Columnist: A hidden, old-time country store
Published 12:00 am Saturday, September 17, 2016
MICCOSUKEE, Fla. – This not-so-wide-place-in-the-road, got my attention immediately although it was not my destination. Anybody would surmise right off that Miccosukee would be an Indian name which brought about a spate of due-diligence with the Internet.
The Miccosukee Indian tribe was once a member of the Seminole nation. They are independent now, officially recognized by our federal government.
That is about all I know about the Miccosukee’s and this settlement but if you turn right onto Moccasin Gap Road, it will lead you to Bradley’s Country Store which has been operating since 1927. Great place for the rest of the story. Bradley’s is old fashioned. The floors creak and the walls are cluttered, with everything from farm implements to signs with sage wit. One says, “I’m not bossy, I just know what you should be doing.”
There are Coca-Cola calendars with pretty models in one piece bathing suits, just as it was in yesteryear before models took to taking off all their clothes so that they could make big bucks, marry multiple times, endure a half dozen face-lifts and get hooked on pills.
A juke box will take you back to an era when music wasn’t accompanied by (unprintable) amplifiers. Rosemay Clooney and “This Old House,” Fats Domino and “Blueberry Hill,” and Hank Williams and “Your Cheatin’ Heart.” Time stood still for a moment as I thought about my college days and the lights down low at Charlie Williams’ Pinecrest Lodge not too far from the UGA campus.
The driveway and parking lot at Bradley’s General Store – with a porch and a foursome of weather beaten rockers – are unpaved. The big oaks, which are in abundance, drip with Spanish moss which probably has the same look that it had when Ponce de Leon was stomping around Florida five centuries ago.
A friend, Gordon Dixon, came here to buy mouth-watering sausage and invited me to tag along which allowed for a short course in the life and times of the Bradley family. Janet Bradley Parker is the granddaughter of the founder, Lawrence Edward Bradley, whose mother came up with the sausage recipe which is sacrosanct.
Janet will tell you the ingredients – red and black pepper and sage among other items – her family uses to make the sausage but, “I’m not about to tell you how much of each item we put into our sausage which is what makes it special.”
People not only drive for miles to buy Bradley’s sausage, they order it every day from faraway places like the West Coast. Janet is fond of informing you that Bradley’s sausage is “gluten free, no preservatives and no sugar.”
There are two aisles on each side of the store with a sign hanging overhead, “Meat Department Line forms here.”
Yep, Bradley’s sausage is so popular in this area of south Georgia and north Florida that aficionados stand in line to buy Bradley’s products.
Everything is made on site. There is a grist mill for making Bradley’s “coarse stone ground grits.” Janet says proudly, “We slaughter our own hogs and we cure our sausages out back.” You can find cane syrup and corn meal on the shelves. If you want cracklin’ bread, Janet will make it for you.
There is a jar of jawbreakers as big as golf balls. I couldn’t get enough of the old fashioned stuff—boots of all descriptions, a No. 12 washtub, a straw hat with a green visor – a farmer’s sun glasses in another era. An old fashioned Coca-Cola ice box, but operated electrically. That was a downer. It is not an ice box unless is it filled with ice and cold water where you fish around the bottles to find the drink you are looking for.
A guy who was a blue collar type moseyed up to the cash register with two foot long hotdogs. The cashier saw the quizzical look on my face and smiled. “If you got a tape measure, you can see for yourself.”
It must take two to feed a hungry man. The man, dressed in jeans and a chambray shirt, had two hot dogs in hand and headed for a pickup truck tailgate under a mossy oak. By this time, the line had dwindled at the meat counter, allowing for time to put in an order for Bradley’s sausage.
Fulfillment, emotionally, was rampant on the 20 mile drive back to Thomasville.