Thoughts on store keepers and learning

Lynn Moncus

Since the arrival of the book about Quay County’s first hundred years, several people have expressed concern about the temporary office I have set up in the new metal barn on the museum grounds. They just don’t realize what a great place that is in which to spend a couple of hours in the afternoon.

Despite the lack of heat, the building is fairly warm because it is insulated. I have yet to wear a coat while playing with the books and have had a lot of fun in the solitude amid the wagons. I can pause to look at them and can then view the Montoya post Office and even a table similar to the ones we had in primary when I began school at Central. The real concern should be that I might decide to take up residence in that building in order to have a quiet place in which to work and surroundings that cause me to want to play with words.

For instance, as I look at the wagons, I can imagine our pioneers traveling to Quay County and can sit in comfort while thinking about all the problems they faced along the trails. I can then see them enter the post offices throughout the county to pick up the mail and to visit with their neighbors. I can hear the echoes as they discuss the latest news of the community and can see the people sitting around on nail kegs while talking about their experiences. I can then see them selecting a few groceries and other necessities as they prepare to return to their homesteads. The store keeper would probably write a ticket for all the purchases and hope he would be paid soon so he could make another trip to Tucumcari to replenish his supplies.
Because a few of the settlers had not learned to read, the store keeper would take the time to read the letters to them and would also answer those letters so more would appear. He might also read the latest newspaper to them so they would know what was happening is the rest of the world. He would also add a piece or two of candy for the children and might include an extra can of food to one of the tow sacks to be loaded onto the wagon or carried over the saddle.

Most people learned early on to let their presence be noticed as they approached the store on a sunny day because some of the visitors might have placed their nail kegs close to the door so they could spit their tobacco juice just outside. Small wars could erupt if said juice landed on someone’s shoes! Ladies could become down right unladylike on such occasions and much scurrying to the back of the store could be heard.

While looking at the student’s table, I can recall that first year of school at Central and can see Miss Perryman holding forth in our primary class. She inspired many of us to want to learn and taught many of us that self-discipline was necessary if we didn’t want to be swatted for misbehaving. Yes, I learned that early on by standing in my chair to make a few pronouncements while she was teaching. I didn’t try that trick again and paid fairly close attention to what she was saying or where she might be in the event I wanted to take the baby horned toad out of my desk to play with while I was supposed to be printing a few words.
Yes, that barn is a wonderful place in which to spend a little time just remembering.