It’s funny what you notice driving down a two-lane highway.
I sometimes drive on Missouri Highway 96 east of Carthage.
When I do, I sometimes notice neat things. The times I don’t is usually when I’m on my way to Springfield, St. Louis or Lake of the Ozarks.
Taking 96 to Springfield or beyond can be a crapshoot. It can knock off at least 15 miles from the trip as opposed to taking Interstate 44, but if you happen to get behind a person who thinks the 65 mph speed limit is too fast, you find yourself crawling along for miles until you find a place to pass.
When I’m on 96 and in a hurry, I don’t stop and smell the coffee, as it were. Other times I do. A month or so ago I stopped in Avilla at the suggestion of the guys at Pinewood Nursery and discovered that Bernie’s Tavern serves up a great cheeseburger.
On Wednesday, I wrote about the Hangar Kafe, just north of 96.
On a recent trip, I passed a small grocery store that folks have been telling me about for some time but I had yet to visit. It’s called the Circle E Country Market and it’s just six miles east of Carthage. What I noticed were signs touting the market’s fresh tomatoes, peaches and sweet corn. I decided that the next day I would drop by.
When I did, I parked my car on the gravel lot in front of the store and looked at the neat lawn furniture and the screened-in wooden gazebo before I entered the store. It transported me back in time.
The Circle E Country Market, which has been open for three years, reminds me of those great family-owned grocery stores of my youth. For the most part, family-owned grocery stores have gone the way of family-owned drug stores, clothing stores and hardware stores.
Sure, you can still find them if you look hard enough, but in this age of big, bigger and biggest, most of those mom-and-pop stores are long gone.
In addition to fresh produce and a host of locally produced flours, jams, preserves, canned goods, snacks and candies, the Circle E Country Market also sells locally raised beef and pork.
As I walked down one of the aisles in the store I got a whiff of fresh baked bread and got a glimpse of several loaves in the back waiting to go into the oven.
The grocery store’s deli featured at least 20 types of cheese, including cheddar horseradish, habanero jalapeno and smoked cheddar and Swiss. The deli also contained a full line of meats. A sign offered sandwiches made to order.
The whole time I was in the store I kept asking myself the same question, “Why haven’t I stopped here before?”
I decided it was because too often I spend my time trying to get somewhere instead of enjoying where I am.
I picked up some sweet corn, a box of peaches and some fresh spices and then I got in my car and headed back home. But on the trip home I took my time.
And enjoyed where I was.
Do you have an idea for Mike Pound’s column? Call him at 417-623-3480, ext. 7259, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @mikepoundglobe.