I was on my way home from a comedy gig in southern Illinois when my GPS suddenly lost power. I had no idea how much I relied on “Imogene” until she abruptly decided to give me the silent treatment. (I named my GPS Imogene because that’s my mother-in-law’s name and she also likes to tell me where to go.)
I was stuck with a farmer’s soybean field on one side of me, and on the other side… uh… oh, look at that… more soybeans! I looked for a map, or an atlas. Nothing. I pulled out my laptop computer to log on to MapQuest… still nothing. Apparently soybean farmers don’t have much of a need to set up Wi-Fi for their tractors and silos. Sure, the horses, cows, and chickens would probably love visiting websites about animals, but without opposable thumbs, it’d be difficult to type “w-w-w-dot-my-animal-genealogy-dot-com.”
So I continued driving, hoping to find some semblance of civilization and came to Perry, Illinois. Perry is a very small town.
“How small is it?” you might ask. Thank you for asking.
The town is so small that the Perry Bank is made from a wooden shed you can buy on the sidewalk outside of your local Home Depot. No joke. Of course, there is no local Home Depot in Perry, because the town consists of only two buildings. Essentially, the bank was nothing more than a safe with a drive-up window and an ATM.
Perry has another ATM not more than twenty feet from the bank inside the town’s only other business: The Perry Quick Mart (which also doubles as the town’s only restaurant and as station). Of course, gas stations that serve food aren’t really all that uncommon – many truck stops are set up to supply gas for both you and your vehicle.
But the Perry Quick Mart is much more. This tiny mobile-home-sized structure also contained the town’s only video store. (Back to the Future Part 2 just made it to the shelves – guaranteed in stock or your rental is free!)
Need groceries? You’re going to the Perry Quick Mart. (Your milk is best if purchased by three days ago.)
Want to mingle with the townsfolk? Pull up a table (they have five), and enjoy a lazy Saturday afternoon of town gossip.
What really caught my eye though was the back room of this gas station. Believe it or not, it was set up as an all-purpose meeting/party room. Perfect not only for the monthly Perry Possum Lodge events and regular City Council Meetings, but also to act as the town’s only church.
Yep… if you want to find God in Perry, you’ll find Him on Sunday mornings in the back room of the town’s gas station, along with the preacher who also has to watch the front of the store in case a customer comes in, and the co-pastor who has grease and ketchup stains on his shirt because immediately before passing the church collection plate, he had to fry a plate of onion rings for an out of town traveler.
If you ever find yourself driving through Perry, Illinois, stop in to the Perry Quick Mart (also known as the BP gas station). The burgers are great… and so is the personality of the lady behind the counter.
But don’t look for an Illinois map if you’re lost… you’re not going to find one.