Circleville Store, Circleville, Texas friendliness at it’s finest!
The old gas pumps in front are all out of use. It’s just not worth the while. The big chains are selling really cheap gas in the nearby town and the license cost more than you can possibly make on selling gas out here. Despite the fact of having no gas this place has a lot to offer. There’s hardware supplies, fishing bait, groceries, hunting stuff and various objects all over the place and there’s always a group of locals hanging out at the store ready for a conversation on almost any topic.
The owner, Betty, takes care of our drinking needs as well as serving us barbeque of the day. We take a seat close to the wall next to the heater. An oversized fan of industrial proportions is hanging above our heads and reminds us about the unforgiving heat during summertime but on the day of our first visit the temperature is low and the heater brings a welcoming warmth. The interior may not meet up to your expectations of a standard honky-tonk, and maybe this isn’t exactly a place you would call a honky-tonk, but you can get yourself a beer, there’s a couple of tables and chairs scattered around the place and it smells of firewood, bbq and cigarette smoke. In my book it’s a honky-tonk alright. Missing the jukebox though.
Betty’s son, Craig, scoots in dropping of some sausages he picked up in Elgin. – Go ahead boys and help yourself to some Elgin’s claim to fame, he says and disappears out the door. – He’ll be back in a bit, Betty explains. Craig runs his own business setting up grave stones and together with his brother Jimmy he helps Betty with the “Q” and to run this little family business. Betty seems a bit tired of it and admit that she might want to sell it. She had it for 39 years she tells me and it’s hard making money out of it, especially during the slower period of the year. In spring time there’s a little bit better with people coming here to fish in the lake.
We’re told that where the lake is there used to be a small community called Friendship but all that is at the bottom now. Everybody laughs and I can’t really decide if they’re pulling my leg or not. It doesn’t really matter anyway. It’s all part of hanging out at old country store’s. Drinking beer and listen to the locals tell their stories. The conversation changes into American muscle cars and the guy leading the conversation seem to have had his share of old classics. Racing, working and of course crashing a few. Today, he continues, the gas price force you to be a millionaire to be able to use them as your every day car. Well I guess this ain’t the typical hang out for millionaires.
The store part of the place is quite messy. The joint part is in the back and the beer cooler is just by the counter. After a few longnecks I feel at home and I accidentally help myself to the next beer. Betty laughs and add it to my tab. Jimmy, that have now joined us, is laughing as well. He’s almost the opposite to his brother Craig. Tall, broad shouldered and with a calmness to him that really makes you feel at ease. Craig on the other hand is more energetic, running around fixing this and that and constantly talking to someone or anyone. This is Texas friendliness at it’s finest. And I appreciate it even more as Craig comes back and turns up the mood a couple of notches by putting on some music. Modern technology can come in handy sometimes. He hooks up some kind of modern player to a couple of old dusty speakers hanging on the wall and ask: -What y’all wanna hear?
The town of Circleville was settled in 1853 and in its early days it had a general store, a gristmill, a gin, a molasses press, tin and pewter shops, a blacksmith shop, a carding factory, a school, a church and from 1857 to 1911, a post office. The Kansas, Texas and Missouri Railroad ran through town in the 1880′s and several train wrecks occurred here because of an ill-designed curve near the San Gabriel River. Today you see no activity like that and it’s just a slumbering place moving to its own pace. But around the table in the back it’s really picking up and I got trouble following the conversation. Or conversations. We’ve really worked up a sweat, the beer flows and the spirit is high. At an old place like this, that celebrated its 150th birthday a couple of years back, time flies and we’re getting ready to hit the road again.
I leave the store in a haze with my head filled of stories, impressions and beer. Outside in the chilly night I hear wolves howling at the full Texas moon. Or maybe it’s coyotes. Or dogs. Does it matter? I’m happy with wolves. It fits my mind and adds to the impression of the place. I’m thankful for having our good friend and designated driver Chris with us this time. The three of us crams into his -62 Willy’s pick up and I have to ride bitch again. With no car stereo my imagination plays music in my head. The song Beer, Bait and Ammo with Kevin Fowler is haunting my mind. Luckily Circleville Store got nothing in common with the place Kevin describes in his red neck anthem. This place ain’t no song. It’s real and it’s here for anyone to enjoy.
Almost Out of Gas is a platform for projects surrounding Texas culture. Wine, spirits, beer and cook-offs with great food bring people in communities together, and we are compelled to seek out and document the social and cultural impact of the true “social networking” of the common man—that is the lifestyle we feature. We know the host of these get-togethers is the main draw, and we are intent on bringing you the same beauty we see in the rickety, creaky and sometimes forgotten gathering spots: the Texas Honky-Tonks.
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