Thursday, June 18, 2009

Wild Hog 'n Beans

No, no, I'm not going to share clever family recipes. Instead, it's time for another round of "meet-the-neighbors" in which we make ourselves stand out like sore thumbs, act awkward, and become thoroughly embarrassed. It's an art we've perfected.

See, Dwayne turned a year older and we were invited out to celebrate. Given his devotion to us as a neighbor and our genuine appreciation for the guy, along with the promise that we'd meet some new "neighbors," we gladly accepted the invitation. Also - free bbq. This is basically always incentive. In any situation.

We drove up to the given address which turned out to be a sprawling, gorgeous ranch even closer to the city than our place. Along the road sat an aging old farm house with vast porches amidst a cluster of live oak. Next to the house several trucks were lined up with varying types of bumper stickers - everywhere from the playboy bunny logo up to Honk 4 Jesus (this, actually, was on the same truck). Our shiny Honda Element seemed a bit out of place which caused an unrational, adolescent anxiety to take over and we broke into the bottles of beer brought for Dwayne for an instant jolt of courage. Dwayne met us as we climbed onto the wide porch and began ticking off the names of people we had to meet including the owner of the ranch where we stood. He also noted the ranch's 15 minutes of fame since it served as the backdrop for "Jake's hangin' scene in Lonesome Dove," he proudly proclaimed (If you know and love this miniseries you will probably gasp with excitement for no good reason, like I did).

While we stood with Dwayne, a series of gregarious individuals came by to offer birthday wishes, all of whom were introduced to us. Few of whom I remember. The scent of roasting meat, the beer, and Dwayne's constant stream of conversation overwhelmed me until a woman snapped me out of my stupor. This was the woman who had bravely saved our cow weeks ago, and she pushed a lovely gift bag into Dwayne's hands. He opened the bag to reveal a set of bright red, fuzzy handcuffs with a scantily clad woman pictured on the packaging. We all had a good laugh as Dwayne exclaimed that it was just what he wanted for his birthday. She and I then exchanged hellos and she talked to me about the vacation bible school her children were dutifully attending. Vacation bible school and fuzzy handcuffs? Why not?

Jer and I were directed into the house for a look around (photos of Robert Urich and Robert Duvall hugging the ranch owner were tacked to the wall which elicited another squeal. I can't explain myself). We found the kitchen and helped ourselves to heaping plates of the bbq without realizing that dinner had not yet been served (oops). This embarrassment required more beer, and we bravely moved back onto the porch for covert people watching.

It's important to note here that there is nothing at all peculiar about this group of "neighbors." Rather, I'm just repeatedly struck by how much their ranching lifestyle sets them apart from people I interact with on a daily basis - yet all of these people live within a 20 miles radius of one another. How can we seem so different and yet lead lives so geographically connected?
But I guess the point is that the division between city and country here is distinct - as I'm sure it is everywhere. In the country, there are few pretenses and no room for anonymity. This is a refreshing change - for now - at least.

I was pondering these thoughts while munching on the most delicious beans I have ever tasted when a man we'd met previously (through Dwayne) strode up beside Jer. "Well hey you all! Did you see Dee-you-wayne's handcuffs? That boy......" and he trailed off when he noticed what was stuck to my fork. "Girl - you like dem beans I made?" I enthusiastically replied that yes yes I loved the beans and quickly requested the recipe. "The recipe? Well...(scratching head)...I cain't give you anything exact but you got to kill yourself a medium sized wild hog, smoke its shoulder and toss it in with some water, beans, and onion." (At this point I was forcing myself to chew the shred of tough meat I just noticed in my mouth. Now identified as wild hog. Spiky haired, stinking, tusked, wild hog) "OH!" he shouted, "and some salt. Cain't have your beans without some salt - adds that special flavor!" I choked down the bite and forced a weak smile, "Oh, haha! Salt! The secret ingredient!" Of course, I was thinking that the secret ingredient was actually the hog. And wished that it had remained a secret. He patted my back and sauntered off towards an industrial sized smoker, opened the top, and revealed yet another hog on a spit. Turns out he killed himself two wild hogs. We decided not to stick around for a sampling of the smoking meat and said our goodbyes.

In the end we met five new neighbors (the closest residing ten miles from our land), received three offers to drink beer, and ate our first plate of hog 'n beans. All in all - an excellent Thursday evening.

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