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Darrell Huckaby - No more biting the hand that feeds me

OK. So I guess I won't cuss Wal-Mart anymore. Not for a little while, anyway.

I 'spect I have some 'splainin' to do, if I may paraphrase Ricky Ricardo. (If that one went right over your head, either you are way young or I'm just getting too dang old.)

For a long time now, I have taken great pride in not shopping at Mr. Sam Walton's behemoth retail chain - much in the same way I won't buy gas from Exxon. I can get plumb full of righteous indignation sometimes, understand, and I could cuss the corporate giant that is Wal-Mart with the best of them. I could rattle off a litany of their perceived crimes against humanity.

Want to hear a few barbs from my well practiced tirade?

Sure, their prices are low, but they have cornered the market in so many areas that they are killing the competition!

They have just about put the independently owned mom-and-pop style store right out of business.

It is way too crowded in their stores. You have to rub shoulders with the rank and file of humanity when you go there. (Yeah, as if I'm not as rank as any person who ever filed past a cash register at any Wal-Mart, anywhere.)

They don't pay their employees enough! This from a school teacher and former coach, understand, who - on a purely hourly basis makes (once you factor in all the facets of my job) less per hour than any greeter at any Wal-Mart store in the nation.

They avoid hiring full-time employees so they won't have to pay them benefits. (I will admit that, on this one, I am testifying to hear-say evidence. I have no personal knowledge, whatsoever, of Wal-Mart's hiring practices.)

They don't keep enough registers open!

And on and on and on and on and on.

I got off bad-mouthing Wal-Mart - and actually started shopping there regularly for a while - about half-a-dozen years ago, give or take a school term or two. My family and I were on one of our many grand adventures and found ourselves in South Dakota, about to head west toward the Badlands and the Black Hills, when I noticed that we were only an inch or two (according to the map) from Walnut Grove, Minn. I decided that we had to go and see Plum Creek and pay our respects to Laura Ingles Wilder, of "Little House on the Prairie" fame.

En route, a tire blew out on the pop-up camper we were pulling and there I was, flat on my back on Interstate 90 trying to change it - without benefit of a jack. Tractor-trailers, whose drivers must have thought the highway number was the posted speed limit, zoomed by - scant inches from my head while deer flies feasted on my fat pasty legs.

I finally got the tire changed, but there we were, 2,000 miles from home, one more blowout or slow leak away from being stranded on the side of the road.

Wal-Mart to the rescue! There was one at the very next exit - and we are talking about in the middle of nowhere. Well, heck - you've seen the TV show. You know how desolate it was in Walnut Grove, Minn., in the mid-19th century. It isn't all that different now.

But the next town had a Wal-Mart and the Wal-Mart had a 5.3-by-12-inch trailer tire - full of air and already mounted on a wheel. And they didn't want a lot of money for it and they would take my check, too.

After that experience, I not only shopped at Wal-Mart again for a while, I swore by them. It was kind of like that bumper sticker that floated around back in the '60s, when the Hippies were in vogue and an antiestablishment sentiment was all the rage and police officers were referred to in some quarters as pigs.

If you think police are so bad, the next time you are robbed, call a hippe.

Eventually, though, all my self-righteousness resurfaced and I began to cuss Wal-Mart again.

Then Wednesday evening my family and I found ourselves on another adventure. We were headed for Disney World, just a few miles from the Florida line, when our trailer tire blew. Same camper, by the way - and quite possibly the same tire we had purchased in Minnesota.

There I was, flat on my back on Interstate 75 trying to change it - without benefit of a jack. Tractor-trailers, whose drivers must have thought the highway number was the posted speed limit zoomed by - scant inches from my head while deer flies feasted on my fat pasty legs.

Wal-Mart to the rescue! There was one at the very next exit. They had a 5.3-by-12-inch trailer tire - full of air and already mounted on a wheel. And they didn't want a lot of money for it and they would take my check, too.

I've learned my lesson. No more biting the hand that feeds me.

I still won't buy any gas from Exxon, though. Unless it is real cheap. Like $3.75 a gallon.

Darrell Huckaby is a local author and educator. He can be reached at dHuck08@bellsouth.net.