Farmers usually traveled to town twice a year--once in late winter or early spring to buy seeds, supplies, and equipment for spring planting and then in late fall to stock up on staples for the coming winter. What we would consider a short trip of twenty or fewer miles today would be an all-day adventure for those living in the country and was not taken lightly.
Enterprising men, and perhaps a few women, who knew folks longed for not only goods but a friendly face, carved out a niche for themselves. In early days, some carried goods strapped to their back and set out to barter with folks in their community. Later, wagons were outfitted and became "rolling stores," and later still, when diesel engines came into being, they gave way to trucks and buses.
Rolling stores were, as their name implies, stores on wheels that carried a variety of goods. Usually, the rolling-store drivers had designated stops, just as we have school bus stops today. They also had designated days and times so people would know when to meet them. Neighbors gathered, usually under a shade tree during the hot summer months, or around a fire in winter, hours before the rolling store was due to arrive.
Farming families had little money to spare. No fear! Bartering was standard practice. Housewives would save eggs, gather pecans, or tuck back a little of their harvest, such as shelled corn, to be able to purchase a few luxuries. Children, too, would scramble and work extra hard to earn something of value, if only an egg, to exchange for a stick of candy.
Even live chickens were used as barter. On wagons, cages were built beneath to hold them. The buses strapped the cages to the top and also carried tanks that stored kerosene. Folks brought their containers with them to be filled for later use in lanterns and lamps.
All of the saved-up items were exchanged for the kerosene, flour, meal, a bit of material or, luxury of luxuries, premade underwear.
But the rolling store brought more than goods. Tacked on the back were announcements of upcoming church revivals, barn dances, or other festivals. However, the greatest source of news was the driver himself. After making the rounds in the area, he knew all of the latest gossip... er, news.
With no telephone, no television, and no radio, the arrival of the rolling store was a way to connect to others, and therefore, much more than simply the convenience of buying a few goods. Its arrival brought great excitement.
Perhaps many of us are overwhelmed with news and information and long to "disconnect" from it all, thinking it would simplify our lives. However, not having a phone handy to call a family member who is sick or not being aware when a hurricane is imminent might make us rethink our longing for such a time.
Often we become nostalgic for "the good old days," forgetting the hardships and struggles they endured. Each century, even each decade, has its own special challenges but also special blessings. While it's fun to escape and live our lives for a short while through literary characters, most of us are more than happy to return to our own time. Let's live in the moment ... except when we escape into a book!
And speaking of books, check out my Amazon author page. Follow my blog to find out when my next book is due out and for, yes, that all important information and updates. We do live in the day of information!