It was the sound…
As soon as you walked in the door, you heard it. It was the sound of the knife whomping, the sliding of the big knife’s blade across the table. Then the song would start again – Whomp, Whomp, Whomp, Slide…
The man was huge, at least he seemed huge. Maybe he just seemed larger than he actually was because he was holding a big knife (and he knew how to use it).
He wore an apron and a hat that would remind you of a soda jerk. The little soda jerk hat on such a big man was kind of funny looking. He was usually sweating. It could have been the continued whomping of the knife or the heat from the cooking.
The other thing I remember is the smell. As soon as you opened the door, it hit you in the face. Not the door to the restaurant, but your car door in the parking lot.
In the South, there are a few things that you can discuss and debate and appreciate for hours over sweet tea, buttermilk or something else you might drink out of a bottle or a Mason jar. These things include hunting dogs, secret fishing holes, cornbread, what used to be on “Main Street,” opinions on George Wallace, football and where to find the best barbecue.
That’s just the women…
Men will often discuss hair bows and their opinion of George Wallace’s first wife, Lurleen. Lurleen was the first and only female governor of the state of Alabama. Men’s discussions of Lurleen often include opinions of George Wallace’s second wife, Cornelia (Cuh'nelia).
Barbecue preference is something that is discussed throughout the South. Topics include the best restaurant, the best plate, the best sandwich, the best sauce and best stuff that might be offered on the side like fried dill pickles, turnip greens or pickled onions.
Sauce discussions can go on for hours and chopped, pulled or sliced debates will probably never be settled. For the most part, discussions are generally amicable and honorable, sort of like Ole Miss or Vanderbilt football.
The “Man with the Big Knife” was the center of attention in the Goal Post Bar-B-Q in Anniston, Alabama. Before I could drive, my Daddy would take me to lunch there in the summer or send me with some of the other fellows from the newspaper. When I got old enough to drive, I would take myself.
Recently, I read where they shut the doors to the establishment that I loved so much. That’s right, “They were tearing down the Goal Post.”
People who drove through Anniston at night have more than likely seen the Goal Post’s neon sign with a field goal kicker who kicked ball after ball through the uprights of the goal post. People would drive into town just to see the sign. The kicker hasn’t made a successful kick in a number of years due to a storm that either caused him to pull a neon groin, or something really serious. He just kind of stands there in the dark ready to kick.
Folks will always remember the sign. As a matter of fact, there are a number of folks standing in line to buy it. Whatever happens to it, I just pray that it doesn’t get moved out of the county or God forbid, up north.
I loved the sign, but my fondest memories will be the man with the big knife whomping barbecue, sliding it to the side, whomping more and the distinctive Southern savory smell. I will also remember what I ordered. “I would like a barbecue plate, outside.” They knew what I meant. I wanted the meat from the outside that looked like a crusty bark.
After moving to Virginia, I went in the barbecue place that folks around Williamsburg proclaimed was “the best.” They definitely had a lot of customers and had soda waters in big buckets of ice, but I think they have gotten to be such a big deal; they’ve had to hire “Non-BBQ People.”
The reason I say this is because the first time I asked for a “barbecue plate outside,” they told me, “We do have picnic tables outside.” I was stunned. I didn’t even respond. There was no use in causing a problem.
Bless these folks’ hearts; they didn’t know what outside meat was. I’m sure they’ve never heard of Lurleen or Cornelia Wallace and the only thing that comes to mind when they hear the name George Wallace is a black and white film clip, possibly even thinking Forrest Gump was there when it happened.
The sounds and the smells are worth remembering; they are worth saving. They were part of growing up.
I saw the cutest bow on this little girl’s head the other day (and she had on a smocked dress). I could tell she was from “good people.” I bet her mama knows how to make good cornbread (and her daddy can tie that bow in her hair if he needs to).
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