Tall Tales From A Short Cook
This story was posted on the BBQ Forum
Posted by Willy on June 23, 1999 at 14:16:04:
Note: I've always wanted to write a few short stories about fictitious BBQ folks and when I had a chance to post "twister Q" earlier this week I was inspired to write the rest of that story. If I don't bore you too much I may continue to spin a few yarns on this forum. Hope you enjoy it!
Tall Tales From A Short Cook
It was late May and I was driving to Dallas on highway 69 in eastern Oklahoma. About 4:30 PM I heard there was a tornado warning for some county with an Indian name (just about every county in Oklahoma has an Indian name). I pulled into a convenience store for gas and a cold soda when things really started blow'n.
The sky was as dark as night in the West when suddenly the plate window at the front of the store shattered into a thousand shards of glass. We ducked behind the counter and watched my SUV roll across the parking lot like some small child's toy. Without the power, finding the door was as difficult as locating the bathroom at my brother-in-law's house in the middle of the night. By now the hail was so deep in the store, we had to use one of the grain shovels they had for sale to clear a path to the door. It must have taken about 10 minutes to account for everyone and miraculously no one was hurt.
We noticed a keg of beer laying on its side next to what was left of the tavern next door. The tap was still in place and I was contemplating a cold one when Sally Jo, the woman I had been hiding with in the chip section, screamed, "here comes another twister!" Sure enough, we looked to the southwest and saw a big F-5 roaring our way. The only thing between us and the almighty was a small pig farm on the outskirts of this little southeast Oklahoma town. I had remembered stopping there a year ago to see one of the last working blacksmith shops in America, at least that's what the sign said from the road.
Anyway, I was pulled from my dreamlike state by Sally Jo who screamed, "darl'n we better be head'n over to that culvert 'cause I got a feel'n we're gonna get hit!" I reached for a bag of corn chips and headed for the road. No sooner than we reached the highway it sounded like the world was coming to an end. I looked up and saw the big F-5 rumbling toward the blacksmith shop and pig farm. There were cars, trees, propane tanks and pigs flying in the debri cloud. I ducked and waited to meet my maker. Suddenly the big monster turned north and showered the parking lot with shingles, horseshoes and old oil drums.
And then it happened; we heard a yahoo and looked to the sky just in time to see old Texas Bob the cook at the Diamond D ranch near Sherman. He still had his apron on when he yelled above the wind, "thanks for the hogs boys, I was running out of meat to cook!" We never saw old Bob again. When we crawled out of the ditch to our surprise we found a whole hog split out Mississippi style and cooked to perfection sitting on the hood of a 56 Chevy, just above a bed of coals from the blacksmith's shop. We went back inside and found one unbroken bottle of sauce and some white bread. Well I guess you know the rest of the story. The best "Q" I ever ate, well that would have to be "Twister Q."
Moonlight slim was only about 10 minutes behind the last twister Texas Bob rode north to Missouri. He had gotten his handle in a most peculiar way; you see Moonlight liked to cook whole hogs, but only during a full moon. He'd put the hog on at 5:00 PM and drink with his buddies and their wives until everyone had gone to bed. Using the excuse of tend'n the pig, he stood guard in a way that made even his children proud. About 3:00 AM Moonlight would start playing his favorite Patsy Cline song, "After Midnight." It was a grand sight to see Moonlight singing with Patsy to that pig. In fact, it was downright spiritual.
Anyway, Moonlight arrived at what was left of the convenience store about the time we were cutt'n up the hog and slather'n on the sauce. I knew Moonlight from one of them BBQ contests near Kansas City and recognized his not so slim profile in a New York minute. "Moonlight," I yelled. "You're just in time for some of this twister Q."
He stared in amazement as we hoisted the hood of the 56 Chevy, hog and all, off the blacksmith's coals. "I'll bet you're as happy as a two tailed dog to get rid of that twister," he said with a silly Kansas grin. "And what the hell kind a BBQ unit is that?
After a brief explanation of the amazing events we commenced to eat'n hog. Moonlight was quite taken by Sally Jo, the local hairdresser I hid with in the chip section during the big blow.
Before I knew it they were hugg'n, kiss'n and humm'n a Patsy Cine tune. I was happy for Slim since he lost his wife to that Fuller Brush salesman from Vinita. Before they pulled out in Moonlight's Ford F-150, they had struck a deal to go into the BBQ catering business together up in Pittsburg.
I saw both of them a few month's later at a cook-off in Tulsa. Moonlight was sitt'n near his new BBQ rig. It was his old pickup painted candy apple red with a black twister on the door. He had mounted the motor in the rear like some German sports car and converted the engine compartment to a coal pit. When you lifted the hood you could see 12 flats of the best tasting spare ribs imaginable resting on a steel grate next to the fire-wall of the truck. Moonlight and Sally Jo were proud of their new invention and explained that now they could do the smokin on the way to the contest or catering job and if they got hungry, well Sally Jo just opened the glove compartment and ripped of a few burnt ends. Life was finally good for Moonlight Slim.
