The General Store, Part 3: Let Me Out of Here! and Part 4 - Eulogy for a General Store.

Monday, April 4, 2016
Dan Wolk – guest author

Parts 3 and 4 of a four-part series.
Click HERE to read parts 1 and 2.

The General Store, Part 3: Let Me Out of Here!

Orginally published on February 19, 2016 in the blog titled Tales of Finding - Wit and Wisdom from Brant Lake

Uploaded Image: /vs-uploads/images/General Store_Brant Lake2.jpgAccording to the Bible, once every seven years a sabbatical year is proclaimed. At that time the land lies fallow and renews itself. Roger and Jane Daby represented a variation on the sabbatical year. Every seven years they put the general store up for sale. If the store was sold they would take a permanent sabbatical and rest from being the dedicated owners of a Brant Lake establishment where they worked from 7 AM to 7 PM. Although they loved the store and Daby’s General Store was a part of them––still, this was not an easy life. However, the seventh year always came and went, the store did not sell and each morning, at 7 AM, Roger also came and went, greeting customers with a smile partially covered by a beard slowly turning gray.On my morning jaunts into town I occasionally toyed with the idea of owning a general store, always ready to supply customers with a number 6 hook for fishing, a bungee cord, a coal bucket, pickles, crackers, potatoes, etc., etc., and so forth. This would be an opportunity for me to live in the past, or at least imagine that I was living in the past. I would be there to meet the stagecoach delivering the weekly mail, tack up notices: “Sheep Shearing At The Washington County Fair.” Somewhere in the back room I would can tomatoes, (although I do not know how to can), and in a shed I would shoe horses, (although I am incapable of even pounding a nail into the wall). The cracker barrel would overflow and I might even stock camphor mixed with goose grease, (the perfect remedy for congestion), a jar of castor oil, herbal medicines from the Mohican Indians who once roamed the land. I would relive a bygone era.

However, reality and my romantic vision collided and over the years I wondered if Roger and Jane really owned Daby’s General Store or the general store owned Roger and Jane. Amazed that the two could maintain an always affable disposition I realized I could never meet this challenge, so I abandoned one more dream in the heart of the woodlands. Then, one day, when I entered the store, I heard a strange cacophonous chorus from behind the deli counter. Voices seemed to emanate from a large carton filled with square wooden boxes, approximately 6” x 6”. On closer inspection I noticed on the surface of each box there was a white, life-like, plastic eye, designed as a human eye and a red button. The sounds had ceased but when I pushed the red button I again heard the noise. It was a voice, repeating over and over, “Let Me Out Of Here! Let Me Out Of Here!” To this day I don’t know if Roger ordered those playful devices or whether they were shipped accidentally. But I wonder if those boxes symbolized a portion of Roger’s spirit that was ready to conclude fulfilling years managing a general store. “Let Me Out Of Here !”, “Time to sell.” “Time to venture into the vast unknown.” “Time to winter in Florida.” Whatever the answer, I bought a dozen boxes to give to acquaintances who, at one time or another, may desire a change in some aspect of there life, (a very human feeling), and whisper, or perhaps shout, “Let Me Out Of Here!”

Do you ever feel that way? I have one box left!

Part 4 - Eulogy for a General Store

Orginally published on February 28, 2016 in the blog titled Tales of Finding - Wit and Wisdom from Brant Lake

Uploaded Image: /vs-uploads/images/General Store_Brant Lake.jpgAugust 1, 2006. 3 AM.

Sirens resonated along the desolate road leading towards the town of Brant Lake; the wailing of a fire engine under a phosphorescent red sky. It had been a dry summer, the danger of a forest fire always imminent. No one wished to consider the other possibility, a house with flames scorching the wooden beams on a windy night. I went back to sleep. In the morning I would hear the news.

As dawn broke I left my house, the smell of smoke lingering in the air, and drove to Daby’s General Store. Someone at the store, the fulcrum for Brant Lake life, would know the details of the fire.

But on that day Daby’s General Store was only charred remains, smoldering ashes and fire hoses from the neighboring firehouse extinguishing the last of the residue. The hallowed store, built by the sons of Judson Barton in 1895, had burned. Roger Daby had finally sold the store several years before and, according to the story, because of an argument in the new owner’s family, the store was burned to the ground. Arson.

”Well,” an old timer said, “we can always go to Chestertown and buy what we need.” Another reflected, ”Someone will come along and build another store.” But no one came. There was talk of a government grant but even if the store could be rebuilt there are not many people who would choose to be a proprietor for a traditional general store.

A bike shop has opened on the other side of the Mill Pond and up the road the Lazy Moose has erected a sign, “General Store,” but, as time has passed, those of us who grew up at Brant Lake realize something special is gone. Forever. A place that was and always would be—or so we thought. It was so much more than weathered clapboards, more than the signs of former owners— Barton’s, Cronin’s, Daby’s. So much more. Now, all that is left, hovering over the forlorn space, are remembrances of more than a hundred years of history. There is an emptiness where Daby’s General Store once stood—and, I must admit, there is an emptiness in the deepest recesses of my heart.

But memories never die. No, the flame of memory can never be extinguished and, whenever I pass the site that once was Daby’s, I pause. I reflect. I remember. And, for a moment, Daby’s is reborn.

As I reminisce and revisit the store that once was, I ask myself, did I realize the importance of the general store , how deeply it had infused the fabric of my being? Then again, is it possible that, too often, we fail to realize how deeply we love a person—or even a general store— until it is too late?

I hope not.

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Uploaded Image: /vs-uploads/images/Dan Wolk.jpg

Dan Wolk is a writer, photographer and world traveler: he has lived with missionaries in Africa and South America, trekked in the Mt. Everest region of Nepal, and hiked among the hill tribes in Thailand and in the Pyrenees. He spends his summers in rural Provence, harvesting lavender, digging for truffles, and photographing the landscape and the charming local markets.

In recent years, Dan has done archaeological field work in Israel, at Tel Dan on the Lebanese border and Tel Miqne, a Biblical Philistine stronghold. With a longtime interest in international affairs, Dan worked for a period of time at the Carnegie Foundation on a Crises Anticipation project concerning projected problems in West Bank-Israeli relations..

Dan is Rabbi Emeritus of Congregational Emanu-El of Westchester in Rye, NY. He is also the longest tenured teacher at School of the Holy Child, an all-girls Catholic school, where he teaches the Humanities.

Dan spends as much time as he can at his home in Brant Lake, NY, which has inspired this blog. 

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