After she laid him to rest, she couldn’t figure out what to do with herself. So here she is, with her barbecue pit-master nephew, serving brisket.

I’m in the Texas Panhandle. I wish I could tell you where, specifically, but I don’t know. Outside Amarillo.

There are no landmarks. No trees. No water. Just dirt, wind, and prairie. I am at a rundown barbecue trailer, parked outside a filling station. I am ordering food. My wife is waiting in the vehicle with our bloodhound.

The woman at the window is a gray-haired sweetheart.

When I first arrive, she is smoking a cigarette out front. When she sees me, she moseys into the trailer. I’ve always wanted to use that word—“mosey.”

She gives me a Texas barbecue lesson. Her voice sounds like a tuba.

“Our barbecue’s different than your Southern style, baby,” she says. “You need to know that.”

Fair enough. Since I am a Southerner, I ask her what the regional differences are.

“Oh, lotsa differences. Mainly, in Texas we actually know how to cook.”

Texans.

“Also,” she adds. “We don’t care ‘bout side dishes like y’all do.”

Say it ain’t so. Side dishes are sacred to people in my parts. In fact, each year local heathens visit Southern Baptist barbecues simply to eat their yearly requirement of coleslaw.

The fourth time I got baptized, for instance, I ate so much coleslaw I had to ask the congregation for forgiveness the following Sunday.

I order a pulled pork sandwich.

“Pork?” The old lady gives a hoarse laugh. “We don’t do pork. This is Texas. Brisket.”

“Okay,” I say. “A brisket sandwich, then.”

“No sandwiches, neither. Brisket.”

I order brisket and ask for extra sauce on the side.

“No sauce,” she says. “Brisket.”

Texans.

So I’m eating brisket that’s wrapped in foil. And we are having a conversation.

Beneath the woman’s rough skin is a lady who was born in Amarillo. She married a man in the military. She saw the whole world with him. Top to bottom.

“Only place we ain’t been is Japan,” she says. “But we seen everywhere else. Lived in England a few years once.”

Then she tells me about her husband. The first thing she talks about is his defining characteristic: “He gave me lotsa gifty crap.”

What this Texan belle means is: he gave her gifts, trinkets, whiskey glasses, or candy. And he did this almost every day, she explains, for forty-eight years.

“After work,” she goes on. “He always had something for me. Every day. A candy bar, stuffed animal, set of saltshakers shaped like goldfish. Shoot, I got about a million shot glasses souvenirs.”

She once asked him why he bought so many gifts.

“Sweetheart, Sweetheart, Sweetheart,” he would say. “I don’t need a reason.”

“He was a neat guy,” she goes on.

Was.

Cancer. It came fast. One day he was fine. The next day, he was dealing with big decisions.

“My husband went from being a strong man to…”

She shows photos on her smartphone. A nice looking fella in uniform.

“Didn’t have us no kids,” she says, swiping photos on her phone. “Only each other. We did everything together.”

After she laid him to rest, she couldn’t figure out what to do with herself. So here she is, with her barbecue pit-master nephew, serving brisket.

“I gotta do something to keep my ass busy.” She laughs and coughs. Then, she MOSEYS (rimshot) from behind the window. Our conversation is apparently over.

“‘Scuse me,” she says. “I gotta go smoke.”

My brisket comes wrapped in tin foil. My compliments to the chef. This is among the best beef I’ve ever had.

I order some for my wife. I pay. Then, I walk into the filling station to use the Little Roy Rogers Room and buy a souvenir or two.

When I get back to our car, I hug the girl who is waiting for me. My wife is not just my companion, but my friend. She smells like shampoo.

I put something small into her hand. Something I picked up in a rundown, dusty filling station.

“What’s this?” she says. “A shot glass? Why’d you buy me a shot glass?”

Sweetheart, Sweetheart.

I don’t need a reason.

37 comments

  1. Sandi in FL. - May 29, 2018 5:42 am

    You learned a nice lesson from the Texas brisket woman, and Jamie reaped the benefit!

    Reply
  2. PatSee Jones - May 29, 2018 6:35 am

    Sweetheart, Sweetheart you simply know how to end your story so WELL and so GOOD! Ain’t that right, Master English teacher? Wonder if anyone ever called her “Sweetheart”??? Bet her brisket never looked GOOD or WELL!!!! You know it was NEVER tender either!!!!!! Bless her little heart is the GOOD or WELL southern comment to make now. Pause for a second and say a blessing…..time is up!!!!

    Next time, Sean of the south …include that little bloodhound’s name in your story. We LOVE hearing about Thelma Lou and Ellie Mae. They put the shine in the southern sun. “Never forgotten as long as a name is spoken or written.” – P.N. Jones

    Reply
    • Beetle - May 29, 2018 3:40 pm

      I love this comment. Very GOOD or WELL written.

