Come on and tag along with me to the community of Longview in Oktibbeha County.
The day is Oct. 16, 1978. Our car stops right in front and outside of Montgomery Grocery. My three grown children have said to me, “Now Mama, don't call a service station a filling station. That sounds really old fashioned.” Well, I grew up calling where you drive up to get gas a place to fill up, so its a filling station!
Time passes us by and the coo-coo clock on my wall above my computer just ticks and "coo-coos” every half and whole hour. Sometimes in a place like Longview the clock seems to tick by slightly slower, maybe? It is a great community filled with wonderful people.
Let my pencil marks and brush strokes talk to us on this 18-inch-by-24-inch stretched canvas as I begin to tell you of the memory of that day. First, look at the painting as a whole completed piece of work, and then let's begin to really study it for all the details within it. We'll read it left to right starting at the left hand side at the top till we reach the right hand bottom of the canvas.
It has been great to have painted my life's experiences as I have lived my entire life day by day in a place I was raised. I have traveled around the world, and in these United States of America too, but I love my own native town, Starkville, my county, Oktibbeha, and university, Mississippi State University. All three just fit me like a comfortable shoe and have been what I loved and knew best. I painted what I saw right here underneath my own two feet. My native and much beloved Mississippi become a colorful palette and a way of my own expression to myself about who I really am and my own deepest beliefs. It is a great satisfaction to then use my pen and my computer to tell you when, why and where I painted it. I have had a great, fulfilling life for which I am most grateful.
Let's begin by slipping inside with our eyes just behind the glass window. There is a dark background to the left side, and find the little crack in the window pane. See it? I captured a gentleman named Aaron Love dressed in his faded railroad cap, overalls and plaid blue, long-sleeved, checkered flannel shirt. It was at the end of October, and the early morning was almost cold. It was one of the last pleasant days I could go out and paint without freezing to death myself. I bet his warm flannel shirt felt cozy and his heavy overalls were keeping his legs and whole upper body warm, too. Is he going to purchase his pumpkin for a pumpkin pie?
Go on to the shelves stacked with items for sale. Find the electric Coke Cola clock hanging on the wall. I caught only a glimpse of the bottom of this clock. See the black wall (or is it a shelf?). Is it something else within the inside of the store? Next is the glass window panes and the lime green outside almost shining inside. Find the yellow/green bananas ripening as they are hanging on the leaning old reddish/brown post. One bunch of bananas is dangling from maybe the ceiling itself, and the other two bunches are hanging on nails.
Look at the other shapes of stacked boxes and just plain junk inside the grocery store. You decide what they are. It is fun to let your eyes go up and down the front of the window as if we are both flies on the wall inside peeping into the store.
Go back to the left hand side and start looking at all the pumpkins lined up like soldiers on the ledge of the window sill. Find the dark green acorn squash and bright yellow squash mixed in among the bright orange pumpkins. By the vegetables is a faded red and blue sign which reads, "Member of Mississippi Forestry Association 1978." See it? Mississippi is a great forestry state and brings in lots of income for all economically.
Now let's slip outside with our eyes to a window surrounded by a cobalt blue square wooden box and a long large wooden cobalt blue deacon's bench. The bright orange pumpkins and this cobalt blue compliment each other very well. I love these two colors together, don't you? I can just imagine folks down at Longview sitting and loafing for hours just chatting, gossiping about politics and what is going on in this world back in 1978. I can just bet you a whole quarter and I can actually hear them talking now about lots of stories of old times back when and what is the going on right then, and about what might happen in the future. Does this not sound familiar with all of us today?
On the side of the white storefront which almost looks very old wood there is an air hose just hanging on for dear life with a sagging old bent metal holder. Folks would drive up, unscrew the little cap on the tire and pump up their own tire if it seem low at all. Then they would mosey on in the store to get a Coke Cola and a bag of very salty peanuts, pop off the cap on the coke bottle, pour those peanuts inside to watch them float back up to the rim of the top of the bottle and chug-a-lug the soda and the peanuts down into their throats within minutes. I suppose a Coke and peanuts do give one a lift from feeling sluggish in the middle of an afternoon until supper time. Maybe it is the caffeine in the soda that helps too.
At the far right see the old brick pillow of the store. Look for all the shades of reds, browns, grays, blues, purples and oranges within the bricks themselves. All of these colors add personality to the bricks and the store. Have not the bricks aged beautifully? I think so.
I have always loved this laid back painting. It's relaxing and peaceful. The colors speak for themselves as they all blend in together.
These bright orange pumpkins were probably home-grown right here in the Longview and the acorn squash as well. Seeing them made me think of the recipe of Mama's when she baked acorn squash. She put lots of brown and white sugar with globs of butter inside them after she had sliced them into sections. I think she used to scoop out their seeds and all of the sugars and butter and had found a nesting spot while they baked inside the oven. They were delicious. Can you not imagine folks mingling in and out of the old grocery?
Do you feel like you know and love Mr. Aaron Love? I think I do. His personality seems so pleasant and relaxed, too. I just know he must be a lovely gentleman. Is he the owner or is he a customer? Too many years have passed. We do know that he is in deep contemplation of which pumpkin or acorn squash he is wanting to select. When I as an artist get to capture a human being in a painting doing something without his even knowing that he is being captured on my canvas, it is as if we have captured the one second, minute and hour of his or her life without his ever knowing that he will live forever on a piece of stretched canvas.
If only I could tell him now, “Thank you, Mr. Love. You made this painting breathe and come alive, and I appreciate this very much. Happy Autumn to you too!"
Carole McReynolds Davis is a local artist. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org .