Monday, February 15, 2010

When Life Knocks You Down, Fire Up the Barbecue Grill!

My friend Harley has always loved southern barbecue and just about anything you could cook on a barbecue grill. His story is one that celebrates the spirit of a man to get back up when life has knocked him down.

When I first met him about all we talked about was barbecue ideas and the best barbecue recipes to use at any given time of year. We also discussed the virtues of charcoal grills over electric or gasoline cookers. He was obsessed with anything that had to do with cooking over a hot smoky fire.

We would see each other from time to time and you could always smell the aroma of barbecue smoke on his body and clothes, with fragrant wisps of whatever kind of meat he had been cooking over the weekend.

His ever-patient wife threatened to become a vegetarian due to the amounts of barbecued ribs, barbecued chicken and barbecued pork his family had to consume just to keep up with Harley's passion for outdoor cooking.

Harley worked in the large offices of various defense contractors and over the years developed a small barbecue catering service for the companies where he worked. He simply brought his grills and provided meat for celebrations at Memorial Day, the Fourth of July and Labor Day festivities.

On weekends I would pass by his house and see it encircled in a halo of smoke. He always had several barbecue smokers and grills working in his back yard. This was in the early days of his passion with barbecue, before he graduated to something bigger with which to cook.

When the time came to purchase a new grill, he went to a foreign country, Mississippi, and bought one on wheels. This was indeed a fabulous piece of craftsmanship, with a new huge barbecue grill welded to a trailer big enough to hold a bass boat.

In addition to the 6 foot firebox that is fueled by hickory logs that would be carried on the trailer, it had a smoker welded to the side. It was made out of quarter inch steel and had two temperature gauges; one on the firebox and the other on the smoker hood.

The trailer also carried a water tank to cool down the fire if it got too hot. The whole unit was ringed in silvery chrome, which I though was a little ostentatious, but he never consulted me before buying the grill.

Somewhere along the way, the economy went sour and people all over the country were losing their jobs and livelihood; so did Harley. After the initial shock had passed and the self-pity had worn thin, he began to count his blessings and take stock of his assets.

Thanksgiving was approaching and he had a list of satisfied customers from his sideline business. He began calling them and suggesting that this year they have smoked turkey or ham instead of the old tired traditional bird that usually graced their table on that holiday. He also told them to tell their friends and neighbors about his service.

The response was overwhelming. Harley kept that huge barbecue grill and smoker going for three days straight as he tried to keep up with the demand for his product. He made it through Thanksgiving and by Christmas was doing it again, but this time with bbq beef ribs and briskets, bbq chickens and pork ribs along with a few turkeys and hams.

Driving down a street on the wrong side of the tracks just after Christmas, I saw Harley's marvelous barbecue machine tied to a sign post near a small empty restaurant. The sign on the door said, "Harley's BBQ Restaurant, Opening Soon!"

This is a testament to the resiliency of the American working man and a tribute to the power of good southern barbecue. My hat's off to both of them!

By : Bob_Alexander

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