Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Growing Up In Himni, Utah - Episode 10

Half a pack of Philip Morris and a half a pack of Newports

Hank Simmons was a regular at Hanley’s Department Store. He came in every day. Pushing his walker ahead of him he’d come up to the meat counter and mutter that he wanted, “some a that there meat there.” We’d give him something different every day and he never seemed to even notice. Bobby, Bill and I thought Hank needed a little variety in his life. One day it was bologna, another, pimento loaf; always just enough for today. He’d be back tomorrow.

Hank was an institution in Himni. An old worn-out sheep herder, Hank now spent his days hobbling from his little house on Cranston Street to the Limerick Bar, from the bar to Hanley’s and back home again. His hair was snow white and short cropped. So was his beard. We always wondered how his beard always managed to have a week’s growth; never longer, never shorter.
When I first moved over from IGA to Hanley’s I was strictly in the meat department. Gradually, though, my assignment expanded to occasional checker.

On my first day checking, Hank came through my check stand. He placed his lunch meat on the counter along with a jar of Postum. Postum is a non-cafeinated coffee substitute. I thought it was funny that Hank had just come from the Limerick, but drank Postum instead of coffee. And then, he asked for a half a pack of Philip Morris and half a pack of Newports! I didn’t know what to do. I got Phil Hanley’s attention, who came over and explained to me that I was to open a pack of each and move half of each to the other. Customer service was paramount at Hanley’s. Hanley’s was also an institution in Himni. Besides Phil and his brother Frank and taken care of Hank like this since before I was born. It was then that I realized that I could sell the other split pack to Hank tomorrow. He paid in cash and hobbled out the door, meat, Postum and cigarettes in hand.

There were two Drug Stores in Himni. One had all the trappings of the time, soda fountain and hamburger grill, magazine rack, small appliance department, isles of first aid and medical items and, of course, the pharmacy. It was privately owned by Robert Mueller, who was a franchisee of the Rexall brand. The other, was strictly oriented to medicine and was owned by Alvin McWherter. Some thought Alvin must be more serious about medicine. Apparently, that was Hank Simmons’ opinion.
Hank hobbled in to McWherter Pharmacy one day and made his way right to Alvin.

“Watcha got for constipation?” Hank snapped abruptly.

“Have you tried a good laxative?”

“Exlax, castor oil, nothin’ seems ta work!” said Hank, a mix of desperation and aggravation in his gravelly old voice.

“Well then, let me give you a couple of suppositories, that ought to do the trick,” counseled Alvin.

“What do I do with these?” Hank queried.

“You place them in your rectum.” Alvin answered with a professionally matter of fact tone.

Hank hobbled out the door and around the block to Cranston Street.

Three days later Hank was back in front of Alvin McWherter. He looked angry, frustrated and not a little distraught.

“They never worked!” he scolded.

“What didn’t work?”

“Them suppo, suppose, aw hell what ever you called ‘em.”


“Yea, them, well they never worked!”

“What do you mean, “They never worked!?”

“I’m still constipated, that’s what I mean, “They never worked!” Hank growled through clenched teeth.

“With professional calm and assurance Alvin questioned, “What did you do with them?”

“Well, I didn’t have no Rectum so I put ‘em in ma Postum. Hell, for all the good they done me, I might as well a shoved ‘em up ma rear!”

It makes me wonder, looking back on my life, how many times was I like Hank? How many times would I have settled for familiarity, only to have God spice things up with a little unsought variety. How many times have I made rediculous requests of He and His servants, who happily complied anyhow? How many times did I have spiritual constipation? How many times did I misunderstand God’s remedy for me? I sure hope He laughed as heartily at my botched efforts as I have at Hank’s. I rather think He did.

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