      Reply
  3. Beth Reed - May 29, 2018 6:54 am

    Great story. Since I am a born and bred Texan I happen to know my brisket and the best brisket ever is indeed aTexas claasic. So I really don’t have a clue as to why she said no sauce and side dishes. We have them every where here in the Capital of Texas.
    My favorite place is Rudy’s. Corn casserole, fried okra, beans and cole slaw. That’s just a tiny sample. There is also dessert. I am making myself hungry so I will stop, but I have to mention that we have the best Iced tea in the Nation. Not everyone can make iced tea like a Texan.
    Ok I am just Bragging now so I will close my comment. Enjoy spending time with Jamie and Thelma Lou. Have a great day. Beth Reed.

    Reply
  4. Gary - May 29, 2018 7:15 am

    If it ain’t got barbecue sauce it ain’t bbq. And if ain’t Pork it sure ain’t bbq. You write good. I enjoy your writin’.

    Reply
  5. Carolyn Kent - May 29, 2018 8:32 am

    Yes! It’s got to be pork!! Great story! As usual !!! Great ending!!

    Reply
  6. Susan in GA - May 29, 2018 8:47 am

    This is the dearest story. I loved it, and I love the fact you moseyed into that dusty filling station and bought Jamie that little shot glass, for no reason at all. ♥♥

    Reply
  7. Anna - May 29, 2018 9:21 am

    That was so sweet. Love it. Meeting different people while traveling is the best way to get great stories. Thank you for sharing.

    Reply
  8. Linda Trammell - May 29, 2018 11:15 am

    Everybody knows you have to eat a piece of bread with your BBQ to soak up the grease! And if you don’t have a few of those pickles that will knock your head off, how will your “system” know it’s on “red alert?” Team Pork Chopped with lots of sauce & sides!

    Reply
  9. Howard Humphreys - May 29, 2018 11:39 am

    Nice story from your Texas stop..I live in Austin and I think we have some of the best BBQ ever in a lot of different little places all over town..Pork ribs and brisket places have lines waiting to get in before they open..Once it’s gone they close!!

    Reply
  10. Joan Raines - May 29, 2018 11:45 am

    Sweet.~

    Reply
  11. Barbara Lynch - May 29, 2018 11:49 am

    Barbara- May 29, 2018 6:45 am

    I’m the luckiest girl, I have the best husband in the world- always coming home with a little, sometimes big, something. I am blessed!

    Reply
  12. Jody - May 29, 2018 12:13 pm

    It is great to wake up to your special stories. Love roadside barbecue places, ice houses, and other things Texas. Good morning world. Sean and family are on the road. 🚘

    Reply
  13. Jack Darnell - May 29, 2018 12:46 pm

    I love Texas and Texans. Always enjoy passing through. It takes a long time to ‘pass thru’ Texas. Now BBQ?? North Carolina has some of the best. Florida doesn’t! LOL I am sure Sean the dude enjoys the conversation more ‘n the BBQ! WHAT NO SAUCE????

    Reply
  14. Connie Havard Ryland - May 29, 2018 1:00 pm

    Too sweet. Thanks for the heart smile today. Love and hugs.

    Reply
  15. Rose - May 29, 2018 1:03 pm

    Enjoyed this so much! Thanks 👍

    Reply
  16. Shirley Brown - May 29, 2018 1:11 pm

    One day, I’ll be that old lady. Our stories are extremely similar but for the smoking and brisket. I’d rather have my southern barbecue and coleslaw and baked beans. A good marriage has lots of the little things that count. Shot glasses, opening car doors, holding hands, working on car engines, watching as he cuts the grass so you can sweep the sidewalks, walking the dog together and him carrying the hairy wonder the last 1/2 mile cause that’s just what he does. Cancer comes fast stealing all the time that you shoulda had together. You make new memories: counting out pills, going to radiation, having MRI’s, talking in the wee hours of the morning because he can’t sleep because of all the steroids, chemo and crying alone in the shower because he looks like he’s losing even more weight. There’s more to loving each other than most people even think they have. It’s the living each moment together, even if the moments bring illness or pain. It’s the beauty in each sunrise you get to share together from a hospital window. It’s holding his hand as he takes his last breath because you’ve held his hand from saying ‘I do’ to the final moment. It’s realizing years after his death that he’s made you a better woman because he was in your life. It’s the sweet memories made when times are really bad and it’s looking at the marble plaque in Arlington where he waits for me to join him one day when God says it’s time. Until then, I have so many wonderful memories and wish that every one reading this will have the same love in their marriage that allows them to smile like I’m doing now.

