Two of my cousins, The Boys (they're within several years of my age, one way or the other), have taken up competitive barbeque. I didn't know people competed in that, but a moment of clear thought says people will compete in anything. This weekend was the last competition of the season, The Boys' third, and it was in Shelby, close enough that we, The Girls, could go.
There are teams that compete every weekend, traveling all over the country. The big names sell their products as well as competing for prize money.
There's a difference between what we mere mortals think of as barbeque and what it really is. When we go out in the back yard and throw a steak over the charcoal, that's grilling. Grilling means you're cooking over direct heat. Barbeque uses indirect heat and smoke over much longer periods of time. This is my cousins' BBQ rig. The wood fire goes in the compartment at the lower left, and the meat goes in the big section. But they've been looking online at the fancier rigs some of the big guys use.
They start cooking the night before and keep an eye on it all night. Starting at noon, they present their first kind of meat to the judges for double-blind scoring, and at regular intervals, they bring all the rest. There's chicken, pork, beef brisket, and ribs. By 1:30, when we got to their cooksite, they had just finished turning everything in. All that was left was waiting until 4:00, when the results would be announced.
We got to have some of their leftovers. A rib--wonderful--and some of the brisket. Oh my goodness, that was SO GOOD! The older cousin is a personal chef, and the siblings get their culinary skills from their father, who was a master chef.
While we waited for the awards, we (The Girls) wandered over to the stands, where we arrived in time for the last lawn-mower race of the day. There was a running start.
This guy took the lead and never let it go. Every lap he took that turn on two wheels.
In no time, he lapped the slow guy on the white mower, who had either the courtesy or the self-preservation instinct to take his turns really wide so all the faster mowers could pass him on the inside.
It didn't take long before the dust obscured the far end of the track.
And then the checkered flag announced what was all too clear from the beginning. Number 273 had won.
After the race we looked at all the crafts and goodies for sale. One woman was selling sugar glider pets, these little marsupials that live to be up to 20 years old and that like to take a nap in a pocket. She said hers climbs inside her shirt and takes a nap in her bra, but that was really more than I wanted to know. And more than I want from a pet. I declined her offer. But he sure was cute!
One of the booths was a political one, an unusual blend of parties. It was for a local man running for Congress under the Constitution Party, and they were handing out Party information. And slung across the front of the table was a banner for Ron Paul for President. The Ron Paul who is really a Libertarian but has an "R" after his name because he wanted to get elected. The Ron Paul who believes we should pull our troops out of Iraq even sooner than the Democrats want them pulled, and to heck with the consequences. This last point turns out to be one of the planks of the Constitution Party and must be why these guys like Ron Paul.
I didn't get the Congressional candidate's name, since I wasn't even close to being in his district, but he and I had a good conversation. We argued about the Iraq War (the candidate's son is fighting in Iraq right now), but neither of us was able to pursuade the other. He wanted to bring the troops home, and my concern over the risk of Khmer-Rouge-like consequences for Iraq didn't sway him. He asked me how we know that would happen, and I had no reply beyond "open your eyes and ears, and look and listen," which seemed pointless and bordering on rude, so I didn't say anything. I've never been a good debater with arguments and facts ready to go on a moment's notice. I do better on paper (or keyboard), when I have time to think and verify and organize my thoughts. I tend to leave discussions like this one at a stalemate, feeling like I would have made inroads if only I could have remembered some of the details I used to know when they were fresh in the news. Instead, those details just tease around the edges of my mind and then hide when I try to catch them. But even without the details, I enjoyed the friendly discussion, because I get very few with people who disagree with me.
After shopping and everything, we got good seats at the award announcements and waited for my cousins' team name to be called. Prizes were announced and given for 10th place and up, and every time there was applause, this dog barked.
One of my cousins (The Boys didn't find us, so they sat away from us) said he heard the dog but didn't see it, and because the timing of the barking was so perfect for applause, he thought someone had a recording of barking that they were playing. Nope, just a happy dog.
The Boys were pleased with their results. For only their third competition, they did well. They came in just over 20th place out of 64 teams, and all their scores were good. So they'll start planning for next year.
Back at home, we had the chicken for dinner (more wonderfulness), and then my aunt packed up a bunch of the leftovers for us to take on the road. It was a perfect day.