Now as some of you have already figured out, I have cooked in most all conditions mother nature can throw at a feller. I’ve had some of the best wood in the country and plenty of it, and at other times I would have paid out of pocket just to have one more shovelful of coals. Just as it took a bellyful of coals to push those old trains down the track it takes a lot of coals for me and Bertha to get the job done on occasion.
My favorite wood is mesquite, next in line would either be oak or Bois D’arc. A lot of places we cook at furnish wood but their idea of the condition of wood and mine are sometimes different. Seasoned wood doesn’t nesesarliy mean what’s in season, it’s supposed to mean cured and dry.
That reminds me…do you have time for a story?
I cooked for some folks one time in Arkansas who furnished wood and they assured me it was in the barn in the dry. It rained on me the entire drive up there and every once in awhile I thought that I might have to trade the wagon in for an ark. I was pretty sure wherever they were going to have me set up we’d need an airboat to get me there. Turns out, that wasn’t too far from the truth. And as far as wood status, it was in the barn alright, but the barn didn’t have a top on it! But you have heard me say I like a challenge and this one is one I learned from.
The next morning the sun broke through the dark and gloomy skies and it looked like is was going to be a red letter day. The folks I was cooking for drove me out to the cooking site. They pointed out in the distance to a spot of high ground where they wanted the wagon, but between me and that spot was a large flat of soggy Bermuda grass that looked like the swamplands.
Supper was to be at 6 pm and it was now 8 am, so I began to ponder what to do, how to get there and just how were they going to get them hungry folks out there to the wagon to eat. Maybe it was one of them BYOC parties, you know Bring Your Own Canoe.
Meanwhile while I was pondering on the situation another feller showed up and asked, “You the one going to cook our supper tonight? You know there is going to be about 150 of us hungry guys.” I told him I sure was, but there was one small problem of how to get across the bog and what were they going to do to get folks to me.
With every problem that arises there is a solution of some kind if you can just think of it or find it. The wind that had started to blow would help but we needed about a 100 mph breeze to dry this loblolly out. So this fellar got on his CB and began to get folks out there. One feller who showed up was driving a Teragator which looks like a giant tricycle with 8 foot rubber tires and told me he could pull the wagon out there. At that moment that man became my new best friend. “But what about my old stove, Bertha?” I asked. “Don’t worry about her,” he said, ” we will put her on two wooden pallates and drag her out there to you.”
This looked like a bunch of rednecks at a mudbug race where the crawdads were just a little bigger. Looked good when we finally got the wagon and Bertha set up, but hold them reins…we still had wet wood and I mean wet! You could wring water out of it. Thanks to propane and a lot of it I got a fire started and began to cook an evening meal of stew, cornbread and cobbler. The stew wouldn’t be a problem but the cobblers and cornbread would take some doing ’cause wet wood doesn’t make many coals. This was the first time I ever cooked in a Dutch oven using only propane. I used the propane torch and with even circulation heated the top and bottoms of the ovens. Rotate ovens, stir stew with one hand and greet folks with the other. Something I ain’t never done is be late or serve cold food much less half cooked.
When it was time to eat, they were bringing folks out on four wheelers, gators and one fellar even road his mule out. I like foks to turn out if I’m going to go the trouble of fixing it and these folks did. All in all it was a good day, we didn’t burn anything, no one got food posioning and as far as I can recollect no one drowned. I did stay one extra day to let it dry up a little before I could load everything. I thanked them folks for all their help and told them if they ever got in a drought to holler I can really cook when it’s dry!