What is it about country living that makes it so appealing to the hordes who head off into the countryside every long weekend or for weeks on end during the summer. I have often wondered about that. To my thinking, I am not a country girl. I was born in the city, grew up there and wondered only marginally further to the suburbs.

Really? Is it the cows and horses, or the acreages of open space and produce, perhaps it is the distance between neighbours. It has got to be something. Perhaps it is many or all of those things that bring tired city-folks into antiqueland during the warmth of an August week.

Whatever the charm, I’ll tell you one thing. There is a certain homey feeling that comes from small town customer service. Here’s my story. It was a dark and rainy Sunday morning (I kid you not!) on Highway 401 en route from Belleville. A bad day had already begun and made quickly worse since the exit to the known gas station along that section of the route was closed. Things got worse; my car was threatening to run on empty long before the 40-odd kilometers to the next fill up point. In panic and trepidation, I drove…and hoped…for the best…and drove some more.

In desperation, several kilometers beyond the gas light, I hesitantly exited at the little hamlet of Grafton along a wooded side road. The outcome was expected and clear–this decision would either end questionably or at best result in a call to the CAA. Several turns followed by numerous prayers got me quite unexpectedly to the next junction. But when all hope of civilization let alone a gas pump seemed to have long passed—there it was—at the west turn off Lyle Street on County Road 2—was the best usage of rural commercial zoning ever—a gas station and the words E-S-S-O.

Joy rose to long sighs of salvation. It was as if I had found home and familiarity. All, made even better by Paul, the friendly service operator who so graciously filled my gas tank, took my speedpass and brought back my receipt. I would have tipped this man a small car payment, if I had had that much! Thanks Esso! Thanks Paul in Grafton! I think you knew that this city girl was coming!

And so, whatever their allure, the small inviting summer capitals that dot the countryside are functional nodes in the massive network we call this province.  Sooner or later, even the most reluctant of city folk will be quite grateful to become an accidental tourist if even for the length of a gas fill.

– Lisa H.