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Dispatches from a small town

Last week the local grocery store was out of toilet paper, hand sanitizer, and disinfectant wipes. Of course. That’s old news. Covid-19 business as usual. The new normal as pundits keep telling us.

This week they received new supplies, but when I dropped in Friday they were not only out of the infamous items, but either stripped of or light on dozens of others. Eggs were unavailable. Butter was gone except for a few pricey specialty types at $12 a pound. Yogurt was sparse and only a few gallons of milk remained. Items featured in the week’s sale flyer were nearly all gone, even when the particular sale price was nothing spectacular. Canned goods. Boxed side dishes. Disappearing.

About the only department still well stocked was produce. Nobody was particularly interested in the boxes of shiny apples, the strawberries, the salad mixes, or the melons.

I must admit that seeing so much empty shelf space rattled even well-prepared me. I can imagine how the lack of staples might hit, say, parents living (and purchasing) paycheck to paycheck.

Empty shelves can cause panic, as well as result from panic.

But so far the panic is mostly elsewhere. One of the veteran clerks told me the shelves were so bare mainly because the store wasn’t receiving its normal compliment of deliveries. It appears a large portion of our town’s usual supply of goods is being diverted to larger stores in larger cities.

That’s scary in its own right.

So far, the clerk said, everybody around here is mostly pretty mellow. I wonder how long the locals will stay mellow when, for the first time in their lives, they can’t simply walk in and pick up a carton of eggs or a box of Cheerios?


Still, it’s better than in some places. Today S. reported a rumor about out-of-staters pulling up to a grocery store in a tiny town on the Idaho-Wyoming border in U-Hauls and trying to strip it of goods. According to the rumor, the store owner made a few calls. Armed locals turned up and the out-of-state raiders went away empty.

He couldn’t verify that story (nor could I), but he did say that local authorities in his own area had issued an order allowing grocers and other retailers to prioritize county residents over out-of-area customers. The order cited incidents of abuse by out-of-area types. So word is out that such raids may be happening.

There are a lot of advantages to small-town life. But sometimes not so much.

For instance, we now see multitudes of articles online about how vulnerable elders can get groceries and prescription drugs with minimal exposure to Covid-19. But virtually every one of them applies only to people who live in civilization. There are the famous grocery chains offering “senior-only” hours and chain pharmacies or big-box stores that now deliver. If you live where chain stores exist, that’s good. If you don’t …

Still, we do have Meals on Wheels here (though those good folks must be taxed to the max already and about to be hit even harder).

And we have neighbors.


One neighbor, who I know only to speak to, made a Costco run this week and collected orders from the street, including from me. Costco is a long way off and I have a couple friends with whom I exchange Costco wish lists when somebody is making the drive. This woman is not part of that usual exchange.

But she’s kind and she probably figured everybody would be needing the infamous items.

The only thing I could think of was Kerrygold Irish butter — strictly a luxury, which I felt rather silly even asking for under the circumstances.

A few hours later, one of the woman’s young sons showed up at my door, handed me the golden package, and said his mother didn’t want money for it.

I paid anyway, of course. But in the ensuing text exchange with Mom, she was effusive in saying that she and her family would do anything — anything — for me if I were in need.

I said I’d do the same for them, even though we both knew it’s highly likely they’d never need much from me.

I’ve been spring cleaning, however, and I did send the son home with a box of once-fired brass I’ll never reload. I don’t know that family well, but well enough to know they’ll make good use of that.


Then Furrydoc texted out of the blue, offering me food from her family’s ample pantry (which I didn’t need) and dog food for Ava.

I usually try to keep two to four months supply of dog and cat food on hand, but this month I’m suddenly caught short. Amazon will no longer deliver Ava’s special food to my address. The general store in the next town hasn’t responded to my requests for them to get it. I finally placed an order online with, and they say they’ll send it, but they’re dealing with a huge, panic-driven backlog, and when they’ll send it is an open question.

So I took Furrydoc up on her offer of a competing brand from her clinic’s storage, and I’ll pick that up in a few days.

“Caught short” in my case means Ava still has plenty of kibble for a month, but the way things are going at the moment, a month’s supply of anything seems way too minimal.


