A bargain is a bargain. He didn’t require we come every Sunday, right?
“Sweetie, I’ll buy your prom dress and all the trimmings. All I want from you are a couple of hours to take some nice pictures of you all dressed up and ready to go.” Done and done! Until she decides to not go to the prom at all (long story).
“God? Hello up there? If you make my cancer go away, I’ll attend church every week. Forever!” Unfortunately, God didn’t say anything. Fortunately, cancer was remitted by surgery.
When you negotiate with The Big Guy Up There, you’ve got to hope he’s listening. Faith is the coin of exchange. You believe, he delivers. Or not.
Personally, I think one, loud, direct, incontrovertible Word from The Big Guy would go a long way to turning this nasty old world of ours into a better place, especially if accompanied by a major smiting. The “blind faith” thing is getting a bit old.
I had a disturbing and rather depressing (brief) conversation with the exterminator a couple of days ago. He happily reported that we had killed (poisoned … yes … we poisoned them because we tried all the nice ways of getting them to move on and they came right back) as well as the big carpenter ants. It doesn’t mean we won’t get more mice or more ants because we live in the woods. It’s a package deal. You get to live in Hobbiton, but you also get the critters who live in the woods.
I mumbled about living in a more civilized location and he pointed out that I’d just be exchanging ants for cockroaches and mice for rats, which didn’t sound like all that great either.
I remember when we lived on Beacon Hill — yes, snobby little Beacon Hill — and we had the worst, biggest, healthiest cockroaches you have ever seen. They came with the 300 years old house and I swear they had been living there for all 300 years, too. We had all our things gassed in the moving truck so we wouldn’t take them with us to the new house.
We got two healthy young cockroaches in the donuts from Dunkin’ Donuts, so we killed the roaches and stopped buying donuts. I think we totally lost all taste for donuts at that point.
We had plenty of ants when we lived in Boston, but no rats or mice. Ants are ubiquitous: no matter where you live, the ants will find you. On the other hand, we also had cats and I suspect they took care of the other problem.
When we moved out of Boston into the country, we merely exchanged critter for other critters. Our conversation, the exterminator and me, moved on from what kind of critters were going to take up residence in our house to how likely we were to get into a nuclear war. He was an unenthusiastic Trump guy and to my amazement, we had a relatively civilized conversation. He wasn’t trying to convert me and I wasn’t trying to convince him. He pointed out that in such an event, ONLY the cockroaches would survive.
You can’t kill roaches.
When Garry worked at Channel 7, they suffered from rats. Big, mean hairy rats from the docks. The station was pretty close to the water. The rats used to walk calmly up the marble steps, slide under the door and ramble on into the station. It was a bit breath-taking. They weren’t afraid of any of the people watching them stroll up the steps, all our mouths literally hanging open.
Garry knew about the rats, but he said the two-legged ones were really worse than the four-legged ones and sometimes, he had trouble telling the difference.
In the spring, I’ll have to sign up again with the exterminators. It is one of the unavoidable things about living in the country. If you ignore the critters, they multiply and eventually, you realize that you are but one, while they are many. Rich or poor, if you live in the country, things that live out in the wild will want to share your warm and cozy home.
Pick your exterminator with care and remember, you cannot rehome mice. They always come back.
I live in Easton, Connecticut, a small town of about 8000 people. We are proud of our rural, suburban character and our many acres of protected fields and woods. Many of us cling to our strict residential only zoning laws because we want to preserve the beauty and character of our town.
There is no main street or any street at all for that matter. But there are several working farms in town. There are also four farm stands that have expanded into larger, more diverse stores. In addition, we have an old inn that is now just a breakfast and lunch restaurant.
We have also had two general stores since the 1920’s or 1930’s. Recently, these two stores have modernized. One, The Easton Village Store, became a deli that also sells pizza and some essential grocery items.
The other just reopened after a major transformation and is now my favorite place in town. It’s called Greiser’s after the two generations of store owners. I remember Greiser Sr. from my childhood. The Post Office was part of the general store and Mr. Greiser was both postmaster and store manager.
