A skeleton wearing a Santa Clause hat sits behind the wheel of a rusted out tractor in the front lot of Daily’s Farm and Feed. I guess somebody thought it was funny one Christmas a long time ago and never took it down.
The area around the tractor looks like a breeding ground for derelict machine parts. You name it, it’s there: old industrial fans, tractor parts of just about every description, rusted plowshares, harrows and whatnot. Some of it is hard to see because grass grows wild and uncut around it. Bushes and briars erupt out of it.
Tall grass and bushes isn’t limited to that spot, either. Everywhere around Daily’s Farm and Feed looks like a breeding ground for snakes and probably is.
If you don’t know where Daily’s Farm and Feed is, you probably never will. Mr. Daily doesn’t have a sign for his business. He says there used to be a sign, but it blew down fifteen or twenty years ago and he never got around to getting another one. You either know where Daily’s Farm and Feed is or you don’t, and that is just fine by Mr. Daily.
The most he does in the way of advertising is two small signs by the roadside. One says “Farm Fresh Eggs.” The other says, “Free Greens.” I have my own chickens, so I don’t know what the eggs will set you back at Daily’s, but the greens are free so long as you are willing to pick them. I can assure you, Mr. Daily is not going to pick them for you.
Another reason it is hard to find Daily’s is you’d never look at his store and think it was a store. It looks like one of any number of ancient, abandoned barns you see rotting away just off the roadsides of rural South Carolina. It is a basic square of dark unpainted wood with no windows. It has a rusted tin roof, a tin awning over a wooden front porch that has seen better days and a couple of double doors. Only one of the doors is ever unlocked – the right one, and it doesn’t have a door knob or a handle. Instead, you tug on a leather strap nailed to it.
The door is only closed in the winter. When it is cold out and Mr. Daily is on the premises, you usually find him sitting by an ancient wood stove in an old, vinyl love seat. He uses bags of feed stacked on top of one another as a desk and there is usually some type of paperwork on top of the feed. On more than one occasion, I bought some of his desk to feed to my chickens or goats.
Mr. Daily maintains strict hours of operation. That is to say Daily’s is open when Mr. Daily is there. If Mr. Daily is not there, Daily’s is not open. Simple as that. If you swing by and it is not open, too bad. You’ll have to buy your feed some other time.
Sometimes he hangs out a sign that instructs you to call for service if no one is around. If you do and he answers, then he’ll come driving up along the dirt road that connects his house to his business. On the warmer days, he drives one of those four-wheeler, half-motorcycle half-swamp buggy type deals. It never fails, but his Siberian husky is curled up on the hood. He’s told me that dog’s name a dozen times, but I can’t seem to remember. When it is cold out, he drives his truck. In either event, that dog is with him. I have never been to Daily’s when that Husky wasn’t the first one to greet you. I sometimes get the impression that dog could run the store for him when he’s not around. If you don’t like dogs or if huskies scare you, too bad. Go do business somewhere else.
In the warmer months the door to Daily’s stays open. There is no air conditioner in Daily’s – not even a window unit. A couple of small fans might be whirring on the floor, but about all they do on a hot day is stir hot air around. That’s why everybody sits outside on the porch. And, by ‘everybody,’ I believe half the retired population of that area of South Carolina at one time or other can be found sitting on the front porch of Daily’s Farm and Feed. Their trucks take up most of the few parking spaces around Daily’s, which sometimes makes it hard for his customers to get in and out. I don’t think logistics of this nature concerns Mr. Daily a bit.
The trucks that aren’t parked in his lot are passing by on the street honking a ‘hello’ to Mr. Daily. You can’t hardly speak to him outside the store without him having to constantly pause to wave to just about every vehicle that passes by. They honk and he waves. Honk and waves.
On most trips to Daily’s, you spend more time chatting with Mr. Daily or with the old men on the porch than you do actually buying anything. Let me tell you, all the woes of the world would be shored up in no time if the people in charge would just take their advice from the assembly on Mr. Daily’s porch. They have pretty much figured everything out. And know this – everything was better back in their day. Fishing and hunting was better. Kids were better. The government was better.
No one ever exactly says how things were better back them, but, by God, they were.
The interior of Daily’s is about as orderly as the outside of Daily’s.
You are constantly stepping over or around things on the floor, not the least of which is that husky and, now and then, a cat. Some of the stuff on the floor is for sale. Some of it isn’t. There are stacks of feed bags on the floor. There are short stools to prop your feet on. There are agriculture magazines all over the place. Old ones. New ones. There are a few shelves here and there with stuff like rat and ant killer, fertilizers, weed control stuff. Most of it is covered in dust.
There are several old calendars on the wall that have never been changed out for new calendars. A hat or two with some kind of Agricultural theme is perennially for sale at Daily’s. There’s a stuffed bobcat on a shelf behind the counter where his cash register sits. It does not run on electricity, his register. It might have at some point, but not anymore. It doesn’t matter, because Mr. Daily prefers cash and he does the math with a pad and pencil.
Sometimes birds fly into Daily’s looking for a feed. That’s because Mr. Daily saves back some corn bread from dinner and feeds it to them. One of them, a little finch, lands on Mr. Daily’s hand and eats. Just like that husky of his, I can’t remember what he calls it.
Mr. Daily sells a lot more than just what you see in his store. He’ll sell you a bunch of chickens. They are guaranteed to be hens. If you somehow wind up with a rooster, you can bring it back and Mr. Daily will swap it out for a hen, no questions asked. Lots of places won’t do that, but Mr. Daily is the honest sort.
He’ll sell you a cow, too. They are meat cows. You pay him eight-hundred dollars and the cow is yours. He’ll raise it for you free of charge until it is old enough for slaughter or you can take it home with you. You then pay him to haul it down the road to the abattoir or you can take it yourself.
He fixes a lot of tractors, Mr. Daily. He travels all over the place fixing tractors. If you want to know anything about fixing a tractor, just bring the subject up. He is more than happy to explain.
I asked Mr. Daily how long he lived around here. He said, “So far, seventy-seven years, but the Daily family has lived in these parts for over two hundred years.”
He went on to explain the land he and his family lives on was ceded to the Daily family by the King of England in seventeen something or other. That sort of explains why you see so many roads around that area with Daily in the name. There is Pink Daily road. Jason Daily Road. His friends call Mr. Daily, “Butch.” I’ve never seen a Butch Daily road. I guess the dirt road he drives back and forth on between his store and home might be Butch Daily road.
Apparently, the Daily family were bigshots in England a long time ago. Today, they seem like regular folks and there is nothing wrong with that.
I like doing business with Mr. Daily. I like visiting with the men on the front porch. Another good thing is Mr. Daily charges reasonable prices.
The other day my son, Matt, went with me to Daily’s Farm and Feed. Mr. Daily wasn’t there, but his son was. Just like that dog and that bird, I can’t recall his name. It was a wet, cold afternoon and nobody but Mr. Daily’s boy was around. We bought a few bags of feed and some hay off him. The whole transaction took about ten minutes, including loading the back of the truck. The rest of the time, maybe forty-five minutes was spent with Matt and Mr. Daily’s boy swapping fishing stories.
Looks like the next generation of Daily’s Farm and Feed is in good hands.