It’s good to have friends. And even better to have one who owns a veterinary clinic. But I wouldn’t want to be in Furrydoc’s shoes right now.

People — clients, apparently — have already stolen sanitizing products out of her exam rooms. The feds have just imposed a sweeping family leave law for employees, effective April 2 that will complete the destruction of many of the smallest businesses — willful, conscious destruction that state diktats have already begun. (After paying out of pocket to cover the new employee “rights,” businesses will have to hope they survive long enough to collect reimbursement via tax credit.)

Now Furrydoc wonders whether she’ll be “allowed” to stay in business as more shutdown orders are imposed.

As a vet, she’ll probably be decreed “essential” and therefore exempt from closing. She’s certainly essential to me. But she still faces interesting times.


Another friend has already told me that, between the pandemic restrictions and the new leave law (which hands huge privileges to employees at the expense of their employers, no matter how small and marginal the employers may be) he’ll probably shutter his business permanently this year.

And now I’m watching this area’s 14 precious restaurants and shiny new brew pubs as they cut their hours, cut their payrolls, attempt to survive on take-out alone, or close altogether (which a couple have and more will).


I love this community and I know that what’s happening to these little towns is merely typical, a sign of the times, no worse (and in many ways far better) than what’s happening elsewhere in the world.

It could be worse. It will be worse, as politicians flex their powers and the disease lends itself to panic. We’re probably looking at depression now, not mere recession. Not to mention enormous, if not hyper, inflation.

With every politician on the planet now successfully pushing every conceivable statist agenda through the fog of mass hysteria and demands to “do something,” we face long, long, very long term consequences in tyranny and economic ruin.

It’s getting bad for nearly everyone, everywhere. I know that. It will get worse. I feel for all who are suffering and will suffer more in the future — especially those who may be spared the disease but who will struggle and even die from government-imposed poverty and despair in the coming years.

But this is my community, my home, my place in the world. I love this place with heartfelt passion. I cherish its exceptionally good people, my friends and neighbors. And I take very, very personally all the harm that’s being inflicted right here.


  1. StevefromMA
    StevefromMA March 21, 2020 12:44 pm

    As someone also in a small community I can identify with your feelings. I live in a seaside community on Cape Cod that is sleepy most of the year but has half a million tourists in the summer. Some of them have summer homes and they are fleeing here early to escape COV, no doubt instead bringing it out. Locals are not happy but there is nothing to do. The truly despicable TPTB have messed up but people like us will bear the brunt of their callous incompetence.

  2. Comrade X
    Comrade X March 21, 2020 1:25 pm

    Not only will this event challenge the character of this so called republic but even more importantly the character of each one of us as individuals.

    Helping friends, family and neighbors IMHO is the foundation of a civil society if we lose that we will also lose our civility.

  3. just waiting
    just waiting March 21, 2020 1:43 pm

    We learned the downfall of rural living after Sandy, when power was out for 2 weeks. In times of emergency, resources are directed to where they can help the most people the quickest. Replacing a fuse on an electric pole takes the same amount of time whether the fuse restores a 200 unit complex or a single home. Most people the quickest.

    We’re starting to see more campers and rvs on the road than normal for this time of year. Most heading up from CA.

    Somehow, I’m just not seeing this being a long peaceful descent. The old social contract of our youth has been abandoned for FUIWM (F you, I want mine) entitlement and selfishness. At some point, the rule of law is bound to fail.

    Like I have been for years here, I’m just waiting to see what happens next.

