ATWELL: Where Everybody Know Your Name…


Where Everybody

Know Your Name…

By JIM ATWELL • Special to

I’ll admit first off that I’m not writing this on my front porch.  It’s as cold as, well, January out there, for heaven’s sake! And so I’m settled on a comfortable couch back in the family room. Cassey the dog is with me, sprawled on her back, nose almost on my keyboard. Though her face is upside down, she is staring at me fixedly, intent on willing my fingers away from their silly drumming so they can be used to scratch her stomach.

Jim Atwell, a Quaker minister and retired college administrator, lives in Cooperstown.

I press on, pretending not to notice the tractor-beam pressure coming from her. It’s a battle of wills, and who wins? No contest. I couldn’t match that dogged determination.

All right, the scratching done, I’m back to giving you full attention. I think you’ll enjoy what I have to tell you. It’s about a recent visit to my old hometown and the special joy of seeing old friends. I don’t mean Annapolis, place of my birth. I’m talking about Fly Creek, the place that birthed me into life in Leatherstocking Country.

Early on a recent Sunday morning, Fly Creek General Store owner Tom Bouton showed up to take me out to breakfast. We’ve been friends for 25 years now, he having bought Aufmuth’s Store just about when I moved north.

Tom knew that my Anne was away just then and I was home alone, tending that determined dog and Gracie our cat, placid but as tough as the dog, any day.

As we left the house, Tom suggested we drive out to the “crick” and eat at his store. Great idea, I thought. I’d likely see some old friends.

Well, it turns out that two congregations meet in Fly Creek every Sunday morning. The first gathers at 11 in the handsome 19th Century Methodist church, its congregants well dressed and ready for prayer, fine music, and a good sermon.

But the second congregation gangs up earlier in Tom’s store. Usually all male and casually dressed, they show up for coffee, jokes and lots of bustin’ chops with one another. When Tom and I walked in, there were whoops and shouts of  “Hey, Jim! Welcome back!”

They’d saved my old seat by the front window – no one, one bozo said solemnly, had been allowed to sit in it since I was last there. It’s the “Atwell Chair of Distinguished Bull—-,” he continued, and no match for me had yet been found.

Tom and I sat with that wondrous, raucous crowd for close to two hours – and we did manage to eat breakfast, too. What a great time!

“Old times there are not forgotten.” And I’m not just whistling “Dixie.” Though I did just quote it.

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