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It's a painting of my granddaddy, way back when he and Grandmother ran a little country store in Mixie, Tennessee. Mixie is between Paris and Huntingdon on Highway 77, and consists of a church, a community center, farms, and at its "peak", a country store. Before Mixie Market, there were other stores in succession, and Mixie Market was the last. The building is no longer there.
What would make this painting of an old man, perched on an old wooden chair, and chatting with customers, of interest to anyone who didn't know him personally? To me, this is more than just a portrait of J.T. Simmons. History is made by people, and to me, this image is a bit of local history. It takes me back to a time when country stores dotted the landscape, and customers would stop for a gallon of milk, and stay for a conversation. It tells a story of an elderly couple getting too old to farm cotton, and peanuts, and looking for another way to make a living. For years, they must have saved money from the sale of their crops in order to have enough capital for this venture. And it must have been successful. Not long after this business was up and running, they were able to replace their weathered farm house with a modern brick home complete with indoor plumbing and electric heat.
This portrait is also a symbol of those who came before. Mixie Market filled in the gap after the store just north of it closed. According to Granddaddy, one of the owners of that store was his "Uncle Lucian" Simmons, and Lucian had a business on the side, to supplement his store income. He was the "best moonshiner in the area", Granddaddy said, and this was because he kept his work area and utensils "all clean and sterilized", unlike some of the other entrepreneurs up on Pea Ridge. Only rich people like doctors and lawyers could afford Uncle Lucian's brew, which sold for $10 a gallon. Most moonshiners could only make about $2.50 per gallon, Granddaddy told me.
My mother told me Uncle Lucian "just disappeared" when she was 10 years old. That would have bee around 1942. As far as she knows, nobody ever found a trace of him or had any idea of what happened. And before that, "Uncle George" had a store but I haven't been able to find out anything else.
(If anyone from this area of Tennessee is reading this and knows more about the other country stores that were in the area, and, better yet, has some photos, I'd live to hear from them. It would make great material for more paintings.)
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