Horehound Lumps

My sister, bless her, sent me bags of horehound lumps, a hard candy.

Boy, does that take me back… 60 to 70 years back.

To Lawton’s Store – just down the road from Martell, Wisconsin. Grandpa Howe and I would stop there on our way to trout fishing in the Rush River, which ran through Martell.

When you entered the store, along the north side of the room they had a wheel of cheese on the counter, about two feet in diameter with a heavy glass bell over it right next to the cash register; under the counter were pull-out bins full of various hard candies. We’d get a small bag of horehound lumps and lemon drops.

Next to the cash register toward the front of the store was a glass-fronted cold case where sausages and dried meats were offered for sale.

Grandpa would buy a block of cheese and a lot of summer sausage he had the storekeeper slice off – lunch. Lawton’s made and smoked their own summer sausage in sticks three feet long and five or six inches in diameter – one slice would cover a slice of bread, sticking out a little on all sides.

There was also a wooden barrel full of crackers, two inch by two inch – more like hardtack than saltines – out near the woodstove and he’d buy a bag of those to have with the cheese and sausage.

Out in the center of the room was a huge pot-bellied wood stove that stood in a sandbox – so when hot ashes spilled nothing was there to catch fire – and a semi-circle of wooden chairs arched around it. I think there was a spittoon in the sandbox, close enough to the stove a near miss would land in the sand or splat ‘n sizzle on the stove. The frying juice of Red Man plug tobacco… well, to describe it would only cage the imagination.

Along the south wall, from the front windows all the way to the back, was a bar, split in the middle so the bartender didn’t have to walk the whole length to wait on the tables. At the far end of the room was a slightly raised platform area – a stage. And bands would play there on Saturday nights.

Indeed, Lawton’s claim to fame was that Ole Bull, a world famous violinist, stopped and gave a concert sometime in the middle 1800s. People came from Minneapolis and Eau Claire to hear him – a two or three day journey.

Lawton’s Store is still there. The nearby woods that were full of black oak, black walnut, black cherry, butternut trees, and black currant bushes has been cleared away – and therefore the large colony of black squirrels that once lived in those excellent woods has vanished too.

But black bears, coming out of hibernation early, still raid the maple syrup collectors when they can, though the sugar bush biz has got so high-tech with webs of white vacuum tubing sucking sap automatically into distillers the bears don’t have much opportunity for a sweet feast anymore.

White suckers still populate the Rush, and gather in dozens or hundreds in the riffles, so there’s that…

These are my memories from when I was three, four, five, eight, ten, twelve years old…

Last night I heard that 8th Graders, just graduating from middle school, were given bullet-proof armor to put in their backpacks, to give them an edge when fleeing a school shooter. And 3rd Graders given instructions about how best to hide in school rooms.

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