Paul D. Jones Market

An incident in which Bobbie Smith Bryant desperately needed gas along the Western Kentucky Parkway and found an old country store reminded Bobbie Smith Bryant of the Paul D. Jones Market in Kirksey, which Jones used to run with her grandfather, Hal Smith. Pictured, from left, are Cordis James, Aubrey James and Lola James.

Rain batters the windshield as I maneuver through cumbersome traffic, driving south on I-65. Louisville’s morning rush hour of commuter traffic eventually fades.  As I merge onto the Western Kentucky Parkway, traffic calms instantly. Shades of green and yellow pastureland on either side of the road stretch serenely before me and an occasional field of black angus, oblivious to the rain.

My mind is full, as I mull over the myriad of things I’ve left undone. It is only Tuesday and I am already behind for the week.  I settle in for a mind-numbing three-and-a-half-hour drive. Suddenly, the dashboard pings in light and sound. Deep in thought, I hadn’t noticed the gas gauge which now hovers in the red zone. Gulping, I reach for the map.  How far is the first available exit?

The digital car monitor indicates there is enough gas to travel 14 miles. The roadside mile marker shows I am within eight miles of the exit. Lifting a prayer, I soldier on, realizing that my alternatives are few.

I draw an audible sigh of relief when I see the bright blue state highway marker with GAS emblazoned across the top.  My hopes evaporate when I realize the familiar logos of Marathon, BP or Shell are nonexistent. I stoically take the exit and approach the crossroad.

Guessing which direction a gas station will likely be, I turn right. Within a mile, I am elated to see a small, dilapidated country store, similar to the ones my Granddaddy Hal Smith and our neighbor, Paul D. Jones, used to run at Kirksey. To me, it looks like the Taj Mahal.

At the pump, I jump out of the car and hastily push in my credit card.  Nothing happens. As I try again, it slowly dawns on me that there are no lights or numbers showing on the pump.

They are inactive.

There are several other cars in the parking lot; I know the business is open. What could possibly be the problem? A man leaves the store and I get his attention. Relating my sad state of affairs, he replies, “You’ll not get any gas here; the electricity is down, and the pumps won’t work.” I wonder aloud if they might have a full can of gas somewhere at the station. He smiles patiently and suggests, “Perhaps you should check inside.”

As I wait my turn, a cheerful teenage girl holds court at the cash register. She chats away with other customers, rhythmically popping chewing gum all the while. The place is hopping, and she is obviously in her element.  When it is my turn, I explain my predicament and inquire about other nearby filling stations. She smiles and in the sweetest tone says, “Oh yes, Spencer’s is just up the road about three miles away.” When I respond that if it is much further, I may not make it, she replies, “Oh honey, you won’t sit there for long if you run out of gas. Somebody’ll come along right away and help you – don’t you worry.”

Amazing as it may seem, I knew she was right. This, after all, is Kentucky. All my life I’ve known the kindness of others. Why would this experience be any different? With renewed confidence, I step back outside in the pouring rain, crank the car and drive to Spencer’s.  

As if to acknowledge this renewed faith in my fellow man, I see that the man I’d spoken to earlier has waited outside in his pickup truck. I drive away from the station and he pulls in behind me. He follows me to Spencer’s, which is indeed, almost exactly three miles up the road.

When I pull alongside the pump, he pauses long enough to be sure they are open, gives a friendly nod and waves two fingers before driving on his way.

These two kind souls remind me that old fashioned kindness actually still exists today, especially in Kentucky.  

***

Author’s note: This article was previously published in the now defunct Underwired magazine in 2012.

Bobbie Bryant lives in Louisville and serves as a Community Development Advisor for the Kentucky League of Cities. She is passionate about western Kentucky and is a freelance writer with four publications: Farming in the Black Patch, A Beautiful Star: the Life of Lois Etoile Brewer, Passions of the Black Patch: Cooking and Quilting in Western Kentucky and Forty Acres and a Red Belly Ford: The Smith Family of Calloway County. For more information about the author, visit http://bobbiesmithbryant.com.

Editor’s Note: Opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect

the editorial opinion of the Murray Ledger & Times.

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