Old America

Anyway, I stopped at a local gas station for some coffee. Only, it wasn’t really a “gas” station. The proper term is: “filling station.” There’s a difference you know.

I am driving through Everytown, USA. Kids are riding bikes along a street that weaves by brick storefronts. A boy rides past me. He has baseball cards on his bicycle spokes. I can hear the glorious sound his wheels make. And I am sucked backward into childhood.

I hope this nation never stops putting baseball cards to bicycle spokes

But then, maybe we already have. Baseball cards are a thing of the past. Young folks quit collecting them long ago—I heard this tidbit on the news.

As a boy, I had shoeboxes full. I had my father’s ‘52 Bob Feller—The Heater from Van Meter. And a ‘57 Hank Aaron.

I wonder if today’s kids know about Hank “the Hammer” Aaron.

Anyway, I stopped at a local gas station for some coffee. Only, it wasn’t a “gas” station. The proper term is: “filling station.” There’s a difference, you know.

A gas station is found along interstates. A filling station has old men sitting out front. If you’re lucky, those old men are boiling peanuts.

The young man running the register was twenty years old. He had one semester left at Auburn. He was your all-American kid, and he looked like the kind who knows about baseball cards on bicycle spokes.

He glanced at my coffee. “Aw, you don’t want THAT coffee,” he told me. “It’s four hours old.”

Before I could say another word, he dumped the coffee and made a fresh pot.

They don’t do this at interstate “gas” stations.

I hope this nation never loses filling stations.

I browsed the aisles while coffee brewed. My eyes lit up when I found things from my childhood. Candy cigarettes, taffy, and a few other things that reminded me of the days spent catching fireflies.

I paid and left. I waved goodbye to the old men sitting out front. One gentleman was whittling a stick.

I hope this nation never stops whittling sticks.

And I passed the heart of the rural world. The open country. A place where being a farmer is still a viable occupation. An honorable one. This is a part of old America, where grade-schoolers know the difference between a bushel and a passel, where daylight saving time still makes sense.

I stopped on the Florida line to buy a Powerball ticket. I did this because I come from a long line of Lottery Ticket Men.

The man behind the counter was chewing tobacco, watching a small television.

“What’s the Powerball up to?” I asked.

“One-eighty,” he said. “Good time to get a ticket if you got the gumption.”

I have plenty of gumption.

I drove the byways that cut across the sprawling fields of green, the sleepy hamlets, and the Amber Waves of Grain. I saw a hand-painted sign by the highway that read: “Tomatoes.”

A crooked dirt road led to a mobile home seated on a million acres, with a tin vegetable stand. Nobody was manning the stand. There was only a jelly jar full of money, with a sign, reading: “Money go’s rite here.”

I hope this nation never stops selling tomatoes via the Honor System.

Finally, I arrived at my cousin’s. His kids were glad to see me. My cousin’s wife is out of town. Supper was left up to us men folk—tomato sandwiches, and Oreos, and glasses of milk.

After supper, we watched neighborhood kids play in the yard. They played American games. Red Rover. Tag. Hide and seek. They chased bugs until the sun went down.

Then, children came to the porch, out of breath, stinking of sweat. Someone suggested riding bikes. It might have been me who suggested this.

The kids went nuts. “CAN WE RIDE OUR BIKES, DAD?!”

My cousin frowned at me. “Now see what you did?”

“PLEASE, DAD!”

“Okay,” he said. “But ONLY to the end of the street.”

“Wait,” I said to the kids. “I have something for your bikes.”

I handed them a gift. My cousin looked at the package and smiled. “Where in the WORLD did you find baseball cards?” he asked.

It doesn’t matter where.

I wish you could hear those beautiful bicycle spokes ring.

29 comments

  1. Zoe Ann - July 30, 2018 6:50 am

    WOW. The sound of baseball cards on spokes. Thank you.

    Reply
  2. Pamela McEachern - July 30, 2018 6:55 am

    You made some great memories with those kids. I loved your idea of sharing those baseball cards!

