Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Thump (05/30/13)
TITLE: Heartbeat of the Community
By Brenda Blakely
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A purchase ended at the thump of Thumpís dark hand hitting the counter with the correct change but the talk could go on for hours. Honesty became a part of her character at an early age, so you knew whatever you heard, it was true and the fact was never disputed to my knowledge. Her family just called her Thump, from the day she was born as far as I can tell.
I knew very little about Thumpís background. Evidence of her management skills, customer relations and value as a neighbor and fellow traveler on this road called life wrote her claim to fame as the proprietor of Thumpís Place.
Formally named the Morningstar Grocery somewhere back in time; the store known as Thumpís Place to local residents served as a landmark for navigation, a break from the long drive back and forth to town, or a gathering place to catch up, stock up and visit. Thump and her husband built the store onto a dwelling that had been there for years.
When I first came to the community, over thirty years ago, the store appeared as a run down building with an attached dwelling place where those-in-need often took up residence with Thumpís blessing. Inside you would find the true story.
Thumpís long community tenure brought together blacks and whites as people; neighbors to share the good times and the bad.
At Thumpís place gas was always high but an out of gas tractor or one of those times I forgot to fill up before I left town and the cost was ignored in lieu of the convenience of close proximity. Besides, I could always pick up my favorite Klondike ice cream bar,
Thump always kept a supply of her neighborsí favorites.
As the middle man for one neighbors glut Thump could fill another manís need. You knew when you needed gas and the only payment you had was eggs, vegetables or your own labor; Thumpís response would further the barter system of rural Mississippi.
Old timers said the young Thump and her sister used to make homemade ice cream and encourage community rumblings under the oak tree across the road from the store site. The shade of the oak tree provided the perfect place for field hands to eat their lard bucket lunches and then consume Thumpís treasure from the churn, rest as the heat of the day passed and transition back into the dayís work.
But all I knew was what I heard and what I could observe.
As the store opened homemade ice cream became the staple that brought folks to the store to purchase carry out lunches. The gas pump had its own special quirks and mechanical challenges. Disabled vehicles often sat in the parking lot, until money could be gotten to make repairs. You knew they were safe and somebody was looking for help to get you up and going.
As Thump began to succumb to the illnesses that finally took her life we noticed subtle changes. Product variety narrowed, conversation dwindled and finally the struggles with gas delivery came to a halt. The landmark was changing.
People in the area tried to help, Thump was not used to anybody doing for her, it had always been the other way around. Some volunteered to keep the store open when her sick bed claimed her day but change came anyway. The day she passed to glory, brought an end to the era of the country store in our community.
Now we gotta go to town for everything and the gatherings that precipitated philosophical musing and neighborly exchanges have lost the Thump of the heartbeat that pulled us together. Thump had made things better for our community and those passing through. But what had I done for her. I realized I had no idea where she would spend eternity. I had just never thought to ask. I had never thought to share openly what God had done in my life.
Driving by the empty store and the dwelling, where Thump taught a daily lesson of life and values to generations of community members, draws up a hint of sadness. Memories etched from visions of a life that has passed canít be taken away from those of us who were lucky enough for regular visits or just a glimpse as we passed by Thumpís Place at the crossroads of Bush Bottom, Old Port Gibson Rd and Life-Thump, heartbeat of our rural community.
Authors note-This embellished story is about a real person, the location is real, but ďall I knew was what I heard and what I could observe.Ē
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