At the time this picture was taken in 1967, the store was not air-conditioned and the summer heat was stifling.
The bench served as a gathering place for those searching out shade and a little breeze. At that time, there was still a grocery store on Missouri Street and while the farmer’s wives bought groceries, the farmers came to sit and visit on the bench.
Old men who worked downtown and a few winos stopped on their way home to catch their breath and grab some air.
The primary purpose of the bench, however, was its use for negotiating deals, the kinds of things that would be discussed these days in a closing office. This was the place where, in the midst of hours of hemming, hawing, and storytelling, business somehow got done.
As a boy, I eavesdropped on many a deal being made on that bench.
After half an hour of talking about fishing or hunting, Granddad would say “I tell ya what I’m gonna do”. There would be no verbal response and precious little body language. That’s how the dance would play.
Again the talk would go back to fishing, always fishing; “Think they’re gonna open the gates at Oologah?” This goes on for another half hour and the farmer says, “Tell ya what I’m gonna do.”
Again, no verbal response , and no body language either. Again, we get back to the gates of Oologah or talking about the bad knotter on the old hay baler. Again, Granddad says, “Tell ya what I’m gonna do”.
And if lunchtime happened to come, Granddad would unfailingly invite the farmer to lunch (back then we called it dinner and never once did I hear him call Grandma and tell her she was going to have company for dinner). After dinner, back to the bench. By this time, I’ve lost interest in the whole thing.
But all at once, a new piece of farm equipment was loaded up and the farmer was writing the check. I would be on the delivery truck going way out in the country, and out there we’d load up the old binder, a rusted down Farmall M, a cream separator, a horse-drawn plow and whatever else was part of the deal. Granddad was a good trader.
But holy cow, I couldn’t figure out why it had to be that way.
Why couldn’t Granddad just give him the best price, then the farmer could either buy it or go home and save this all-day joust.
But then, I was just a kid. What did I know?