A Day of Celebration

RamFanatic note:

Last weekend was great until the game started. I have decided to postpone writing about it until more time has elapsed. I should have known better, but I really thought we would see marked improvement in the play of the Heels. Such was not the case and, yes, I am aware of the fact that we may very well have been playing against one of the top 5 teams in the country.

I did see my friend Paul Severin receive his award for play that took place over 60 years ago and that pleased me. Considering his accomplishments, I don't think he has been given the recognition he deserves. We "old folks" are less prominent than we used to be and the torch is being passed to younger generations. I wish them every success in re-establishing a winning football program at UNC and bringing the fun back to Saturdays in Kenan.

It's almost comical to think about how my notions of what constitutes an ideal celebratory event have changed over the years. When I was younger, I thought essential components would have to be a celebrity, alcohol, massive spreads of fancy food and live music. Last Saturday, I enjoyed one of the more memorable days in the past few years and none of the above were involved. My apologies to Jim Early because he may qualify as a celebrity and if he doesn't now, he will in the near future.

I spent the better part of the day at Whitley's restaurant in Murfreesboro, N.C. at the invitation of the owner Ruth Whitley, the owner. She called on Wednesday while I was on one of my day trips and left word with my wife that Jim Early, author of the recently published book " The Best Tar Heel Barbecue, Manteo to Murphy" was going to be at her restaurant on Saturday and she thought I might like to meet him.

My first inclination was to respectfully decline principally because I didn't think I would be able to round up anyone to go with me and it is almost a 5 hour drive round trip from Richmond to Murfreesboro. But Bill Millikin ( short pump heel on message boards ) agreed to go with me. If it's possible, Bill likes N.C. BBQ better than I do and what's even better, he is interested in aspects of BBQ, as I am, other than just consuming it.. It's almost eerie how much in agreement Bill and I are about what constitutes good BBQ, sides, ambiance, etc. I don't think we have had a major disagreement on BBQ since I have known him which covers many years.

Driving down to Murfreesboro Bill and I talked about BBQ and Bill re-reviewed his copy of Jim's book so we wouldn't come off as ignoramuses when we met him. Both of us recently got our books and much of the contents have yet to truly sink in.

We met at Whitleys and another couple joined us for what was one of the best conversations about BBQ I have ever experienced. Jim is down to earth even though his credentials might cause some to be otherwise. He is a graduate of Wake Forest University and its School of Law, is a certified mediator, has conducted numerous cooking classes, is a certified BBQ judge, is a restorer of British automobiles. brokers walking horses and breeds and trains English Setters and Pointers. But the thing he has done that impresses me the most is to compile the ultimate N/C. BBQ which I hoped someone would do someday, hopefully in my lifetime.

The conversation was great but the food was even better. We all partook of chopped BBQ, slaw (with celery seed which I prefer) fried chicken served on a big platter just like it used to be on Sundays, Brunswick stew, and lemon ice box pie. The pie was my choice from several deserts available and I knew I shouldn't have chosen it, but I took two blood sugar pills before leaving Richmond because I had a feeling I was going to be tempted with something unusual. That slice of lemon pie was the first I have had since my blood sugar was diagnosed two years ago. I'm afraid to test my blood until I do some serious walking.

You might wonder what we talked about. The answer is simple. We talked about things like people would talk about at the Sunday dinner table years ago. Since most of us were strangers to each other, we spent some time trying to get to know each other better. No formalities were involved. I took along several "show and tells" but I had mercy on the group and pulled back if the conversation seemed to be going well. I refer to my things as a safety net. They are there if they are needed, but I never allow them to become the star of the show. Some interest was shown in the fact that I used to play the banjo but I escaped on the grounds that I didn't bring my instrument with me.

In addition to the socializing, I enjoyed watching the large number of Canadian geese that have taken up residence on the sizeable lake behind the restaurant. I asked about the ducks I had seen on an earlier visit and Ruth told me they were around somewhere. In a few minutes they appeared on the scene marching in a straight line directly to the lake. I couldn't resist watching as they approached the lake to see if the geese and the ducks would get along as the ducks approached the geese's' territory. Unbelievably, when the ducks reached the banks of the lake, the geese wandered away from their path and the ducks marched right through the crowd of geese into the water. Not a sound was uttered. It was similar to the behavior of motorists when ducks cross a road or a street. There is universal respect for what we see. Animals much lower in the evolutionary chain doing what we humans are either incapable of or unwilling to do. Its a trait worthy of admiration and respect.

We left around 3:00 in the afternoon for the return trip to Richmond. Jim had to move on to Greenville and had a book signing scheduled for later that evening in Winston-Salem. I hope he made it in that shiny black Jaguar he was driving. I didn't even have a chance to ask him if it was a restoration job or a new one.

If any of you are interested in purchasing Jim's book, they can be bought one of two ways. All of the Lowe's Grocery Stores carry them and they can also be ordered from Jim's web site www.tarheel-bbq.com. If you would like your book inscribed, Jim has indicated he would gladly oblige provided the request is indicated with the order.

Driving back to Richmond, Bill and I reflected on how much we had enjoyed the day. Only six people were involved, but it was the very kind of thing I am learning to enjoy more and more. The only problem I had was trying to decide whether or not to tell my wife about the lemon pie. Man it was good.