    Peace and Love from Birmilngham

    Reply
  3. Betty Green - July 30, 2018 7:30 am

    I can still smell the grass damp with dew on those summer evenings of playing outside at dusk. I can still remember the itchy feeling of grass on my bare shoulders when it was time to come inside! I can hear the murmur of voices of the adults as they recalled their own memories while sitting on the front porch.

    And, about those baseball cards… well, the boys I knew kept them locked up tight in their treasure boxes ! Instead we used our mothers’s bridge cards to make our bicycle spokes click and clatter as we sailed down the street with wind blowing through our hair!

    May you always write your stories that stir our packed away memories. It feels good to be in touch with the sweetness of life as we knew it once upon a summer’s night so long ago!

    Just a girl from Alabama who grew up in Middle Georgia!

    Reply
  4. Karen - July 30, 2018 8:41 am

    My heart. It makes me so happy to know that Mayberry really exists.

    Reply
  5. GaryD - July 30, 2018 9:48 am

    I haven’t seen kids play Red Rover, Mother May I, tag, hindgo seek, as kids in my day said it, or sing Buffalo Gal won’t you come out tonight, since….I was a kid. Great times growing up in Mobile. What I would give to be young again…Thanks for the great memories, Sean.

    Reply
  6. van mitchell - July 30, 2018 10:27 am

    Got to have clothes pins to attach those baseball cards

    Reply
  7. Edna B. - July 30, 2018 11:45 am

    Thanks for the awesome memories. Yup, my brother and I had baseball cards in our bike spokes too when we were kids. Gosh, today’s kids missed out on all the wonderful fun we used to have. I agree, you gave those kids an awesome memory. Sean, you have a wonderful day, hugs, Edna B.

    Reply
  8. Jane Henderson - July 30, 2018 12:06 pm

    Sean, my oldest son and I collected Nolan Ryan BB cards back in the 80s and 90s. We just passed them on to his 11 year old genius. (Aren’t all first born Grands geniuses? ). He’s a serious collector so he and I are now on a mission together. Sure is a sweet feeling. Thanks for your post today.

    Reply
  9. Geneva Chandler - July 30, 2018 12:14 pm

    And good luck on the Lottery Ticket.

    Reply
  10. Diana - July 30, 2018 12:30 pm

    I’ve listened to a few of your wonderful podcasts & I hear your voice as I read your posts. Posts so descriptive & well written that I really feel like I’m right there, seeing, hearing, & enjoying all the simple pleasures. Thank you.

    Reply
  11. Nancy Payne - July 30, 2018 12:31 pm

    Loved this one! Like you, hope we don’t lose the “old America”…

    Reply
  12. Jack Darnell - July 30, 2018 12:46 pm

    Yeah, I like ‘Filling Stations’ me ‘n a lot of folks were raised with ’em. Last one I saw was in Vermont, methinks, at Hemming’s Motor news.

    Reply
  13. Carol - July 30, 2018 1:22 pm

    I can’t remember when that person was that use to come out and fill your tank, ck your oil ,wipe your windows and tell you to come back and see us ya hear after giving us our change!
    Now you have “Loves”. It’s like a dang Mall !
    Jerry my son- in -law likes the coffee there,my daughter Debbie likes the Frappe at McDonalds and you guessed it …I like the bathroom!!
    Happy Trails!!
    Love ya!!

    Reply
  14. Nix LaVerdi - July 30, 2018 1:23 pm

    Your stories always come at the right time, for me
    My son and I are headed back east, in one week.
    We are staying with our Grandma, where porches are grand and there are no fences separating the neighbors.
    She has a box there, waiting for me to look through.
    It is a box of my late brother’s things. My brother passed away 7 months ago, in his home, back east.
    My grandma said, “When you get here, go through his things. I know there are his old baseball cards in there.”
    Growing up, that is what I remember my brother doing, collecting baseball cards. I remember the little stick of pink gum he got with every pack of cards.
    I always asked him if I could have the gum.
    I remember he would call a friend on the phone and ask if they wanted to come over and trade baseball cards.
    In one week, I will see a few of his MANY card collections. He had them all.
    My brother was 45 years old when he passed, still young.
    Thing is, in his heart he was still just a kid.
    Your stories come at the right time. This was my childhood, too.

