A pile of broken boards that once stood together as Jake's Country Store lie at the bottom of a hill next to a set of old railroad tracks and the Dan River.
Jake's was the only place within twenty miles of my Great Grandmother's house where a kid could load up on candy and soda.
The old, wooden porch featured a perpetual gathering of old men sitting and talking in Jake's rickety rocking chairs.
To me, the men smelled like cigarette smoke and farm machinery.
All of them wore overalls and work boots. Their hats said "John Deere".
As they rocked and talked, the worn porch boards creaked in time with the chairs.
Behind them, the store's screen door exposed more and more of itself each year from underneath its chipping green paint.
Inside there was a room full of shelves filled with dusty items that never seemed to change, merchandise meant for the country farmers that lived in the area.
There was a rack of hats just like the ones the old men on the porch wore.
There were also shoes that had long since gone out of style, boxes of nails and canned goods that seemed to have been put up hundreds of years ago.
Rays of sunshine lit the store through small windows perched high in the rafters.
In my memory, one ethereal ray would invariably throw a spotlight on the long, glass candy counter.
Every sugary delight I could imagine was illuminated.
An old, wooden chair with a wicker seat stood near the counter so we could stand on it to better review the candy selection.
Feverishly, we'd point in all directions and Jake would fill up small, brown, paper sacks for my cousins and me.
With our loot secured, we'd stomp across the bare floorboards to the drink cooler and grab cloudy, green bottles of Coca-Cola.
On our way out, my cousin Cary would look back at Jake and call,
"Put it on my Daddy's tab!"
Jake would smile, tip his hat, mark his ledger and return his thumb to its place under the strap of his overalls.
We'd bust through the aging screen door, scramble down the river bank and sit under the railroad tracks eating ourselves sick.
The next day we'd come down the hill and do it all over again.
All of my life this part of rural Virginia has seemed to exist far in the past, never changing.
There are scores of old log cabins, tobacco barns and hen houses still standing a hundred years after they were constructed.
I guess I believed Jake's store would be immortal too.
Since Jake passed away the building has been torn down and only a heap of wood and my childhood memories remain.
This essay was written in 1986 as a college writing assignment. I found it in my Granny's papers last week. I took the photos around the same time.