Opinion Columns & Blogs

Barbeques: A memory enhancing experience


Eleven years ago, next month, I wrote a column which I titled, “Barbeque: A Memory Enhancing Food.” Actually, it should have been called “Barbeques: A Memory Enhancing Experience.” Regardless, Saturday noon, a week ago, and for about two hours thereafter, I had proof and remembrance of what I was trying to say in October of 2005. Let me explain.

About a month ago, and as I have for the past 10 or 12 years, or so, I got an invitation to attend a dove shoot and pig picking over at Elmo Richardson’s place in Taylor County. Elmo was joined in doing the inviting by Garry Garretson, David Nelson and Burke Murph. I immediately knew that I wanted to attend and partake of the barbeque lunch, and I responded accordingly. And, that’s when the memories started flowing.

First, let me say that nothing is more Southern than a good, big, outdoor barbeque, with the hog still on the hot fire, body split in two with the eyes looking at you, the snout sticking out, and ready to be carved up for the guests’ enjoyment. It was delicious!

Fish fries are Southern, but in the South, with pro eaters and world class bull shooters, it’s still pork. That’s what we had at Elmo’s dove shoot and pig picking. That’s what we should have had.

Without taking anything away from the succulent, tender, perfectly cooked hog, and even as the large crowd gathered and through the eating, and as the talking ebbed and flowed, the memories, some as old as 50 years and others just formed, were there. A few examples are in order.

I first knew Elmo Richardson in 1973. I was the newly appointed Perry city attorney when Elmo and his firm were hired as Perry’s civil engineers. What a good hire it was. Elmo was smart, professional and did great work for Perry. And he and I have been friends now for over 40 years.

At the cooking and eating were several lawyers I hadn’t seen in several years but have known for many years — in a few cases 50 or more. And, oh, what reminiscing, as lawyers are wont to do, was had.

Jerome Strickland, Hugh Lovein, Joe Chambless and Warren Plowden — I talked with and listened to all these good lawyers and fine men. There were many good memories of cases won and “do you remember” stories.

I ate in a chair-formed circle with three of these lawyers and several other men, including Charles Wallace who reminded me of the time Bob Messer and I visited him at Vineville United Methodist Church in Macon to talk about a capital money campaign the Perry United Methodist Church was considering. My memory: Charles Wallace was very helpful that day, eight years ago. My impression: What a nice man Charles Wallace is. David Richardson, younger brother of Elmo and prominent Macon architect, and Charles’ friend, Donnie Cornett, were also in “our circle.”

So, in a couple of hours, after a 30 mile trip, and with the perfect complements for cooked pork, Brunswick stew, slaw, light bread, chips and sweet tea, I thought of things and people I hadn’t in years.

Then it was time to leave, and as I prepared to go, there was Dick Edwards, grandson of Miller Edwards (Edwards and Harper Men’s Store in downtown Perry, now gone), who I had seldom seen since we worked together at Tabor’s Packing Shed. Wasn’t it in the summer of 1958? Just as I did 58 years ago, I enjoyed visiting with Dick Edwards.

I have so many barbeque memories. The annual Mason’s barbeque (the Masonic Lodge Masons) at the old Perry High School gym now many years gone to fire and only a warm memory. And so many political barbeques, and barbeque shacks and cafes, drive-ins and restaurants. And all-night cookings. Ham or shoulders? As Daddy said, “Only ham makes the finished project too dry. Use hams and shoulders.”

And is it barbeque (as I have used here but with no strong feeling) or bar-b-que or bar-be-que or barbecue? Hot sauce, sweet sauce, mustard sauce? Chopped or sliced? Pork or beef (I do have a feeling about this, it’s pork in the deep South)?

So, let me end this column like I did the one I wrote 11 years ago: “I have just scratched the surface about barbeque. But my space is running out. I haven’t even mentioned its medicinal values and how good it is for you. It reminds me of what someone has said: ‘I refuse to spend my life worrying about what I eat. There’s no pleasure worth foregoing just to spend an extra three years in the nursing home.’ And so it is with barbeque, not to mention all the wonderful memories.”

Larry Walker is a practicing attorney in Perry. He served 32 years in the Georgia General Assembly and presently serves on the University System of Georgia Board of Regents. Email: lwalker@whgmlaw.com.