Dust Bowl Days
A Stranger in Town: Chapter 1
Duke, my old half German shepherd, half somethin’ else, huntin’ dog lay on the wooden
porch of the store. “Stay,“ I told the mongrel. I pushed the double door open and the floor
creaked where it always did. The warm air felt good. It was four miles from home in
what my Pa calls Hill Oklahoma to this little store in Hackett Arkansas, and it was pretty
cold today. I don’t know where the state line is, but it is somewhere between here and
Mr. Sanders, wearing his stained white apron over a sweater stood leaning on the counter.
I leaned the empty shotgun against the doorjamb. I pulled off my ragged knitted gloves
and stuffed them in my coat pocket.
ÐHowdy, Ike,“ he said.
I returned his Ðhowdy“, and then I took off my hat since I needed to ask for credit again.
ÐCan I get five more shotgun shells?“ I asked. We couldn’t afford a whole box of shells
at one time, so I would get them five at a time. Actually, we couldn’t afford nothin’. Mr.
Sanders had been carrying us all winter. I was the designated hunter since each shell had
to provide a rabbit or somethin’ bigger.
ÐShore. My pleasure. How’s your ma and pop?“ Mr. Sanders made it seem like the most
natural thing in the world for us to beg credit from him. He was carryin’ most of the town
and most of the farm folk around these parts. He was a nice guy to all of us.
ÐMom is poorly, today. It’s the cold, I reckon. It’s pretty hard on her.“
He counted out five shells and I signed my ÐIsaac Daniels“ on his clipboard that says I
got ”em. I put the red 12 gauge cartridges into my left coat pocket. I put my hat on my
head then tipped the brim to Mr. Sanders as a thank you. I took my shot gun and called
for Duke as I left the store.
I had walked with the wind to get here, but it was against the wind goin’ home and the
wind bit in hard as I pulled on my gloves. Duke kept his head down and his eyes half
closed as we walked into the icy wind. I think it is getting’ colder. It is a grey day and the
clouds were gettin’ darker.
It was my plan to go home through the woods down by the creek. I had seen a flock of
wild turkeys in there several times. I was plannin’ to have one of them for dinner tonight.
I find plannin’ don’t count for much during this depression. As soon as I jumped the ditch
to head for the woods, I saw the body. The man was dead, face down in the ditch. He had
no coat. He just had on a shirt and trousers and black shoes and socks. Black suspenders