I wandered into beautiful downtown Ronceverte and down the hill by the Baptist Church, hung a left and stopped at Martin & Jones Hardware. People milling around. Conversations. I waited. When my neighbor saw me, he smiled brightly. Eventually, my turn came.
“I’m looking for some bolts,” I told old Mr. Boneyface.
Boneyface is a funny guy. He put his hands together and gestured up and down with them a few times, glancing at the ceiling. “And what sort of bolts would ye be lookin’ for?” he said in a singsong Irish voice but acting like an old Mandarin.
“Lightning bolts,” I told him, and did the full eyebrow thing. He stared a moment, then turned and walked along behind the counter. I followed, wondering if there was a brand name, Lightning Bolts, for some clever new piece of hardware I’d never heard of. But instead of pulling out a box from the shelves, he went through the swinging door into the back. I was right behind him.
When the door stopped swinging, he asked, “Seriously, you doing all right?” The sincerity was warming. Local hardware at its best.
I reminded him that I was a fiction writer looking for a scoop and did the knowledgeable wink thing. “No, really, friend, I just dropped my trimmer off with the mechanic. The little bulb thing got a pinhole in it and he is fixing it right now.”
“Well, it’s good to see you again,” he said, “but I have to get back to work. People in line.”
“You, too,” I said.
I bought my trimmer at Martin and Jones a couple of years back, and it was a little more expensive than the others at the big stores, but it came with a five year warranty, and a word-of-mouth promise to put you at the front of the line when you came in for repairs. They fix mowers and things in the back. And here I was with a good trimmer that had a small problem, and I was at the front of the line.
I walked back to the mechanic’s area and watched him put the new bulb in. The part was in stock. “There you go, good as new,” he said, and handed the trimmer to me. I thanked him, (there was no bill to pay) and put the trimmer in my car. Local friends, local businesses, it’s what we got.
(Please don’t go into Martin & Jones and ask for Old Mr. Boneyface. I made him up. But a neighbor of mine does work there. It’s my favorite old timey hardware store.)
– Larry Berger, HashtagWV 95. November 2017