Welcome To Centertown – Population: You

It almost felt that small. Centertown, Missouri’s population was actually 257 when my bride and I recently passed through.

Centertown is unique; their definition of “town square” veers from the literal. While most towns in the world identify a “square” as a geometric shape with four sides and four corners, Centertown identifies their town square as having five intersecting roads, yet consisting of only three corners being utilized for local businesses.

In Centertown, five roads with three corners represent a square. You figure it out. While I could not identify what kind of business – or even the name of the business – was on the first of the three corners, the other two corners are worth noting.

Corner number two was the town’s trading post. A town of 257 certainly does not need a Wal-Mart Super Center or even a Kwik-Stop. But an old-style general store – now that could work! Enter the Centertown Trading Post!

I did not, however, actually visit the Centertown Trading Post, as I felt there was nothing in there of interest to me. When the biggest advertising message you can come up with to display on your front window is, “More than 100 saddles to choose from” you know you’re in a town that is too easily appeased.

But we did step into building three - the only eating establishment in Centertown: The Whistle Stop. I would say it’s a diner, but that insinuates a “dining experience”. And dining insinuates “atmosphere” – something The Whistle Stop is totally devoid of. What the establishment was not devoid of, however, was food. And lots of it.

Before ordering, I saw our waitress serve the two women seated next to us. They both ordered hamburgers – with each burger apparently made using the meat from an entire cow. They were huge. The burgers that is – not the women… although if they visit the Whistle Stop regularly that very well may change.

The smallest burger served at the Whistle Stop? One-third pound. That’s before the bun and toppings. The burgers were so big at that place they could’ve been used as spare tractor tires in the community if an unexpected rubber shortage took place.
We ordered our meals. Robin asked for the deep fried okra as an appetizer… and received the entire season’s crop. The basket had to weight four pounds. Fortunately, the wheelbarrow of fries I received with my chicken fried steak sandwich was somewhat more manageable.

As for my sandwich, it was not only the largest chicken fried steak sandwich I’d ever eaten, but also the best. Centertown may not be hip to what’s hot, or up to what’s in, or choose your own stylishly outdated phrase, but they certainly know how to make visiting diners feel simultaneously miserable and happy. Kind of like how you feel after going back for thirds and fourths at your grandma’s Thanksgiving table.

The Whistle Stop must be a popular place – in big bold lettering on their menu they advertise the availability of a party room that can seat over a hundred people. Impressive… yet totally unnecessary, I’d think. After all, we’re talking about a town of only 257 people – and you have a dining room that will seat over 100 people? That’s more than a third of the entire town. What kind of loser must you be in order to not get an invitation to that party?

“Yeah, we invited the entire family ‘ceptin ole’ Zeke. Turns out we just didn’t have ‘nuf chairs. But then, I guess we could substitute a saddle from the trading post… will that work fer ya, Cuzin’?”

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