My earliest recollection of going to see my grandparents is playing with my brothers in my Papaw Overton’s General Store.  Mamaw and Papaw lived in the back part of the store.  I still remember the address; 3003 West Pullen, Pine Bluff, Arkansas.  In the summer of 1965 when I was 7 years old, I stayed with them while my parents took one of my brothers on a trip.  My other brother stayed at our other grandparents’ house in Crossett, Arkansas.

One evening after the store closed for the day, I snuck back into the store and took some candy from the candy counter.  I hid the candy under the pillow on my bed.  I thought I was really getting away with something, but Mamaw knew exactly what I had done.  That night as she was putting me to bed she said that I should put the candy on the night stand so that the chocolate would not get into the bed sheets.  And…. don’t take any more candy without telling them.  I thought I was in serious trouble but not another word was said about it.  I loved eating Butter Finger chocolate bars so each day after that I would say, “…getting a Butter Finger” as I passed the part of the store where they kept their records.  I would see Mamaw open the book and make a note. 

In that area where they kept records of the store’s inventory, there was an old safe.  I was fascinated with that safe and would spin the combination dial. That would upset Papaw since he kept the dial one number off the last number so he could open the safe faster.  He would have to get the little ‘secret book’ that had the combination in it and he would have to dial in the combination again.  I ended up inheriting that safe and I still use it today.  It is fascinating to see the art work inside the door, it says “Hall’s Patent 1849”.  As old as the safe is, it still works perfectly. 

The delivery car they had was a 1953 Chevy Station Wagon.  It is funny how my first memory of riding in a car as a toddler was from the front seat of that wagon.  I recall being fascinated with the chrome on the dash while I sat between my Mamaw and Papaw.  No seat belts back then but we survived.  I have been a car nut ever since.  In Papaw’s later years, that wagon became his fishing car who he affectionately called Nellie Belle.  We still call it Nellie Belle today.  My Uncle James got the wagon and restored it then gave it to his son, my cousin, Jimmy.  Jimmy drove it for several years, then gave it to me.  Funny how the very first car I remember riding in is now mine.  I plan to get it in running condition again, drive it and reflect on the good times of my youth. I will have to have a bottle of Coke and a Butter Finger to complete the reminiscing while I drive. 


Back to the store; the summer I spent there I remember it being really hot.  Outside next to the front screen door of the store was a large cooler that was filled with ice and bottles of Coca Cola.  I loved sitting in the shade of the awning drinking a Coke and maybe enjoying a Butter Finger.  Every once in a while Papaw would load up Nellie Belle with groceries and I would tag along while he delivered groceries to some of his loyal customers. 

Papaw would open the store early in the mornings.  There would be quite crowd of people stopping for lunch supplies before heading to work.  I understand that this was the busiest part of the day in the store.  One time I asked if I could work behind the counter to help check people out.  Mamaw said I needed to wait until I was at least 8 years old so I would understand the math needed to run the register.

One day when the store was closed, we packed up Nellie Belle to go fishing at Peckerwood Lake. The john boat was on the roof rack and the back of the wagon was filled with fishing equipment and the boat motor.  I was never a fisherman, my brothers are however.  That trip to the lake I probably scared off more fish than Mamaw and Papaw caught.  I was told many times to “….stop putting the fishing pole into the water, just let the line in, you will never catch fish like that….”  Catching fish was not a priority for me, I was more interested in the boat motor and wondered why we were just sitting in the middle of the lake with the boat motor turned off. After a frustrating day on the lake for my grandparents, we loaded Nellie Belle up for the trip back home in Pine Bluff. 

Early one morning I could hear a rooster crowing in the back yard.  The screened back door opened, then I heard the roar of a 12 gauge shotgun, then silence.  I heard Papaw walk back in, leaned the Model 12 Winchester shotgun in the corner near the door and go back to bed.  Later that day I was in the backyard and saw where the rooster crowed his last.  He was sitting on a fence post, there was a mound of feathers all around that post. 

In the backyard was an apple tree.  I loved to climb the tree and eat an apple or two.  One day I ate several green apples and had a terrible stomach ache later.  Mamaw in all her wisdom said “Well now you know, don’t eat the green apples.”

Behind the back yard was a train track.  I loved to put pennies on the track then go back later to find the flattened pieces of copper.  Mamaw found out what I was doing and told me that putting stuff on the track could make the train wreck. For many years I thought a penny could make a train go off the track.   I think she just did not like for me to hang around the track.

Sunday afternoons was nap time.  I hated nap time since there was so much to do.  I could hear Papaw snoring across the hall from my room and I knew better than to get up, especially after what I heard him do with the rooster.  Funny how the mind of a seven year old works.  Now that I am the age Papaw was then, I look forward to afternoon naps and totally understand why we need nap time. 

In 1969 Mamaw and Papaw closed the store for good and moved a few miles outside of Pine Bluff.  The property they bought was perfect for Papaw, there was a lake behind the back yard.  Papaw loved to fish and spent a lot of time out on that lake.  I think he even knew all the fish by name.