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Gathering at Rodgers Grocery 09/14/2004 A Goshen tradition By Jaine Treadwell The Messenger While residents of New York City were fumbling around in the dark, trying to get out of elevators, free them

A Goshen tradition

By Jaine Treadwell The Messenger

While residents of New York City were fumbling around in the dark, trying to get out of elevators, free themselves from gridlock or find their way from the kitchen to the bathroom, folks in Goshen were sitting around sipping sodas, eating Spam sandwiches and thinking "ain't life grand."

Thursday nights in the town of Goshen are traditionally gathering and grilling nights at Rodgers Grocery.

Not long before getting off time, for those who work for somebody other than themselves, Johnny Rodgers goes AWOL from his store, just long enough to fire up the grill so the coals will be ready when his friends come rolling in.

They come from all directions, most of them in pickup trucks, a few in cars and one or two might pull in on a John Deere.

Before the flames can die down, the little grocery store, just beyond the curve,

is surrounded by vehicles and the chatter is so loud it can be heard a country mile.

"I've been here about 17 years and the store has always been a gathering place," Rodgers said. "But, in the last few years, we started getting together on Thursday nights to eat."

Rodgers couldn't put a finger on the reason why the Thursday night gatherings turned into gatherings and eatings.

"I guess we got hungry," he said, laughing.

As owner and operator of the grocery store, Rodgers always chips in and onto the grill. But, so do most everyone else.

"It just depends who furnishes the food," he said. "Sometimes I do. Sometimes Danny and Carrol cook. Sometimes everybody pitches in and brings something. It doesn't matter, we always have something to eat and everybody is welcome to come. We don't turn anybody away."

Most of those who gather are from the Goshen community and all of them are friends. However, every now ant then a foreigner happens to stop in at the store and wander over to the gathering. Strangers are treated just like friends.

"We had some ribeyes tonight, so we cut them in little pieces so everybody would have a taste," Danny Rhodes said. "We didn't skimp on the Spam. You could have as much as you wanted - until it ran out."

Rhodes and Rodgers are the self-proclaimed Thursday night grill masters and no one has disputed their titles. Everyone seems content to sit back and let them "grill-on."

"Danny could use my grill if he would, but he won't because he won't use Ol' Diz charcoal. He's a Kingsford man," Rodgers said. "But Ol' Diz will still be around when Kingsford dies out."

That's the kind of ribbing that's verbally dished out at the gatherings along with ribs from the grill.

"We're just out here having fun," Rodgers said. "Somebody might turn on the radio, but mostly we do a lot of joking around and a lot of laughing - like people used to do when they had time to visit with friends. We make time - every Thursday night."

Most of the talk lately has centered on the Riley's Tax Plan that has conveniently turned into Riley's tax cut, Rodgers said.

"We talk a good bit about the tax and what it's going to do to us," Rodgers said. "But, we don't get mad about it. We're all friends and we're going to stay that way."

When taxes aren't the topic of conversation, Rodgers said talk gravitates to what's happened around Goshen or what's going to happen.

"Crops and who got locked up, things like that," he said, laughing. "That's what we talk about."

When the crowd slowly begins to drift toward home and Spam's all that's left on the grill, Rodgers leans sits back on the tailgate of a truck and listens to the crickets' summer serenade. He said he's thankful that his world is lighted by the stars and warmed by friendship.

Slickers can have their cities. There's no gridlock in Goshen and country folks can survive.