  4. Jolly
    Jolly March 21, 2020 2:22 pm

    Up here in rural “Cow Hampshire” – it’s been interesting. The governor closed all restaurants except for takeout. My son is a manager at a national restaurant chain, and his hours were cut by 50% and they’ve laid-off half their employees. Timely, however, he got a job offer as a LNA at the huge regional medical center on Friday. Once the paperwork is done, he’ll be gone. Interestingly, the local Dominos Pizza had a 50% off sale for online orders, and reports are it’s going to shut down by April. So, even as restaurants are OPEN, few people are buying.
    My wife’s consulting business has stopped completely. ALL of her clients ( 12+ ) EVERY SINGLE ONE is shut down – mostly because they’re hands-on type of business – karate dojo, dance classes, theatre companies, etc.. The rest are killed by zero travel.
    Daughter in nursing school – her clinicals were canceled for the rest of the semester. It’s not clear that she’ll be allowed to sit for her RN exam because of that…
    I thought *I* was immune, as my job is remote, and traffic on the site has increased almost 30% in the last month. Unfortunately, national advertisers have paused their campaigns, and the local editions all revolve around children’s activities – which – are ALL canceled, so local advertisers are gone, too.
    Corporate informed everybody they have to cut everybody’s pay by 10% starting immediately. That doesn’t kill me, but – it’s not painless either.
    I think the problem is that even if WE don’t panic, and are relatively prepared – we still have to react to others’ reactions.
    Hopefully, this will be done in the 45 days forecast by somebody ( forget who )…

  5. UnReconstructed
    UnReconstructed March 21, 2020 3:15 pm

    As far as : why toilet paper?

    1. its pretty cheap

    2. Its really handy

    3.(and I have not seen this anywhere)…..its really really bulky. Probably the bulkiest item in the store. A pallet probably only holds 20-40 of the giant family packs. Once its gone in the location it usually lives in, someone brings out another pallet. But that doesn’t last long, because only 20 people will take that. Truck from warehouse….same thing. for all its size, there isn’t much there. Same thing with paper towels…very bulky.

  6. Quiet Joe
    Quiet Joe March 21, 2020 4:03 pm

    Living in the Northwest Part of Arizona we butt up to California and Nevada. Last weekend the Golden Hordes from both states hit this county. Wiping out stores; Grocery, Dollar, and Big Box. Those not clued in (many of the people in the 3 main cities) were left having nothing when they got their act together. The normalcy bias is still strong in these folks even today. They all spout the talking points from the idiot box. Gets all bit old. I stopped trying and just figure they learn or not. I am encouraging barter in the small area where I am living. I actively encourage people to try and think about what would happen if this lasts more than 1 month.

  7. Pat
    Pat March 21, 2020 4:31 pm

    “Same thing with paper towels…very bulky.”

    The best substitute for paper towels is shammy cloths. Preferably real chamois, but these are great. One each for the counter, for floor spills, for bathroom cleaning, for the car, etc. They can be washed, dried, and re-used multiple times, and a package can last a year or more. They used to come 20-to-a-roll on the paper towel roller, but I can only find separate cloths now.

    I’ve heard these are good but haven’t tried them yet. They are on a roll — and a lot cheaper.

  8. Fred M.
    Fred M. March 21, 2020 5:41 pm

    It was just a matter of time; we couldn’t continue along the path we were heading. I’ve also heard about the scarcity of basic foodstuffs in rural communities. This has never happen before, at least in the lifespan of the elderly living there. So now the decision has been made to “feed the urban masses” at the expense of the rural few. We live in a rural area and while the local food stores are allowing seniors in an hour early, it doesn’t do much good since the shelves are bare. Chicken, we need to start breeding chickens and we’ll corner the market for eggs and chicken wings. We’ll make a fortune!!
    Claire you have some nice neighbors who give you your space and yet are there to help you when help is needed. Traits that our country has exhibited since it’s founding. How do people repay a neighbor’s kindness, we do it with our friendship; that counts for so much in our crazy world today. Sorry to hear about Ava’s food supply. I don’t know what she needs but I have found that Life’s Abundance dog food is a superior product for building your pups health and maintaining her in peak condition. Here is a website on where you can read about Life’s Abundance and order what you need and have it delivered to your door. It’s not the cheapest dog food, but it can’t be beat for quality.
    We are going through a trying time right now but that will change and I like to believe for the better. Our country is like a chalkboard that has been written on and erased many, many times and things are still fuzzy. Now the board is undergoing a wiping with a sponge and water and we’ll soon begin on a clean slate. Keep the faith (and also keep your powder dry).
    Be well
    Fred M

  9. Will
    Will March 22, 2020 8:38 am

    I think this shutdown situation can only last for 2 – 3 more weeks at the most. We can’t kill off small businesses everywhere in this country, they are the vast majority of employers and employees in the nation. In addition, most restaurants are not going to be able to make it on carry out orders alone. I am familiar with one restaurant owner in a small California town who owns 2 of the 5 eating establishments in that town, and reading his FB pleadings to get customers to order carry out from him is heart breaking. He won’t last 3 more weeks.