    Reply
    • Cathy Cooke - May 29, 2018 1:46 pm

      I am enriched by reading Sean Dietrich’s story but moved to tears by reading yours, Shirley. You shared your love beautifully. God bless you.

      Reply
    • Dolores S. Fort - May 29, 2018 8:39 pm

      Thank you, Shirley, I know exactly what you mean. Over 50 years together, and would have loved 50 more, but that was not our choice. His ashes are waiting for mine to be joined together and scattered in our yard where we lived for over 40 years. And I do have wonderful memories, but at times there are some tears mixed with those smiles!. God bless you.

      Reply
  17. Carla Dillenburg - May 29, 2018 1:19 pm

    I love how you look at the world. You look past the traits that could irritate and find the ones that bring a smile.

    Reply
  18. Cathi - May 29, 2018 2:10 pm

    Big smiles, Sean!

    Reply
  19. Susie - May 29, 2018 2:11 pm

    Thank you for this story of love, brisket, and thank you Shirley Brown for your story of love.

    Reply
  20. Linda - May 29, 2018 2:20 pm

    Texans… never met any till we moved overseas on the other side of the world literally … with an oil company …
    became lifelong friends with 2 very special Texans
    We had our two babies in a far away land
    My friend’s Mom wanted her first grandbaby to be born on Texas soil. My Mom was not so particular …New York – New York…
    Her Mom asked if she could send a small bag of Texas soil to be put under the baby delivery bed ….
    Doctor said No …..

    Reply
    • lavenderlady - May 29, 2018 4:22 pm

      Your comment almost made me laugh as hard as Sean’s!

      Reply
  21. Amy - May 29, 2018 2:45 pm

    Sean, the Panhandle (aka High Plains, Llano Estacado, etc) is my ancestral home. There’s no place like it. The land and people are absolutely unique. I now live in north Alabama and have come to adore pulled pork, sauce and side dishes. ❤️

    Reply
  22. Jack Quanstrum - May 29, 2018 2:56 pm

    Ha! Ha! Ha! Good story! 🙂

    Reply
  23. Edna B. - May 29, 2018 3:02 pm

    Another wonderful story to start my day off with a smile. Thank you. Enjoy your BBQ. You, Jamie and Thelma Lou have a safe trip. Hugs, Edna B.

    Reply
  24. Linda Lou - May 29, 2018 4:15 pm

    Your posts always makes my day start off on a positive note. I laugh, I cry, but I am always filled with a desire to be a better person! Texas brisket is good, but Alabama pulled pork with sauce and sides are my favorite! Safe travels!

    Reply
  25. lavenderlady - May 29, 2018 4:23 pm

    I just got back from a family reunion in Texas and we had “Brisket” too. Wonderful people in the Panhandle.

    Reply
  26. Linda Chipman - May 29, 2018 4:42 pm

    I lived in the Houston area for 10 years in the 90’s. Remember the first time I had Texas BBQ. The ladies I was with kept talking about how good it was. I was very disappointed – not pork! I never had it again white we lived there.

    Reply
  27. Kathy Andrews Young - May 29, 2018 4:46 pm

    Love this guy. We are very close in our ideas…

    Reply
  28. Linda - May 29, 2018 5:39 pm

    Isn’t it wonderful to learn good things as you travel along. Lord knows I’m hoping you got some new tires for that truck. Yea, I’m getting to be a big fan as I am partial to big ole red headed boys. Think it’s because I got one of my on.

    Reply
  29. Jim - May 29, 2018 5:44 pm

    Lost my lady December 2, 2014. Not sure of anything except death, taxes, and God now. ‘Bout all I’ve left but is trying to understand how she knew she’d die the same age as her mother, 66. Thirty-four years of love affair. Forever isn’t long enough being happy.

    Reply
  30. Dianne - May 29, 2018 9:37 pm

    Just got back from TX. No pork!!! The beef was good, but I am Southern through and through and love my pulled pork and baby back ribs. Great story!

    Reply
  31. Sue Cronkite - May 29, 2018 11:50 pm

    Another good ‘un.

    Reply
  32. June Wilson - May 30, 2018 1:33 am

    I grew up in Alabama and lived there until I moved to Texas in 1975. I love both Alabama and Texas and hope you will enjoy traveling in the Lone Star State. BTW, both states have fantastic brisket with sides.

    I would really would have liked seeing you when you were in Ozark, only a few miles from my hometown of Ariton, but unfortunately that didn’t work out. I so enjoy your writing and hope to hear you speak in person in the future.

    Reply
  33. Mark Miles - May 30, 2018 2:26 am

    Good job. Now let’s mosey over to a real Southern BBQ spot.

    Reply

Leave a Reply