Friday, September 4, 2015

The Square Peg - Labor Day Texas Style or Somebody Please Shoot Bob

The Square Peg - Labor Day Texas Style or Somebody Please Shoot Bob
© S. Bradley Stoner

Well, Labor Day weekend has arrived. Yeah, I know, technically it doesn’t start until Saturday. Tell that to Bingo Bob. For Bob it starts on Friday. In fact, I’m starting to think every weekend starts on Friday for Bob. I know he works... he leaves at 7:30 sharp every morning Monday through Thursday . I know... you can hear Bob’s car. It’s not like he has glass pipes or anything, it’s just that he hit a rock when he was out four wheeling and punched a hole in his muffler... two years ago. He still hasn’t gotten it fixed. He has other priorities.

Right now, he has two priorities, his boat and his smoker. Bob has a big boat... well, big for this neighborhood. It’s what we call a “bay boat.” It’s 21 feet long, has two big outboards on the stern and a cockpit console amidships with pole holders on the front... and a hole in its side where you can see all the wiring. I asked Bob once if he’d lost the access panel cover. He told me, “Nah, my friend George lost his footing and put his head through it.” Apparently George does drink on the boat.

Bay boats are nice for fishing in the gulf bays off the coast of Texas. I wish I had one... maybe next year. In any case, Bob’s boat has seen better times. The paint is fading and you can see where it’s been patched from the times Bob ran into something. I don’t think Bob drinks when he’s on the boat. I just don’t think he pays attention. It must be the first time Bob has taken his boat out this year because when he fired up the twin outboards, they smoked almost as much as his smoker does. Bob shut them down and disappeared into his garage, returning a moment later with a case of motor oil. He put a quart in each motor and then stowed the rest of the case on the boat. It’s good to be prepared. Bob disappeared again, but this time he didn’t come back. I soon found out why.

An angry black cloud rose from Bob’s back yard. Yep... he’d fired over that beast of a smoker that he has. I wish he was the only one. Unfortunately, he isn’t. I knew that by tomorrow the entire subdivision was going to look like Los Angeles on a really bad day. Labor Day just isn’t Labor Day in Texas unless you are torturing meat... and your neighbors. Of course hardly anybody considers it torture, it’s a tradition, not to mention that it’s sort of like thumbing your nose at the EPA, which appeals to most Texans anyway. You see, we don’t consider it “bad air” when all those grills and smokers are going... it’s aromatic and appetite whetting. Who doesn’t like that?

In Texas, we don’t have to buy mesquite chips to throw on charcoal in our smokers... we have the real McCoy. We even have a town named Mesquite. Guess why. Yep, the stuff grows almost everywhere. And if you don’t have a friend with some land where you can go cut some of the stuff, there are plenty of folks who sell it by the cord. Just stack some in your smoker, set it afire, let it burn down to coals and close the damper most of the way. Instant mesquite smoke. Then you take a slab of meat, preferably brisket that has been treated for a few days with a rub (everybody has their own special recipe) or a couple of racks of baby back ribs, but really any kind of meat will do, slap it on the grate and close the lid.  Let it slow cook in there while you make tater salad, cole slaw, and borracho beans (don’t forget to add a can of Bud light... that makes them yummy). In a few hours you have a feast fit for a king... and every Texan thinks he are one. All that is left is to add a couple of cases of your favorite brew, a pitcher or two of margaritas, hire a local mariachi band and, carumba, it’s fiesta time! Yep, we do up Labor Day weekend right. Texas even has the world's biggest smoker... check it out!

Bob wandered over, rubbing the soot from his face. “Get a little close to the lighter fluid?” I asked.

Bob grinned. “Naw, I opened her up to check on the coals and got a face full of greasy smoke.”

“That’ll do it,” I nodded. “What’s up?”

“Well, we’re headed for Port A tomorrow... gonna take the ol’ Water Witch out and see if we can catch a few Red Fish and Specks,” he replied, meaning Red Drum and Speckled Trout. “If you’re going to be home, I was wondering if you could keep an eye on my place.”

“Sure,” I said. “Where are you staying down there?”

“Oh, we got a motel room for a couple of nights... we’ll be back Monday afternoon. Geez, they charge an arm and a leg!”

I just nodded. You see, that’s why I go the weekend before Labor Day weekend. The price difference is over two hundred bucks a night. It’s also why I go to the coast during the off season. Not only is it less costly, the competition for space on the piers and beaches is way less. I like it that way... and my mama didn’t raise a fool. “Have a good time,” I said.

Later that evening, I saw Bob loading a couple of cases of beer into a big cooler. Then George drove up in his old Corolla and added another case of beer and what looked like a couple of bottles of Jack. I could almost see the headlines... “Two Snockered Fishermen Found Drifting Off The Coast Of Mexico.”

Y’all have a happy Labor Day Weekend, ya hear?!