Pet palaces for sale in Lakeside ‘Barkitecture’ contest _lowres

Photo provided -- A fancy doghouse is the Humane Society contest entry built by local feed, plant and hardware store, Jefferson Feed and Seed.

When I go to my favorite feed and seed store these past few years, I’m always wearing a suit and tie. The store sits across the street from the house where I grew up, in a town I now rarely visit except for funerals of friends and relatives.

It’s my habit to stop by the feed and seed on the way out of town, still dressed in the Sunday best of bereavement.

My latest trip was two Saturdays ago, when we buried my cousin, Percy, who grew up on a farm just outside of town. The place of his childhood is part of a subdivision now — one of the many old farms here and across the country that have disappeared beneath residential development.

As the landscape has changed, feed and seed stores, which once counted farmers as their primary customers, have had to change, too.

Catering to the boutique tastes of suburbanites who now live on land once used for cattle and crops, the feed and seed store I’ve known since youth now sells designer dog food. A sales lady tried to interest me in a bag of the stuff, which contained “prebiotics to help support nutrient absorption.” I quietly declined, hoping that my old terrier back at home would be able to continue absorbing nutrients in the bargain brand I get him at the supermarket.

Though so much of life refuses to stand still, I’m comforted that a lot of other things in a feed and seed store stay the same. Entering the aisles, I always notice the same intoxicating smell I’ve known since I was a boy — a curious mix of feed and fertilizer, seed and soil, pesticide and leather, oil, hay, the heated metal of the brooder where newborn chicks stay warm until they’re sold.

I like to scan shelves lined with veterinary products that would rival any potion dreamed up in a Harry Potter novel. Here, a shopper can find foot rot and ringworm spray, blood stop powder, dehorning paste, Scarlet Oil wound dressing, Swat Clear fly repellent ointment, Goat and Sheep Nutri-Drench, Screw Worm Ear Tick Aerosol, Cowboy Magic Greenspot Remover and Begeloil: The Professionals’ Liniment.

My ears still buzzing with the lyric language of animal husbandry, I bought a sack of sunflower seed for my bird feeder and a bag of seed potatoes I’ll plant around Valentine’s Day in my small backyard garden.

After ringing me up, Martha Jo, the owner, gave me a complimentary wall calendar to take home, every block marked with the time of sunrise, sunset, moonset and how many hours of sunlight would grace each day.

In a month when the headlines spell uncertainty, I welcomed the calendar’s calm assurance of the sun and moon making their eternal appearance, carrying me through another four seasons of my life.

It was a nice thing to think about while driving back from a funeral.


Follow Danny Heitman on Twitter, @Danny_Heitman.