Friday, February 13, 2009

The Church of BBQ

The Church of BBQ
by Jodie Zoeller
Originally written in 1997, revised for a speech given to Toastmasters.
Competent Communicator Project 6: Vocal Variety, 2/12/2009, DFW Tech Talk Toastmasters
International Speech Contest, 2/19/2009, DFW Tech Talk Toastmasters
International Speech Contest, 3/4/2009, Word Wranglers Toasters

Where are you closest to God?

I believe my Daddy was closest to God while sitting in the woods at our lake cabin and cooking BBQ. Not that it was a formal type of worship, he just meditated in the woods while drinking a cold one and cooking his BBQ. He taught me to both enjoy and respect nature and being out in the natural world.

We had a ritual of sorts, here’s how it went in the ‘60s… On Friday evening after he came home from work, we would pack up the car and head out. Stopping by Stella’s hamburger shack for a bag of burgers, dill pickles and fries… this was before the advent of fast food, at least in San Antonio. Stella cooked her burgers the old-fashioned way and we waited patiently for the delicious burgers to be put in tissue paper for our trip to Medina Lake. After a half an hour or so, we would stop in Helotes Texas for a loaf of fresh baked bread to take along and sometimes a new miniature oil lamp for my collection. We processed down the twisty roads to Lakehills Texas in the hill country near Medina Lake, Bandera County Texas.

On our arrival, Daddy would have to check the cabin for invaders like wasps, scorpions and other critters. After he gave us the all clear, Mom and I would get out of our car or van and help unload bags of food, coolers with perishables, clothes and big old metal Army cans full of water. Yes, this was a rural cabin with no running water or modern plumbing. Our bathroom was down the path and called an Outhouse. It came complete with spiders and wasps, along with air freshener and toilet paper. The cabin was a former World War II surplus Quonset hut, converted by my Dad into a rural camping cabin. It did have electricity, so there was an old refrigerator, fans and a big water cooler to help cool us down in the hot South Texas summers. The cabin had one overhead light and a couple of lamps. For heat and cooking, we used bottled butane for small two burner stove. The cabin had been purchased in the early 50s after my parents’ marriage in 1952. Dad bought three 25 foot wide lots for a total of $75 plus $25 for the Quonset hut. His friend, Joe, was a bricklayer, so together they made a brick BBQ pit with chimney to vent the wood smoke. The BBQ pit lasted over 50 years, but recently someone vandalized it which when I visited there reduced me to tears! :(

At that cabin in the woods, I learned about respect for nature, the beauty of the natural world and how God is there all around us. There were MANY stars overhead at night and we could see the Milky Way sometimes without a telescope. Trees surrounded us, mostly cedar and live oaks. In the spring, many flowers bloomed, even though the rocky soil was hard and impenetrable. Every where on my walks I found flowers, flowering butterfly bushes complete with beautiful butterflies, flower cactus plants with tall stalks of blooms and wildlife – rabbits, deer, skunks, lizards and of course my favorites the wasps and Daddy long leg spiders. Did I say that there were flowers? Well there were yellow ones, white ones, palest pink ones, purple verbena and many more. And it was possible to garden a bit in the rocky soil, one year my Dad and I planted some left over pinto beans and tried to come back often enough to see them grow and water the plants. Eventually the deer ate the plants, but it was fun while it lasted… we had a small garden at home in the backyard, so I was never deprived of the garden learning experience.

We spent time up at the lake cabin, talking and hearing family stories, having great food that was made with love and spending time together without schedules or urgent places to be. The food is a wonderful memory – BBQ brisket, sausages and chickens, corn, potatoes and onions all cooked in my Dad’s BBQ pit. Mom used the butane stove to cook a big pot of pinto beans with onions and some salt pork or ham hocks. For breakfast, Daddy would make biscuits using a covered omelet pan, the best ones ever. And lots of eggs and bacon or sausage from the old iron skillets. The food is one of my best memories of that place and time.

Peace and quiet is another memory. Something not often found now, even when you go camping. Now people have DVD players in their vans, bring boom boxes camping and even TVs. Highways aren’t far enough from the campgrounds, so even a night there is some distant noise. That was NOT the case at our Medina Lake cabin. I remember the sound of silence………….. Our cabin was at the end of a very rocky rural street and not many people had houses or cabins near ours. Dad and Mom loved to escape the city life in San Antonio and dragged me along, so that I came to love that place and my memories will always be dear to me of the time we spent together there. At times we had a cabin full, with my parents, my grandparents, me and my sister after ’71… and lots of friends. My Dad never met someone that couldn’t be turned into a friend. :)

Our lake cabin was an oasis in the Texas hill country for peace and quiet reflection, lots of good BBQ and food, parents drinking a few cold ones and just living life at a slower pace. I remember Daddy meditating under the trees by the BBQ pit with a beer in one hand and a cigarette in the other. Mom would be in the cabin sitting in front of the water cooler trying to stay cool. I would be swinging on my board and rope swing in between. A little bit of paradise that I didn’t realize! BUT, it’s preserved forever in my heart!

No comments: