Living in the Mid-West is an opportunity to witness the very finest in business savvy. Towns are small, often no more than a few hundred people. Driving to the nearest Wal-mart means dressing up and going into town just like Laura Ingalls in Little House on the Prairie. Figuring out how to survive in rural America means businesses have to cater to what the people will buy. Since the potential market is small, if a business doesn’t hit the right note it won’t survive beyond a month.

We had the privilege of being loyal customers to a business that exemplified the aforementioned qualities. I was told about this gem by the most God-fearing evangelical crazy lady I have ever met. She was a fixture in town, with a personality that matched her wild colored clothes and loud voice. I was trying to politely explain that no-way-in-heck-would-I-ever-buy-her-homemade-lotions-and-potions, when she cut me off and whispered, “You know about the best ribs in town, right?” I replied no, we were new in town and hadn’t heard of it. She drew me a map to the place, explaining at mile marker 112 I needed to slow down and be looking for it because there was no sign out front and it was easy to sail right past it.

I followed her directions and pulled into a gas station. I was confused because she said it was a restaurant, not a gas station. I sat for a moment, watching families pump gas when I noticed the Best Ribs In Town sign. I went in the door and stopped, once again confused. The lady who quoted scriptures with every breath surely didn’t mean this place. Instead of aisles of typical gas station fare, the place was wall-to-wall liquor, cigarettes and porn. No soda, no candy, no bags of snacks, nothing that resembled any gas station I had ever been in.

I approached the counter, feeling a bit foolish as I asked, “Is this the rib place?” The cashier smiled and pointed to a sign over her head that advertised rib offerings. Only then did I notice the small doorway to the kitchen over her shoulder. It was a busy day for me and I hadn’t prepared anything for dinner. I bought a rack of ribs for $12 after the cashier assured me no one made ribs as good as theirs. As I drove home, the smell of smoked meat filled the car and it was hard to resist sneaking a bite.

As we were preparing to sit down to a dinner of ribs, bagged salad and canned veggies, the doorbell rang and I instantly remembered I was feeding the missionaries that night. We invited them in and I pretended all was well. As they sat down and saw the generous slab of ribs, their eyes lit up. As they started chomping on the meat, the compliments began. How delicious it was, how the meat was so tender and the sauce was perfect, and the highest compliment of all – Will you write down your recipe for my mom, Sister Young? Of course I had no intention of telling those sweet, earnest missionary boys where I got them. All they needed to know was they had the very best.

Only in the Mid-West can you get gas, liquor, cigarettes, porn and awesome ribs all in one place.