Saying goodbye to Jerry Jones
Some time ago I shared a story here about a man from the big city who was driving through the country when a billy goat jumped into the road and collided with his car. He had never seen a billy goat before, so he went into a rural feed store to report what had happened.
“I just ran over something and I don’t know what it is,” he frantically explained to a group of old fellows gathered there.
“Well, what did it look like?” one of the fellows asked.
The city slicker said: “It had a hard head, a great big belly, and it was the ugliest thing I’ve ever seen.”
One of the old fellows jumped up and said, “Lordy mercy, you’ve run over my mother-in-law.”
That’s a picture of the world Jerry Jones lived in for many years as the owner of a rural feed store in rural Kentucky where old farmers gathered daily to tell their tall tales and to pass the time.
Jerry died a couple weeks ago, and, as a result, we lost a walking, talking piece of Americana. He was an honest-to-goodness character. As a storyteller, he had an easygoing way about him, drawing out details of whatever yarn he was spinning. His listeners knew a punchline would be coming soon enough.
I have said here before that there’s no better place in the country than the local feed store for those who love comedy. It’s here you’ll hear stories so funny that, try as you might, you just can’t hold the laughter in.
Hangouts like that, with farmers sitting around on rainy days catching up on the latest gossip, truly are pure Americana. The big chain stores have run many such stores out of business. Jerry’s store closed down a few years ago, despite his best efforts to keep it going.
He went head-to-head with the likes of Tractor Supply, Rural King and Southern States, but he ultimately lost the fight. Now only a vacant, rusting building remains to mark the place where those great storytellers used to loaf.
The closing of that feed store was a huge loss to our community. It was, in a very real sense, an American institution.
Jerry ran his feed store based on a key biblical principle: that prices should be fair to both the seller and buyer.
That principle is found in Leviticus 25:14. It says, “If thou sell ought to thy neighbor or buyest ought of thy neighbor’s hand, ye shall not oppress one another.”
As a hobby farmer with a few head of cattle, a horse or two, and a pack of hounds, I’d stop in Jerry’s store for feed. It always took a while because buying from Jerry was more than a simple transaction. It was an experience.
It was a place where loafing neighbors talked of cattle, crops, billy goats and mothers-in-law. And Jerry was always right in the middle of all that banter, serving as the referee.
We have missed that feed store. Now, we’re missing the man who ran it.
Reach Roger Alford at firstname.lastname@example.org or (502) 514-6857.
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