The Levy Store at Plum, close by the mouth of Plum Lick Creek near its merger with Boone Creek in eastern Bourbon County, is a meeting place of laughter, tall tales, and acceptance of who you are and what you might become if you choose to work at it.
“Don’t work too hard!”
“Good advice, but I’m not going to need it,” says the man backing out the front door.
Conversation at midday centers around two tables with a dozen chairs, first come first served, no reservations please.
Paul has brought cabbage, yellow squash, onions, and zucchini from his garden up on the hill. One of his specialties—vegetables grilled in butter, proof of goodness of which is in the tasting. Karen, who with her husband Charles owns the store, has provided the charcoal for the outside grill, and she’s cooked the beans. Judy has arrived with fresh cornbread, crisp, done to perfection. Each slice is about the size of a saucer. Bet you can’t eat just one.
“You need something cold to drink?” asks Karen to another arrival.
He doesn’t answer, just walks on inside.
“Well, holler at me,” says Karen, just to be sure. When friendliness was invented, Karen and her ancestors had to have been present and accounted for.
The Levy Store is friendly if it’s anything. And informal. Simply put, it’s helpful and forgiving, definitely a place to come to when you might have a hankering for an old country ham sandwich. Or you might be one of those city folks feeling more comfortable with a Levy Burger—double-decker hamburger with tomato, onion, and cheese. Chili dogs too, for the less adventurous.
Johnny has brought in a show-and-tell mule collar made of braided corn shucks. It was made in Magoffin County sometime before 1857. He says there might not be another one like it in Kentucky or any of the other 49 states. Johnny also owns a wooden chain carved from a tobacco stick—would you just look at that marvel of patience and ingenuity. Between bites of grilled vegetables, Johnny tells tales, recalling the local blacksmith who was flooded out and rode the anvil as far as the bridge, where “it got away from him.” Then, there was the blacksnake that turned on the farmer who beat it to death with his hat—“ruined his hat.” That happened about the time the rock fence burned going up the hill. And there was the farmer who successfully drilled for oil and was asked what he was going to do with it—said he’d change the oil in his ’36 Chevy.
Harold, Gayle, Ron, Bubba, Buddy, Barb, Rex, Matthew, Tony, Randy, Chris, and Keith came by too, each with a favorite story with no expectation of reward. “Don’t get yourself lost…buzzards are white when they’re young…if Jay Bird tells you something you can believe it…I have a list of people I’m going to whip…12-year-old Bubba climbed up on the horse and rode it.”
The Levy Store is more like a family shoebox than, say, a super store with a parking lot bigger than several football fields. Karen keeps one of most necessities on her shelves, sometimes two or three. The top edge of the refrigerator doors is lined with muscular dystrophy shamrocks signifying contributions.
The ceiling, well, that’s another story.
By mid-summer, there were 199 caps stapled in rows up there, front to back, side to side, a who’s who in agriculture, horse farms, and a bookstore. Anyone passing through Plum can sit and sip, talk or balk, mainly relax and not worry about grocery carts pushed by faces who’d rather frown at the check-out counter and be gone.
The sun slides on toward closing time.
“Glad to see you,” says I.
“Glad you were able to see me too,” says a new friend.