Kentucky, like many rural places, is peppered with country stores. They were once hopping with business as travelers on their way to work, the next town or, the next state, would stop and get their fuel or fill their belly with a fried bologna and tomato sandwich.
I deterred from my normal stop at a modern gas station with it’s pay-at-the-pump impersonal convenience. With my gas gauge teetering on empty I was certain I wouldn’t make it the 8 miles to town. So I pulled into our neighborhood country store with their marginally higher fuel prices.
An older man with a white and gray beard came out to meet me at the pump. He was dressed in his work clothes complete with his stitched and worn name tag; his ball cap bill, slick with oil from countless adjustments.
“How much?” he asked.
I went inside with my youngest boy, his brothers already off to school for the day, he was sure to get a morning treat. A pack of donuts, maybe more.
We picked our drinks and he held his donuts like a prize and we walked to the counter. With each step the uneven wood floor creaked, worn by thousands of steps. As we waited on my sausage biscuit to warm up, my little guy struck up a conversation with the gentleman who pumped our gas.
“What’s your name?” Little guy said.
“My name? My name is Mark,” the man said.
He told the man his name and the man told us how he shared a first name with my son. He told us that he was named after his grandfather and also a famous writer. After our conversation we made our way back to my car and down the road to Nana’s house.
That encounter made our day a little more rich with humanity, something a a modern pay-at-the-pump convenience store cannot do. I will be stopping at more country stores and mom-n-pop restaurants in my travels because I enjoy getting to know the people who make these places unique. Do you have a favorite little stop? Have you ever been surprised by stopping somewhere you weren’t sure about at first?