David Lauderdale

When life gets so cheap, it's hard not to be bitter

James W. Pruitt, 81, counts out 100 pieces of penny candy for a customer at Pruitt's Grocery in Beaufort on Oct. 24, 2013.
James W. Pruitt, 81, counts out 100 pieces of penny candy for a customer at Pruitt's Grocery in Beaufort on Oct. 24, 2013. Staff photo

Candy is cheap at Pruitt's Grocery.

James W. Pruitt stays pretty busy counting out penny candy in vivid colors, sometimes a dollar's worth at a time.

At 81, he slowly bags up one small sale after another at his corner store in Beaufort. It's mostly sodas, candy and slices of luncheon meat, salami or "puddn'."

The Coburg Milk clock on the wall is stopped at 11:30. But it's hard to know what era this store is in, much less what hour.

If you wanted to, you could fill a nice-sized bag with the 20th century and take it home. Cat Eye Champion Marbles, lighter flints, castor oil, fly swatters and TOP cigarette rolling papers look comfortable on the shelves beside sardines and crackers.

I stopped in this week to check on Mr. Pruitt. About a month ago, some coward wearing a ski mask stuck a gun in his face and robbed him.

Mr. Pruitt was back at work the next day. Still, he has slowed a bit from three years ago, when he was robbed at gunpoint and pushed, cutting his arm.

He says in a voice so soft it's hard to hear that he wouldn't mind firing his own gun in defense, but it's not always handy.

Yes, candy is cheap at Pruitt's Grocery, established in 1920.

But why is life so cheap these days?

Why would some punk take shots at a little old man whose store is more of a community service than a business?

At the other end of the life cycle, a young man from our town was shot and killed earlier this month, ending a promising and joyful life steeped in the Lowcountry. And what was it for? The police say the suspects took his 7-year-old pickup truck and went to a party. They say his debit card was used to buy tennis shoes at an outlet mall.

This week, our solicitor tried unsuccessfully to get the death sentence for a man convicted of killing his ex-girlfriend and her 4-year-old son, and shooting to kill his own 2-year-old son. The jury spared his life, which is to be spent behind bars.

We talked this over as barber Ray Harvey cut my hair. He said he's no expert. But he has talked over a lot of situations in 52 years of cutting hair in Beaufort. He said violent video games have to be one reason people see life as so cheap.

It's scary when life imitates video games, even in the slow-motion world of Pruitt's Grocery.

The only way to look at it is with Mr. Pruitt's perspective. He's been working in a Beaufort store for 60 years and has been held up four times. That means 99.9 percent of the people who have come through his doors are not a problem.

As he takes a dollar and hands a customer a brown bag bulging with 100 pieces of candy, Mr. Pruitt says he sees no sense in getting bitter now.


Anyone with information about the armed robbery at Pruitt's Grocery in Beaufort on Sept. 25 can call investigators at 843-322-7950.

Follow columnist David Lauderdale at twitter.com/ThatsLauderdale.

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