If I was desperate for chocolate, I would try and ride my trike to the farm store, which was three miles away from our farm. Naked, with my black Scottish Terrier, Squeaky, for company, I would head for the mailbox to get some money. My great-grandfather, Alfred, used to send us cards with a few dollars in it. I would get about ½ mile from the house before my older brother, would be sent to bring me back. There were many times when my parents would leave us for extended periods and we would plan an outing to the farm store for candy. We would go through the couch looking for change and if we all pitched in something we would have enough for each of us to get a treat. We would get on our bikes, weighed down by nickels, dimes, pennies and coveted quarters, and ride the three miles to the store. All of our dogs would come with us, how many canines would differ by the year, but anywhere from 5-10. We were quite a sight riding down the road. It was an easy ride until we got to the White Dog's House. He was a large, vicious mongrel and would run after us biting at our tires. Our dogs would get in fights with him and we would pedal as fast as we could to get away while yelling like gang busters for our dogs to follow us. Then it was over the railroad tracks, through the yard of the unused one-room-school house and into the dirt lot of the Midland Farm Store.
The Midland Farm Store is kind of like a trading post, as they sell everything imaginable for the farm family. You can buy hay, feed for cows, horses, chickens, pigs, get your tire fixed, find a replacement belt for your pants or your engine, pick up a fly swatter, a new set of coveralls and a gallon of milk. The folks who owned the store knew our rag-tag bunch, as we stopped in often for gas and feed, but we were not the good ol' boy crowd who was the usual clientele. It is a store where people didn't come to just shop, but to stand around the counter chewing the fat about the weather, how the crops were fairing, and any decent gossip concerning tractor accidents or illicit affairs. I can still remember their smiles and chuckles as we rode in covered in dust surrounded by a pack of dogs.
The best time to go to Midland was the summer. We had no air conditioning and temperatures in the Kansas summers can often be in the triple digits. There was something so sweet about riding through the summer heat all sweaty and sticky to open the big black door with the old brass handle, where a blast of cool air would envelope and welcome us in. It would smell of hay, tobacco smoke, and rubber and hum with sound of coolers. It wouldn't matter if we had $5 or $.50, we would look at everything the store offered. From the cold pop to the 3 cent Jolly Ranchers, our eyes would take it all in-imagining the feel of the chocolate on our tongues or the fizzy bubbles of the Sunkist. We were already blowing bubbles with our minds, before making our choice, and watching the choices of our siblings, thinking of the swapping that was sure to follow. Thinking that one piece of my Hubba-Bubba was surely worth 10 M&M's, or a bite of that ice cream sandwich. After our selections were made came the hardest part. We lived a fairly sheltered life, and did not have a lot of dealings with folks outside our community. We were all pretty scarred to have to go through the financial transaction process. We would all stand in a huddle fighting over who was going to go and pay for our loot. Remember that we were weighed down with change and there was a piece of math before whoever was going to have to count it all out. Even though I was the fourth child, it was often me who was pushed forward by the others to pay for our treats as I liked talking to people-even strangers. Everyone in the store would stand around and watch as we counted out the sticky change from all of our pockets till we had enough and could escape to the outside to savor our treats. After watering the dogs, we would head back home another three miles happy and content, until we got to The White Dog's House, of course, when our bodies would course with Adrenalin till we left him in the dust.