The nearest stores to the farm up on Tucker Ridge were in Springfield, about 7 miles in one direction and in Prentiss, about the same in the other direction.

Butterfield’s Sundries, at the crossroads in the center of Springfield, was the most prominent. (“Sundries” refers to a collection of different things, miscellaneous items, from food to bolts of cloth to nails.) Then there was Thomson’s where you could, in addition, get your mail and a haircut. Tolman’s, a smaller store down in a gully was where Grampa Roy would sell his strawberries and boysenberries.

There was another store in town, but the name escapes me.

I can see Mr. Butterfield, in his white apron, standing outside the store, leaning on his broom, after he did the morning sweep-out from the linseed-oiled wooden floors. He had a handsome two-story, vintage yellow Colonial house on a knoll across from his store.

Inside the store there was the ubiquitous pot belly stove with its chimney that rose up and then ran along the ceiling, helping to spread the heat. Near the stove was the big wooden pickle barrel topped with a checkerboard where regulars would meet for games. Pickles were put in large glass jars filled as needed from the barrels and kept on the counter by the brass cash register. They were big dills for a nickel apiece. (Remember the old ditty about “My mom gave me a nickel to buy a pickle….”)

There were butter and eggs that farm wives brought in to trade for flour, sugar, molasses, etc. There were canned foods along side walls and along the back walls, pots, pans, lamps, lamp oil, hardware, axes, and rolls of cloth, particularly calico. Flour and sugar came in pillowcase-sized fine quality cotton that the factories printed with flower designs for the housewives who made their “house dresses,” aprons and children’s clothes from them. Grammie made my school dresses, blouses, skirts and “over aprons” from these, decorating them with matching color baby rick rack.

Thomson’s store had pretty much the same sundries, but they had gas pumps out front, and inside, a window with a sign: “U.S. Post Office. Here you could get and mail packages and buy stamps. Out back, you could get a haircut.

This is also where we got our school shoes. They were leather, one design and came in black or brown.

And, of course, all these stores had an addition on the back with livestock foods and supplies. And, come hunting season, you got your game tagged out front.

The little town of Prentiss only had one general store. This is where Grammie traded her famous butter for things they couldn’t make or grow: flour, sugar and molasses. (Her famous butter was fought over and sold out first. We had Jerseys with the big brown eyes and super high butterfat in their milk.) Some enterprising souls would save up her butter papers and put their butter in them hoping to ensure they sold. So Grampa Roy made her a unique wooden butter mold. (These were one-pound-size boxes, hinged to get the formed butter out easily. On the bottom piece, inside, he hand-carved a design of Mayflowers with her initials in the middle. No more counterfeit butter.)

Most of our shopping/trading was done in one of these stores. We made the 20-mile trip to Lincoln about once a month for Grammie Tucker to sell her eggs and harvest foods, like cabbages. Her market garden included an acre of cabbage back when there were no water hoses. You were dependent on Mother Nature or, occasionally if it got too bad, Grampa, a fire warden, would strap on his water tank and spend hours spraying. I remember an aunt once saying: “No one could whack cabbage out of the garden like Mable Tucker.”

I left Maine right after graduation, like so many teens did back then. I spent the next 25 years living all over the country. I never felt “home,” except for the years in the Berkshires of western Massachusetts. That area has a lot of similarities to Maine. But I came back home over 40 years ago and bought my house out here in the woods 31 years ago. My feet are firmly planted, finally.

I was delighted to find this little one-store town’s store was a “Village Store.” It was very like the stores of my childhood. And down back, in place of the pickle barrel with the checkerboard, were tables by a kitchen serving food and where people would do the daily papers crossword puzzle together over lunch.

There was a “Breakfast Club” that met in the morning, another group of regulars that came for food and chatting for lunch and another group — often interchangeable with the others that showed up around supper time. One side of the store served as a hardware store. You could often find something there that you couldn’t find in town. And you got animal food out back, gas out front, and in season, tagged your game there. Just like up home all those long years ago.

And these little village stores were still sprinkled around in most of our small villages. They served as a great place for locals to keep in touch — to keep the community-unity in place.

The last two years threw a wrench in a lot of this. Masking, distancing, shutting down places to meet and eat, lockdowns and outright putting stores and restaurants out of business. People drifted apart. Some stores, after generations, sold and were bought by people, some from far away, hoping to make a go of it but without the Maine Village Store background/pathos. They’re struggling.

There is one store, only minutes away in another small town, whose owner bucked the draconian orders of the past two years, often fighting against threats, and managed to keep his place operating with a reasonably normal atmosphere. We are thankful for that. He stood his ground. (I have a breakfast date there with my oldest son once a week, which includes homemade doughnuts and some “regulars” for chatting. A bit of normalcy.)

But my heart is sad to see the changes, the subtle losses of tradition.

Marion Tucker-Honeycutt, an award-winning columnist, a Maine native and graduate of Belfast schools, now lives in Morrill. Her columns appear in this paper every other week.