The wind had changed and started blow'n from the north. That can be a good thing in August, but in January around these parts, well that spells cold. I was fighting against the wind chill to keep the Brinkman up to temperature and cussin the cold rain that turned to sleet only minutes earlier. I was about to put the pork butt in the oven and surrender to the couch for a beer and the NFC championship game when the phone rang. It was Moonlight Slim, he was in Detroit and he needed help. Well as you know, the only thing thicker and sweeter than the platonic bond between to BBQ men is KC Masterpiece. Eunice wasn't surprised when I asked her to call in sick for me on Monday.
The drive to Michigan in winter for an old boy from the Ozarks is like watching the Jamaican bob sled team at the winter olympics, it just ain't natural. I got pulled out of the ditch for the fourth time before I saw Indiana. The frost was building up on the inside of my windshield so bad I actually chipped off a couple big hunks and added them to the soda pop I bought at the last gas stop.
Sitting next to me in my AMC Pacer was Smok'n Joe Johnson from Joplin. Smok'n Joe is a legend in the four states when it comes to sauce. He had people from as far away as Des Moines coming down to try his BBQ and carrying buckets of the secret liquid back home. After a couple of beers Joe would always say, "you know there's 22 million pigs raised each year in Iowa and since you left there Willy, there ain't one person left in that state that knows how to cookem." Joe always was a suck up, but I knew he meant it.
Anyway, Moonlight was determined that I bring Joe along. He said he wanted Joe for his financial expertise. You see Joe was also famous for making money with his sauce. He bought a new doublewide last fall down in Miami and paid cash for it. Like Joe always said, "I didn't make that kind of money killing turkeys for Butterball." No one questioned his financial ability.
It was close to 6:00 AM when we stopped at the Flying J truck stop for one of those egg sandwiches and a quick sponge bath. Feeling rather sophisticated and full, we headed up to the headquarters of the Ford Motor Company. We half expected to see Moonlight cook'n in the parking lot for the employees. Making BBQ for those factory workers up north was like taking candy from a baby. Once they got hooked on the really good stuff they'd sell the old ladies wedding ring for another piece of pulled pork.
The guard at the gate said we was expected up at the office building. Joe and I thought, "he's cook'n for the big boys now." Joe said he couldn't wait to meet Lee Iococa. I had to correct him. "Don't be silly, Lee Iococa works for General Motors." Even that didn't dampen Joe's enthusiasm.
About an hour later we were ushered into a room with a bunch of guys with suits and ties. We hadn't seen that many ties since Reverend Miller's funeral and not one of those Ford boy's ties had a fish or a lure depicted on the front. Go figure. We hadn't sat down when this young man got up and pointed his red flashlight at a big board behind the conference table. "It's a perfect demographic match coupled with timely socio-cultural trends resulting in an unprecedented opportunity to exploit our competitive advantage."
He was pointing to a picture of Moonlight' new pickup smoker, and a cartoon drawing of two adults with two and a half children. The last child was drawn from the waste up. "We have to act quickly before the Japanese catch on," he said in a hushed tone.
Still confused I raised my hand and said, "what does Moonlight's truck, a cartoon family and the Japanese have to do with us?"
"We want to build the new Ford F150 Smoker Truck. This four wheel drive machine can deliver the world's finest BBQ through washed out creeks in Arizona, yet is sophisticated enough to take your wife to the Opera." he exclaimed with so much excitement that he spit on the two gents sitting in the front row. "If the concept works we're thinking of building a smaller version on our sport truck frame to capture the urban and 18 to 34 year old segments!"
After almost six hours of intense meetings and the bottle of shine Joe got from his cousin in Arkansas, we had struck a deal. They called it something like a strategic alliance for a joint venture cottage industry project. The long and short of it goes like this; they ship the trucks and engines down to Joplin where we use Joe's big steel building to assemble the "Smoker Truck." We put a quart of Joe's sauce in each truck and the last version of my BBQ cookbook that I wrote for the wives of the Lion's club last winter becomes part of the owner's manual. Joe and I each got a check for $75,000 and we get to call our selves some kind of consultants. We promised to show up and cook in the new proto-type rig at next year's Detroit auto show while some other good old boy named Billy Joel sings a new jingle he wrote called "My heart's smok'n for you." I've never heard of this boy, but with a handle like Billy Joel he must be from Mississippi. As we pulled out of the parking lot in the new Ford truck they gave me I noticed Joe playing with the red flashlight from the conference room. "Joe you didn't steal that pointer light did you?" "No, I figured it was broke and they was goin to through it away."
"Yea," I replied. "Just like those turkeys Butterball was going to throw away." That Joe, you have to keep your eye on him. Stay tuned for the story of the "Smoker Truck Factory and the reaction of the local towns folk." Thanks for the space Ray.