By Jim “Pappy” Moore
The first time I ever stepped into a store owned by the Butt family was in 1974. At age 25 I had been through 4 years of military service and 4 years of college, and found myself in Austin entering the University of Texas Law School.
My military service had been wonderful. Age 18 in uniform I got to meet the president of the United States, Lyndon Johnson. He saluted me, and said “where you from, Son?” I replied “Lufkin, sir.” He said “well I’ve got some fine friends in Lufkin.
After serving in NORAD headquarters, I got sent to Taipei and put in 19 months before coming back to the world. Got out of the military, and new congressman Charles Wilson offered me a job working on his congressional staff. I turned him down because I wanted to get my college degree, then get a law degree, so I took a job at a local bank and went to work chasing debtors, where I drove down every backwoods goat path in East Texas finding people who didn’t want to be found.
I blasted my way through college in minimum time, got into UT Law, and headed to Austin. The biggest grocery store in my neighborhood was the H. E. Butt Store. In those days they did not sell any alcohol. Not beer. Not wine. Howard Butt, Sr. was a big time Baptist and he wasn’t having any of that.
Saturday night at the H.E. Butt Store over by the campus meant students high on something would be roving the cookies aisle, which sometimes looked like a war zone where someone had attacked bags of cookies with mortar fire.
Over the next 30 plus years I would buy groceries mostly at an H.E.B. Store because I liked the fact that they were from Texas, and they were a nice, clean operation that seemed to hire good people.
After decades in Houston and Austin, I returned to East Texas after retiring from a long career of kicking asses and taking names, happy to be out of the big city hustle-bustle. I live in a small town. The local H.E.B. is not fancy like the big ones in the big cities and college towns. It is smaller, but it is quality and the people who work there are friendly and helpful. The people who work there are salt of the Earth. I always look forward to visiting with them as I buy groceries and check out with the cashiers. Everyone knows I’m the guy who memorizes the price of everything thing in his basket and can add up the total in my head as the cashier gets ready to ring them up.
One of my favorites is a young man who appears to be a manager there. I first noticed him years ago out at a children’s baseball game where we both had someone on the field from our family. I coached Little League for years, and I have a special place in my heart for folks who take time to get their kids into Youth Baseball. The next time I was in the store I made a point to speak with him. Since then I regularly chat with him about various store related things. He is very knowledgeable and understands well the thin margin that a grocery store has to make a profit, and the way sometimes stores have to take a loss on items on special sales. I appreciate anyone who takes their work seriously.
I could go to other stores and sometimes do, but my go-to grocery store is H.E.B., and it’s because of the people they have there. Friendly. Knowledgeable. Helpful. What more can an old codger like me ask for in a neighborhood grocery store?
Copyright 2024, Jim “Pappy” Moore. All rights reserved.