Larry Brody: Live! From Paradise! #46 – “Why We Barbecue”

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THE USUAL NOTE FROM LB: From the summer of 2002 to  the spring of 2010, Gwen the Beautiful and I were the proud and often exhausted owners of a beautiful Ozarks property we called Cloud Creek Ranch.

In many ways, the ranch was paradise. But it was a paradise with a price that started going up before we even knew it existed. Here’s another Monday musing about our adventure and the lessons we learned.

Oh, and if y’all detect any irony, please believe me when I say it comes straight from the universe and not your kindly Uncle Larry B.

by Larry Brody

I have seen the future, and it is the past.

Last Saturday, Gwen the Beautiful and I went to a barbecue at the home of Doug the Dog Breeder and his wife Anita. About two dozen people attended this gathering, and it turned out that all of them were fellow congregants at the same church. That’s how they became friends in the first place.

For the most part, the men and women partied separately. Children under the age of six stayed with their mothers. Boys over six hung with the men. Most of us male types gathered around the smoker, and Doug was the perfect host, introducing me to everyone there and making me feel at home.

Much of the conversation was about hunting. The only thing that generated more excitement than a great story about the one that didn’t get away was talk about a gun show being held in a neighboring county and what was for sale there.

My contribution to the talk was mostly questions about any interesting places along the road our ranch is on. Turns out there are a ton of them. Half a dozen large caverns. An old Confederate silver mine. Ruins of a prehistoric Indian village.

Doug’s best friend Harry and the rest of the boys were eager to take me to see everything because, Harry told me, this is the perfect time of year. “You don’t want to go in the heat of summer,” he said, “because the woods’ll be overrun by copperheads then.”

“Copperheads won’t kill you,” another barbecue guest said. “Just make you wish you were dead.”

Harry shook his head knowingly. “You get bit by a dozen of ‘em at once and you’ll be dead enough.”

While everyone feasted on wild turkey, Doug showed me his property and explained that he’d invited Gwen and me so we’d get a better sense of the community of which we’re now a part. He went down the list of party-goers, letting me know that because we’re all neighbors anything I wanted that anyone here could provide, they would provide.

“If you ever need wood siding, talk to Amos. Bobby S has the biggest pawnshop in the county. Harry knows more about fixing transmissions than GM. All anybody asks in return for helping you is that you be a friend and say, ‘Howdy’ when you meet up with them in town. And if somebody who’s helped you needs something you can provide, you give it just the way they did.”

“I’m not exactly a helpful kinda guy, Doug,” I pointed out. “All I can do is tell stories.”

“But you know helpful guys. You can put people together.” Doug smiled. “Besides, a lot of folks not only like stories we need ’em.”

For a time, years ago, I lived in New Mexico, on the Santa Clara Indian Pueblo. Surprisingly, my friends there were very much like the friends I’m making here, Brothers-In-Earthiness, men whose view of life often came down to something I heard from a tribal elder:

“Everything in this world is a trade-off. Sometimes you seek out the trade, and sometimes the trade seeks out you.”

The good old boys who were at Doug’s party aren’t politicians. They’re not barons of Agri-business. They’re traders who understand the value of working together for the common good—not so they can get rich but so they can help each other survive. They’ve joined their church both to celebrate their Lord in heaven and create needed alliances here on earth.

During our talk, Doug’s words reminded me of my father, whose life was closely connected to what he called “do-bills.”

“I do a favor for somebody, and he owes me the same kind of favor,” my father used to say. “And vice versa, of course. It’s how business works.”

The more I think about this, the more it seems to me to be about something larger than business. I think we’re talking about the basic fabric of civilization. A ritual of mutual obligation from which everything else has grown. A situation that, in spite of the abuses we all probably can come up with, never has been, and in all likelihood, never will be, replaced.

Now I know why there are so many congregations and clubs.

Why political parties inevitably spring up the minute a new country is born.

And why there are so many great home barbecues.

They’re our way of belonging to the tribe.