Sign hanging above the cash register at Bill Swinney's Feed and Hardware.

Downtown Coldwater is exactly one block long and comprises five buildings.

At the west end of the block, a beauty shop called Nettie’s operates from a small yellow pole barn. In most towns this size, the beauty shop — if it exists at all — is in somebody’s garage, but Coldwater actually has a freestanding salon (a “day spa,” the owner has taken to calling it, because all her friends from cosmetology school keep e-mailing her pictures of their fancy salons, and she’s decided the matrons of Coldwater deserve to be pampered as much as any Santa Fe soccer mom).

Next door to the beauty shop is a strip of three standard-issue Plains Commercial buildings leftover from the 1920s. The first is home to the Coldwater City Hall, Chamber of Commerce, and senior citizens’ center.

Next is Casa de Jesus, which sounds like a Hispanic church but is actually a bar run by a Mexican guy named Jesus Hernandez.

The best thing about Casa de Jesus is the enormous pot of menudo that Jesus’ wife keeps bubbling on a beat-up cookstove in the back room to cure customers’ hangovers.

The second-best thing about Casa de Jesus is the spit-and-whittle club that hangs out in the corner, playing dominoes and solving the world’s problems. Three of the men drink beer. The other two are recovering alcoholics who drink coffee black as tar and strong as turpentine from crazed dime-store mugs. Their presence reassures me: As long as old men are sitting around a bar somewhere, arguing about politics, humanity will survive.

On the other side of Casa de Jesus is a building that used to be an appliance store. Several dust-covered vintage cookstoves still sit in the window. I lust after them every time I see them.

I'm pretty sure this is what the gates of Heaven look like.

At the east end of the block, in a huge, red cinderblock building, is Bill Swinney’s Feed and Hardware.

I stopped by Bill’s today to buy switchplate covers for Unit 3, which is inexplicably devoid of such niceties.

While I was there, I decided to do a little shopping. In addition to switchplate covers, Bill sells tack, tools, bug spray, roasted peanuts, bulk fasteners, dog biscuits, work clothes, steel-toed boots, floating row covers, lye soap, sling blades, pinch collars, honey, trucker hats, safety goggles, deworming paste, beef jerky, sweet feed, and postage stamps. (Bill is the Coldwater postmaster, so his store doubles as a post office.)

Business is conducted under the watchful eye of a blue heeler named Moses who spends most of his time lounging on a braided rug in front of the woodstove.

Bill’s wasn’t the reason I moved to Coldwater, but it’s definitely a perk.

— Sierra


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