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Was it really ‘ice’ for sale?

This time of year my thoughts always go back to the old green farmhouse of my youth. My grandparents worked hard and never seemed to know there was any other way, but everyone in the community didn’t share their work ethic. My grandparents toiled in the fields to make a living, but their neighbor down the road was another story.

I was so proud that I had my drivers’ license and could run errands and scoot around a little. That license was a right of passage. It gave me a sense of pride and self-sufficiency; I was on my way to being a grown up.

When Mamaw asked for someone to go and get a bag of ice for our crew of thirsty folks I was extremely glad to oblige. In fact, I almost jumped at the chance, literally. I practically ran to our old Ford feeling the thrill of independence.

We usually purchased all of our items at Alma’s Country Store. I think she may have been a distant cousin, but it’s hard to tell because everyone in the county called my Papaw cousin Carroll. He was such a friendly sort that he was loved by all who knew him, and he could rake up kin even if he had to work hard to do it. He had a way of making everyone feel special, but I digress.

I realized that I had seen a sign on the neighbors’ shack in his yard advertising ice. His house was a much shorter drive than it was to Alma’s so I could make it back with the ice in record time! Then everyone would see how responsible and resourceful I could be. They were sure to send me on errand after errand once I proved myself so I opted for the neighbors’ shack.

Somehow, I never had a thought that it was a little odd for the neighbor to be selling ice from a shack in his yard. I wheeled into their yard and strolled right up to the shack. The door creaked as I entered. The hair on the back of my neck started to stand up when I noticed several people inside the smoke filled room. I didn’t really understand the feeling, but it’s what I called the creeps. Something wasn’t right, but I had no idea what it was.

Innocently, I asked the lady with heavy makeup for a bag of ice. She looked at me incredulously and burst out in guffaws of hearty laughter. Her raspy voice yelled out. “You hear that, fellas! The little lady is looking for a bag of ice! Does anybody have any ice for sale?”

I spoke quietly, “The sign outside says ice. I thought I could buy it here.”

“We’re fresh out, honey,” the dark-haired lady said with a cackle.

I backed out slowly, ran to the car and went back to Mamaw’s house with no ice. I was so upset by the turn of events. They sent someone else for ice, and told me what a dangerous thing it was to go where I didn’t have permission. How was I to know the neighbors sold bootleg whiskey?

Jan Penton Miller can be reached at lilsisjan@yahoo.com.