    Last, Newt Gingrich has an article up today at Fox saying the same thing, e.g. “we can’t keep 330 million people shut in at home for more than a couple of weeks” and aruging it’s time to start talking about he we get people back to work. I agree.

  10. Claire
    Claire March 22, 2020 9:42 am

    A small update on the grocery situation. I talked with one of the store owners this morning. He said they order 700-800 cases per week from their main wholesaler. They’ve been placing orders normally, but the supplier caps deliveries at 400 cases “with no rhyme or reason” in what they deliver — or don’t.

    For instance, he said they ordered 40 cases of toilet paper — and got three.

    He also explained that the situation wasn’t entirely flu-related, but that the wholesaler had just changed warehouse locations and had to hire a bunch of new people, so things are a mess.

    They tell him they expect to be caught up in a week or two. But of course, that’s a wait-and-see.

    In the good news department, today they did have plenty of eggs and milk and at least a few boxes of butter. Much else was still out of stock, but the place looked much less scary.

  11. ellendra
    ellendra March 22, 2020 12:50 pm

    Claire, am I remembering right that one of your neighbors keeps chickens? If so, they might be open to bartering for eggs.

    I expect bartering will increase as the supply disruptions work their way through the chain. And there is already a huge increase in the number of people online asking for tips on how to plant their first garden, raise chickens, rabbits, or other small food animals, how to cook and bake from scratch, etc. It’s going to be interesting to see how many people keep it up long-term.

  12. Fred M.
    Fred M. March 22, 2020 3:51 pm

    If you or your friends have access to them, the Foxfire Book Series is a great tool for learning how to have a simple existence and they provide information and techniques on “living off the land”. Including mountain crafts, food planting, canning, hunting, animal husbandry, and just plain living..

  13. Comrade X
    Comrade X March 23, 2020 10:10 am

    +1 on what ellendra said.

  14. Noah Body
    Noah Body March 23, 2020 10:43 am

    In Ohio, slavery, aka a stay at home order, begins on March 24. To be in force until April 6. Fortunately there are numerous exceptions, such that mostly normal life should be able to continue, except for the things already closed.

    But, the order gives the cops cause to hassle anyone going out. Just like in antebellum days, the patrollers could force any black person they found out to prove they had permission to leave the plantation.

  15. Myself
    Myself March 23, 2020 11:09 am

    (and everyone else)

    As we speak Barr’s (Actually Trump’s) (in)justice department is in court asking to suspend habeas corpus, you can read about in the link I included, the other one is a song ya’ll should like.

    In California right now violating the dictator’s edict to stay home can get you a 5000$ fine and a year in jail.

  16. UnReconstructed
    UnReconstructed March 23, 2020 8:00 pm


    Do you have ANY evidence besides that single article in Politico by Betsey Woodruff Swan to back up this very sensational claim ? The article references certain “documents”. Where are they ? Who are they written to and from ?

    Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

  17. Myself
    Myself March 23, 2020 8:12 pm

    You can accept or reject hat you read here, that’s up to you, but government is not your friend, not now, not ever.

    candidly I find it extraordinary that anyone would find the government taking their rights as extraordinary, but that’s just me

  18. Antibubba
    Antibubba March 23, 2020 9:35 pm

    The Democrats want to give everything to the People.
    The Republicans want to give everything to the Corporations.
    The military will get huge infusions of untraceable money.

    Business as usual.

  19. UnReconstructed
    UnReconstructed March 24, 2020 9:03 am

    You do not need to lecture me on the evils of government. I get that.

    I’m not putting it past tptb at all. But before I start looking for my tinfoil hat, I’d like some more than an editorial from an author from politico.

    Every single one of the clickbait articles reference the same story from politico. And that story relies on secret documents.

    Not exactly a preponderance if all comes from the same “secret “ source.

  20. Myself
    Myself March 24, 2020 10:21 am

    OK, in your mind you can trust this government, I disagree, you believe as you wish and I’ll do the same, interestingly there is a post above the one we’re commenting in that says much the same thing.

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