Storm Is Jan’s Fault

Lightning storm c 1966My road trip partner, Jan, a native Floridian, wanted to experience all the things she’s never seen in the Sunshine State. She got to shiver through sub-zero wind chills, freezing rain, snow and ice. Somebody joked that maybe she’d get to hear tornado sirens before she flew out of St. Louis on Wednesday.

They didn’t know how right they were. She and Mother went on a pecan search, then we dropped by Annie Laurie’s, planned to eat at the Pie Safe in Pocahontas (but they were closed), stopped in at the Altenburg museum where Carla and Gerard convinced us to go to the Mississippi Mud for the best cheeseburger around. It was.

On the way north, Brother Mark encouraged us to stop at the St. Mary’s Antique Mall. After about 30 minutes, I told Jan I’d take a nap in the car and she could take as long as she wanted. She said a group of women came back into the mall to report “there’s a man sleeping in a car with Florida tags with the lights on.”

They were right on all counts. My car battery was tested and passed.

Rain as bad as as a hurricane

Twenty-five miles south of St. Louis, the sky turned dead black, the winds booted us all around and we hit a wall of water. I’ve covered 13 hurricanes and had four pass over our house, so I’m a pretty good judge of rain. This was as bad as any hurricane I ever drove through. On top of that, when I was covering tropical storms, I was the only dumb fool on the road. Today’s rain caught us at evening rush hour.

When I called Cape to tell Mother we had arrived safely, she said she was hunkered down in the basement after telling our neighbors who don’t have a basement that she was going to leave the front door unlocked. “I’ve never heard the wind roar like that,” she said.

When I checked with her later, she said the wind had passed, but there was still thunder and lightning in the area. She heard a loud thump on the roof, but she won’t know what broke off the maple trees on the side of the house until morning.

Please, Jan, don’t ask to experience an earthquake before you get on the plane.

[Note: that’s a file photo of lightning. I was trying too hard to keep us alive to think about shooting pictures.]

The Pie Safe

This is the time of year when thoughts turn to pie and presents. Sharon Rose Penrod and her Pie Safe in Pocahontas can help you.

Let me go on record that I support buying from local businesses like The Pie Safe, where most of the ingredients are locally grown. Some of the vegetables come from a 100-year-old garden on on a farm owned by her husband’s family since the 1880s.

Pie Safe used to be bank

The Pie Safe started out as the Pocahontas Bank in 1910 with deposits of $10,000, but it didn’t survive the Crash of 1929. It served a variety of uses over the years, including being an insurance office and a home.

Safe has 24-inch walls

The ornate safe with its 24-inch-thick concrete walls still dominates one wall.

“It found me”

Sharon Rose and her husband, Monte, had been active in Jackson’s farmers market when she decided to turn her talent for baking into a business. “I didn’t find the bank, it found me,” she said of her building. The cafe has been open since June 12, 2012.

No real menu

The Pie Safe doesn’t have a formal printed menu. There’s a whiteboard with the specials scrawled on it, but “some days I run out of stuff, so I’ll tell customers, ‘Here are the ingredients I have. What would you like to make me out of them?'”

I showed up the other day just before closing time. “I’ve got my heart set on some of your coconut cream pie (topped with REAL whipped cream, not “calf slobber”).

“I don’t have any left,” she said.

The lip quiver worked

I put on my saddest face and gave her the patented lip quiver.

“OK, I might be able to whip one up while you’re eating,” she relented.

“I’ll chew slowly,” I promised.

When I finished up, she said, “I don’t think this is going to have time to set up.” I offered to eat a piece and take two with me.

“I don’t want to sell this”

“I really don’t want to sell this,” she remonstrated. “The whipped cream is sliding into the base. I’m not going to be able to cut it.”

“How about if I take the WHOLE pie? I’m headed up to the museum at Altenburg. I can pop it into the fridge in 20 minutes.”

Against her better judgement, she let me take it.

For the record, she was right. It never DID set up solidly, but Mother and I didn’t care. We were more interested in taste than appearance. We managed to polish it off in two days.

Got her baking skills from mother

She says she got her baking know-how from her mother, Shirley Schroeder Petschke, whose photos grace the walls.

Where is it?

If you can find Pocahontas, which is north of Cape Girardeau and south of Altenburg, you won’t have any trouble finding The Pie Safe, which is in the heart of downtown. (Don’t blink.)

It’s open from 6 am to 2 pm Wednesday through Saturday. The phone number is 573-833-6743. You can send Sharon Rose email at

Tell her Ken said “Hi” and to start working on a coconut cream pie for when I come back in a couple of months.

Pie Safe photo gallery

Click on any photo to make it larger, then click on the left or right side to move through the gallery.