Poring over the map in 'Rain'

RAIN — is coming down in bushel barrels full. Then it slacks off and it's just spitting, then it starts to come again and the rivulets crisscross Ky. 1809 like they've got a mind to start a canyon to rival the Grand, given enough time.

From the looks of the veritable rainforest that lines this languorously curving east-west road, it's been raining here a long, long time. The layers of green that cascade down from the road's north side where the mountains form a high wall to the road's creek-lined south side range from lime to olive, from tea to toad.

On strung telephone wire, from pole to pole, the kudzu runs straight down like a curtain, touching the ground. The corn in the side yards of the homes along the road remind how hard it must be to keep such well-lubricated nature tamed, but how easy it might be to make it productive.

So, yes, it's wet here in Rain. Ever so understandable if someone sometime in the verdant, humectant past, pressed to name the place, had come up with the obvious.

"No," says Larry Inman, driving up a short gravel road that intersects the main road, "I never did hear that."

He's talking about the town being called Rain. He's heard it called Goldens Creek or Poplar Creek. The church up there is called Locust Grove Baptist, founded in 1840. He says there's an old rock house school just over the line in Knox County, but it wasn't called the Rain School; he knows that because his dad used to drive the school bus.

He looks at the atlas and confirms what is there in black and white. "That's funny," says Inman, who is standing in drizzle, nice as all get-out.

He's sorry he can't help. (He is fighting hard to remember something helpful.)

And, no, sorry to say, he figures it rains here "just about like it does everywhere else."

Round the bend at Ky. 11, a couple that lives near where the roads meet take a gander at the map, too. Yup, that says Rain. Yup, it's back at Ky. 1809 there. Nope, never heard of it. Never heard of that mountain south of Goins called Lawson Mountain either.

What they do know is that the flooding this year has washed out roads and all their vegetable garden. They blame the creek that runs next to their property. Don't know the name of that creek, though.

Know who you need to find? Clarence Peace. He owns two grocery stores in town. He'll tell you the truth.

At the Peace Grocery #2, men who had lived around these parts forever ruminate on why they never heard the town called Rain and what would possess the map maker to go on ahead and put that there without asking them.

"It's called Carpenter up through here," says William Peace, who is 73 and Clarence's big brother as well as the designated spokesman for whatever band of men is assembled at the store at any hour.

"If they don't know," says Jesse "Bo" Henderson, pointing to the Peace boys, "nobody knows."

And with that, the subject is done.

"I don't know Rain, but I sure know deadbeats," says Clarence, who is also known in these parts as "Hunk."

It is clear he does — know deadbeats, that is. Every sign in his store is a warning to check kiters and ne'er-do-wells to push on. A handwritten wonder on the refrigerator as you enter the store: "Your credit is cut out you don't pay me in full every week if you get paid every week if you don't pay go some place else for your credit." It goes on until there's no poster board left.

Says Clarence: "When they don't pay you, I call them deadbeats."

Says William: "A lot of them are kinfolks."

Says Clarence: "Well, some of them are."

The rain has been bad this summer, but so has business. Clarence doesn't blame anybody in particular. William, also known as "Dub," blames President Barack Obama, who, Dub reminds, is having a beer this very day to make things right with some people who disagreed with one another. Fox News told him so.

Don't say they don't keep up in whatever this town is called.

Bo and Dub are married to sisters, Dub says. They're Lawsons, like the mountain yonder. Which brings up that Clarence never married and what one has to do to get rid of a Lawson sister, should that urge hit, which it never did for either Bo or Dub.

Up comes J.D. Fuson, known as "Bird." He is 69 and gives a "never, nope" to the question of the day about the town that apparently was never, nope named Rain.

The men continue to chew and chat as they sit on a pew salvaged from the Beech Bottom Baptist Church in Harpes Creek. It's a cool day, what with the rain. The 80-year-old tin building that is Peace Grocery #2 is dark inside, if open, but no reason to burn electricity if you don't have to.

Clarence has put a sign on his soda machine. "Pop Gone Up" it reads.

Just like with the deadbeat signs and the Peace boys and Bo and Bird, it's straightforward.

See, if Clarence is going to tell the customer what he will tolerate and what he won't, the customer should know a few things, too. Like what things cost.

Hard times, you know, they rain down on everybody.

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