SOUTHAMPTON -- Sucking in the sights and sounds at Sauble Speedway, off Sideroad 14. on a breezy long weekend's Saturday night
The cement bleachers are packed. Local folk have come out to cheer the beat-up jalopies and souped-up heaps of racers from near and far who've come to "trade paint" and indulge their James Dean dreams.
Markdale winner There's the junkyard worker from Markdale who crashes over the finish line in a stream of sparks to win the "pure stocks" feature.
The chiropractor from Oakville in a souped-up vintage doing his weekend, boy-racer thang.
The father-and-son team from Port Elgin who'll be signing autographs tomorrow at a local Sunday service.
It's all in good fun and for a good cause. The $1,050 raised in the 50-50 draw tonight will go to the beleaguered fire department.
Fifty-fifties are a big thing up here in cottage country. Tory-imposed amalgamation -- T.O. residents will know something about that --has made it so.
Local hospital facilities aren't what they used to be. Up here, the elderly have to travel as far as Toronto, Guelph or Hamilton to see a doctor.
It's hard, too, to get an ambulance when you need one, ever since they moved the station out to centralize operations.
A surreal pall has descended over god's country.
Just last week, warnings were issued to pregnant women and nursing mothers not to eat fish from Lake Huron. Still, the cottagers keep pulling in huge salmon.
Politicos still talk of plans to store weapons-grade plutonium from American and Russian nuclear rockets nearby.
The Bruce Nuclear plant, meanwhile, its lighted stacks like beacons on the horizon at night, offers "electrifying" tours to the public.
And who can forget the disaster in Walkerton, just over the rolling pastures down Highway 3?
But it all seems so far away to this outsider and the other city slickers soaking in the suds before last call at the Phoenix Lounge, the only watering hole this side of Highway 21 in Southampton.
The country-western outfit on tap tonight, Midnight Trail, has them shimmying and shammying across the hardwood floor.
A blond woman, a local, wears bows from engagement gifts in her hair. A young couple, it's said, can still make a go of it here in the land of beautiful sunsets.
Ah, the sunsets. Among the best in the world, locals will tell you. The fries at Ben and Jerry's are pretty good, too.
And it's just a stone's throw away from the beach, where the water from the lake is receding and the townsfolk are trying to save the dunes beaten down by years of neglect .