I was thrilled as a kid that my grandfather would let me hold the mail when we went to the post office. But I was nervous that I might drop some of it into the pickle barrel that sat between me and the post office boxes.
When the son, Richard (my age) took over the store around the 1980’s, he petitioned the town to move the post office into its own room, attached to the store. After much wrangling with the zoning board, he was finally granted a zoning variance and the Post Office declared its independence!
Richard continued to sell a smattering of supermarket items. He also had a small deli counter and sold lots of sandwiches to workmen in the area.
But his real passion was ‘antiques’ – old stuff, the kind of items which are closer to junk than heirlooms. He collected lots of old stuff and started a side business. He had interesting things like an old gas pump, old phones and typewriters and a full-size carousel horse I adored!
A sad aside – Richard was divorced and subsequently fell in love with the Post Office manager. They married and were very happy together for many years. Then she died suddenly from a massive heart attack in the post office, right next door to her husband.
Richard has recently decided to retire and neither of his two children wanted to take over running the store. So he rented the front rooms of the store and kept the back room for his antiques.
The woman he rented to, Adriane, decided to totally reinvent the space. She turned it into a ‘gourmet’ country store and coffee shop. It also sells miscellaneous items like candles and soaps, blankets and aprons and trendy teas. It has a distinctly upscale country vibe.
The décor is warm, comfortable and rustic. There are places to sit down to enjoy your coffee, both inside and out, in an armchair or at a table. And there is still friendly conversation, with Adrianne and with other customers. The experience is still small-town intimate.
But the food is high-end city. The refrigerator section houses vitamin waters, fancy cheeses, cultured butter, frozen pasta and packed, marinated vegetables. The teas and coffees served are in the cappuccino, macchiato, espresso, matcha and chai latte vein.
The baked goods are delicious croissants – almond for sweet and bacon and egg, ham and cheese and spinach and ricotta for savory. The cakes and muffins are flavors like orange spice, morning-glory, and almond poppy-seed. The ‘sandwiches’ are paninis, like Brie and fig preserves on whole grain, locally baked bread.
The funny thing is that The Easton Village Store and Greiser’s are no more than two miles apart. But they are in and represent, two totally different demographics. They are worlds apart.
The Village Store is in the one-acre zoned part of town, which is more suburban and middle class. It’s food tastes run more toward the deli and salad counter at the local supermarket. Simple and traditional. Greiser’s is in the three-acre zoning area and is more rural and upper middle class. Food tastes here run more high-end urban. More Whole Foods than Shoprite.
I’m thrilled with the new Greiser’s. I love the vibe and the food. I’ll be even more excited when their chef (yes, they have a real chef) starts making cooked meals for dinner take-out.
I never thought I would be able to sit in a comfy chair and enjoy a cappuccino or latte just one mile from my home! (I tried making them at home but without a foam machine, it doesn’t really work).
So one small part of my town is slowly inching its way into a more urban, 2018 food culture. Easton now has a place to go with atmosphere, personality, and charm as well as good food and good conversation. Now I can have a touch of urbanity in my otherwise rural life.
“You’re from the city,” said the guy in the overalls. He was crouched under the sink in the bathroom, quite a feat for such a big guy. At the moment, he was paused … meaningfully. I knew I was going to feel like a fool the moment he started talking.
“Never had a well before?” One eyebrow was raised. Always a bad sign.
“We’re from Boston,” I said, vaguely embarrassed by the admission.
“Yup. Condensation. Well water’s cold, air’s wet so everything else is wet too. Perfectly normal, ayup. That’s the way it is, out here. In the country.”
“Oh.” I am rendered speechless. Some version of embarrassment. Around here, I hesitate admitting that I’m “from the city.” It’s the pitying looks that follow. They slay me.
Turns out, it’s raining. Indoors. Anyplace in the house not air-conditioned is sodden.
The dogs refused to go out this morning, preferring the back porch. It’s a lot dryer than the ground everywhere else. I can’t believe this ugly weather. I was miserable when it was cold and wet, but now it’s hot and wet. Which turns out to be worse. Who’d have thunk it?
“So, is there anything I can do? I mean to prevent having pools of water all over the house? Can’t be good for the floors.”
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