    Thank you Sean for reminding me that we are all connected.

    –Nix

    Reply
    • shanatproctorgmailcom - July 30, 2018 2:21 pm

      Nix, I am so sorry for your loss. I’m glad you have such good memories of your brother. Safe travels back home.

      Reply
  15. Jack Quanstrum - July 30, 2018 2:55 pm

    It’s great to hear about old America, but the digital age sure has changed things. Something lost, something gained. I am thankful to have grown up when I did. Your story reminds me of sweet memories!

    Reply
  16. Sue Riddle Cronkite - July 30, 2018 3:29 pm

    Great story about how it used to be. Precious memories. Where DID you find the baseball cards?

    Reply
  17. Marinan Brewer - July 30, 2018 4:35 pm

    talking my language,now—Tks

    Reply
  18. Shelton Armour - July 30, 2018 6:17 pm

    Nice touch for the kids and their bikes, Sean. I’m glad that still lives on too.

    Reply
  19. Rebecca Souders - July 30, 2018 6:44 pm

    I enjoy your words. Mr. Vernon was my husband and he passed just that quietly and just that bravely. Coming up on four years without him and I still consider myself lucky. I just wish I’d said that to him more often.
    We used playing cards on our bike spokes.
    Thanks. Keep writing.

    Reply
  20. June - July 30, 2018 6:54 pm

    Good memories…

    Reply
  21. Joe.Allen Turner - July 30, 2018 6:55 pm

    Fireflies??? We called them LIGHTENING BUGS. When I was a child, our neighbor, an old lady born in 1869, said that when she was a young girl they caught lightening bugs and put them between their light dresses and their petticotes and watched them light up, I am now 86, so that was a long time ago.

    Reply
    • Ellen - July 30, 2018 10:33 pm

      I’ve been teaching my Atlanta grandchildren to say “light’nin bugs” the right way. I’m guessing you didn’t really call them fireflies either, did you?

      Reply
  22. Alice Morgan - July 30, 2018 7:07 pm

    Really enjoyed this one today. I’m from Georgia & have lived in California over half my life. Reading this brought back many wonderful memories.

    Reply
  23. Janet Mary Lee - July 30, 2018 7:12 pm

    I can not help but shed a tear on this one! I used playing cards and clothes pins as the boys in the neighborhood got the baseball cards, and we girls got the gum! Except a few times if a favorite player came up, then we got a card to put next to our key roller skates! I love that Cracker Barrel carries some of those “old” things! Like ribbon paper with those sugar dots, though the dots are bigger, and Sky bars, where I had to eat the chocolate one last, and Charlie Chips, though the old truck no longer stops at the house once a week, after the ice cream truck. So many memories that some kids will just never have.Even my Grandkids, who were lucky enough to have some of these memories and traditions seem to be pushed out of them too soon by society and peers. How lovely to read your words. You are something else! (To quote a gifted writer!) You make my day, and then some!!! 🙂

    Reply
  24. Bruce Kile - July 31, 2018 12:26 am

    Hey Sean, I loved remembering baseball cards in the spokes of our bikes. I’m 80 years old & shudder to think there must be (at least) 3 generations who have never experienced such fun. BTW, you forgot to mention the clothes pins.

    Reply
  25. Cynthia - July 31, 2018 1:40 am

    You just took me back 46 years back when we rode our bikes all over the community. Down to the 2 stores at the xroads, one store med (my grandpa one) always playing checkers others outside whittling. The other store my Aunt in her kitchen cooking up something, boiling peanuts, backing biscuits. Always buying the candy there. Us kids riding bikes with the cards on the spiked with stolen close pins off mama and grandmas line. I needed this today, thanks you really helped today.

    Reply
  26. Mary Ellen Hall - August 6, 2018 2:04 am

    LOVE THIS, Sean!! SO HEARTWARMING!!!❤
    Brought back SO MANY CHERISHED MEMORIES!!
    THANKS, Mary Ellen

    Reply
  27. Debbie - August 9, 2018 9:47 pm

    Brought back memories of my childhood!!😊

    Reply

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