By Kevin Slimp
Perry Pratt was the kind of man everyone would want living in their hometown. As owner of Pratt’s Country Store, Perry was a friend of just about everybody in the Valley.
With the closest real supermarket 16 miles away in Springfield, the good folks of Lennox Valley relied on Pratt’s for their everyday goods like fruit, dairy products and Jello. It was comforting to know that Pratt’s was in good hands. Perry had inherited the business from his father, who had it passed to him from his father, the founder.
Perry was more than a grocer. He was friendly. He was fair. He never tried to get rich off his neighbors. Like his fa-ther, Perry just worked to make an honest living.
His honesty was a major reason people felt like they could trust him. As he rang up their groceries, Perry would listen to their stories, from sick children to dying parents to problems with the harvest. He had heard it all.
One of Perry’s funniest memories was listening to the three protestant ministers discuss their recent valley-wide re-vival. Father O’Reilly and his flock at All Saints didn’t go in for such things, but the other three churches on the square held a revival meeting together every four years, coinciding with the Summer Olympics.
“Brother Martin,” Brother Billy Joe Prather, pastor at First Baptist Church, asked the Lutheran pastor, “How were your results from the revival?”
“They were wonderful,” beamed Pastor Martin. “We added three souls to our flock. How did your congregation do, Brother Prather?”
Billy Joe grinned from ear to ear as he reported, “Oh, we had a wonderful revival. Six souls found their way to our congregation.”
Turning to Reverend Vickers, Brother Prather asked, “And how about the Methodists?”
Perry still laughs when he remembers the Methodist pastor’s response: “We had a better week than either of you. We got rid of our nine biggest trouble makers.”
Since venturing alone to town for the first time a week earlier, Claire Lapella had visited Pratt’s twice to buy groceries. As a vegetarian, Perry’s store was the perfect place to get the fruits and vegetables on which she survived.
By now, Claire and Perry were on a first-name basis and, for the first time, Claire brought up a topic that didn’t include produce. “Perry, may I ask you something?”
“Do you take part in the annual turkey shoot at the Baptist Church?”
Little did Perry know that the First Baptist Church Annual Men’s Breakfast and Turkey Shoot had been about the only thing on Claire’s mind for weeks, other than her “soul-mate” who had left her for a “girl in Springfield” months earlier.
Perry explained that as the only grocer in town, he had never been free to attend the breakfast or the turkey shoot. So what he knew of it, he learned from reading The Hometown News or hearing winning shooters brag about their victories in his store.
“I see,” she said, without asking more.
She left Pratt’s wondering if Perry was opposed to the idea of shooting turkeys at the church or, as may have been the case, he was just too busy to attend. She wished she had asked. For now, though, Perry Pratt was still on Claire’s “good” list.
She really hadn’t met many folks in The Valley, so neither her good or bad lists were very long. But she felt it neces-sary to carry mental lists, as well as to write notes on sticky-pads that she kept on her dinner table. Generally, those ended up on her refrigerator door.
As she entered her home, Claire could hear “Rendering With Raymond” on the radio. She quickly turned it off.
As she sat at her dining table, she jotted two notes and stuck them on the refrigerator door: “Good list: Perry Pratt” and “Bad list: Raymond Cooper.”