I prefer if you call me Once. That is not my given name but one I embrace. My father’s family ended up in this county after being ostracized by the good citizens of Missouri for their ties with Cousin Cole. I reckon they figured the blood spilled by the bank robbing James/Younger gang would be washed during their crossing of the Mississippi River. My mother’s family has been here for so many years, no one knows their true point of origin. The stigma of their participation in the Tobacco War of the early twentieth century has been a hurdle we have not overcome even 100 years later. While little has been written in the history books about this armed insurrection, folks around here have not forgotten the siege and smoke filled skies of Brunston and Scoeville after the Duke Trust tobacco warehouses were set ablaze. That’s how it is here in Western Kentucky. Progress is very slow and all concepts of change are viewed with heavy skepticism. In front of our courthouse stands a statue of a Confederate soldier with the inscription at its base declaring, “In memory and honor of our soldiers for the cause which they fought and died.” This is Southern Baptist country, this where Bluegrass music originated, this is worse than Appalachia. I grew up here and left only to return when I began raising my own family. I uprooted my bride from her hometown to transplant her in these rolling hills of my past.
We own a feed store which took a hard hit during this national recession which more closely resembles a depression here. I have reverted back to the unlawful ways of my forefathers. We attempted to survive within the normal range of respectable society. After learning of a government backed small business loan, we thought financial stability for 2009 was close in hand. I scoff at our naiveté now. Our local loan officer told us his bank was participating in the program and we would be considered as long as we met the criteria set forth by the government. We gathered all records requested and submitted them with our application and more importantly to the bank, their non refundable application fee. We met the stringent requirements to qualify for the loan; however, our loan was rejected by the bank. When cornered, our loan officer admitted even though this was a government backed guaranteed loan, his bank just did not want to write any new loans given the current economic climate. He was very nonchalant about this as if he were giving me the day’s weather conditions. I felt my hand was being forced by the bank. I imagine my great grandfather felt the same way when he banded with fellow tobacco growers and refused to sale his crop to the Duke’s at an unfair price. There was no question in my mind as to whether or not my family would have food on their table, regardless of how it got there. It was at this point I thanked him for his time and made my public declaration of one who would no longer conduct his business within the confines of the law. For the record; my exact words were, “I appreciate your time and guess I’ll just have to turn outlaw because I am not going to lose my business.” Right and wrong within my family has never been an issue of legality.
I have not looked back and have not regretted any of my actions from that day forth. We did not renew our grain bond that spring. We did not reapply for another grain license because if we get caught selling grain without a license, the fine cost less than the bond and the state grain inspector only comes around in spring to collect the license fee. I decided the bank does not need their money any worse than we did; so our note is constantly teetering on foreclosure. The longest we have fended them off thus far is 117 days. The bank no longer requests any late payment fees from us, out of fear of being saddled with the building, I believe. We began bartering with our customers. In the past year we have traded feed and hay for countless eggs, three deer cleaned and quartered, two well broke horses, a chainsaw, a pig, ten quarts of moonshine, several bushels of garden grown fruits and vegetables, a coonhound, five ricks of firewood, a shotgun, three handguns, one rifle and eight bottles of homemade blackberry wine. Our bartering has not been confined to consumables, tools, weapons and livestock. We have traded for the services of our mechanic, farrier and most surprising to me; our veterinarian who offered to wipe our bill off his books in exchange for the shotgun and four quarts of moonshine. I suppose he has been bartering with the same people in years past because he came in the store one afternoon and matter of factly stated, “I’ll call it even between me and you if you give me four jars of Wilson’s shine and that 12 gauge you have standing in the corner.” Our Capital One credit card dept was written off the books after I informed them I would send them my payment in full once I received my bailout money like they did. Of course, they threatened legal action but after I explained I could care less about our credit rating and the concept of blood from a turnip to the collection agent’s supervisor for the umpteenth time; the calls ceased and the account was closed as bad debt. We no longer record cash sales or charge sales tax unless a receipt is requested by the customer. I take the proceeds from these transactions and reinvest them with the Cornbread Mafia, who have found growing marijuana much more profitable than any other crop. Storefront foot traffic has increased greatly, business is booming and Western Kentucky is a little greener thanks to the current economic climate.