While driving around town the other day, I drove by the old Ratliff Feed store — which was located near the Newton County Historical Park, I remembered my grandpa Leon Garner, whom I called Pop. This past Sunday would have been his 95th birthday.
When I was a small kid, it was at least every other Saturday, Pop would take Greg and I down to Neosho, to the feed store so that we could get some chicken feed and other supplies their chickens. Nanny and Pop would make a list for the trip and Pop would pick us up early – I am talking about 7:30 a.m. He wanted to be one of the first ones to arrive when the business opened at 8 a.m.
The truck that Pop had was an early 1970s light bluish Ford truck, with a tire on the front of the it. Inside the truck, he would always have a thermal coffee container and a hat. His radio would be tuned to KBTN 1420.
Pop never liked to drive to fast down the road. But it gave us time to talk with Pop, about the days when he was growing up, what he liked to do, how he met and latter married Nanny and the jobs he had, one of which was working for Pet Milk in Neosho. He was a delivery driver the company and would pick up milk around the Newtonia and Jolly Mill areas.
As such, we arrived at Ratliff Feed, he backed the truck toward the dock and we went inside. They had wooden floors, reminding me of the Old West towns out west and walked up to the counter so that he would be able to let them know what type of feed he needed. That gave my brother and I a chance to look around at the store. On occasion, Pop would purchase seeds so that he and Nanny could plant their summer garden.
When it was time, the workers told Pop his order of feed was ready to be loaded on the truck. We paid and went back to the dock and the feed was loaded.
Now as a treat for us to come into town so early, Pop would take us to breakfast – it was usually at Neal’s off of the Neosho Square or the Brown Derby just outside of Newtonia. I remember one particular time when we were looking at the menu, figuring out if we wanted scrambled eggs, bacon or pancakes or a homemade cinnamon roll, when Pop stunned us.
He said, “now boys, you can have anything that you want as long as it doesn’t cost over 50 cents total.”
The emotions on Greg and I’s faces went from a smile to “oh, what are we going to eat for 50 cents total.”
Now of course, he was just kidding, and he quickly smiled and said, “whatever you want, order it.”
I can’t remember how many times we made that trek to Neosho with Pop, but they are time-honored treasurers I will never forget.
There were other memories that I recalled, such as the jokes he told including the time-honored joke of “why did the chicken cross the road?”
Pop also taught us woodworking, it was a hobby of his to go outside into his shop, use a band saw to make Nanny a coffee table or an end table or even a napkin holder. I still have some of those items he would make for family members as well.
In retirement, Pop would enjoy mowing the yard, working in his shop, spending time with his family, walking the dogs and almost every day, you would find him outside in their swing, talking to a neighbor or family member who would come by.
Pop passed away in May 2001. I miss him very much.
Todd G. Higdon is a staff writer and writes a weekly column for the Neosho Daily News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on twitter at @toddghigdonNDN