Walking Around

The Joys of the General Store

I love walking around Costa Rica’s cities and towns. You never know what you’re going to see. These toy horses peeked out from behind a gate at a small general store on the south side of San José, where they awaited young riders from amid a tangle of brooms, dustpans, rope, sewing needles, fabric, candy, and other household basics. It’s dusty and cramped and offers no frills. It’s a place for business, not diversion. Get in, get out, and get on with your day.

This store reminded me, on a smaller scale, of trips to Lake Superior that I took as a child. We would stop in Grand Marais, the last town that far north in Minnesota, and pick up supplies at the local general store. You could get shoes, wire, peppermints, kerosine, and a greeting card all in the same spot. My interest was the toy aisle, to which I would make a beeline while my parents searched for whatever boring thing it was that adults needed when heading to the lake. For a few glorious minutes I got to sift through dirty toy cars, cheap water pistols, puzzles featuring mountains much taller than the ones around me, coloring books. A stick horse would have been high on my list of priorities: just think of the adventures that a child and his horse could have in the rugged hills of the Arrowhead!

I imagine these horses distract languid children just enough to allow mom or dad to get a new bucket or some dish soap. And, every once in a while, some lucky kid gets to gallop home with a new friend.

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