The Ribs Are Always Tastier On The Other Side Of The Dirt Road


We only have one more week of summer vacation, before it’s time to head back to school and actually use that new calculator with the algebraic function keys that was on our school supply list.

(Thank you, Advanced 8th Grade Math, Otherwise Known As Algebra I.  Whereas the school supply list for REGULAR MATH included two dirt-cheap notebooks, with your choice of fluffy kittens or Iron Man on the fronts, and a  #2 pencil, you were very specific in stating that the boy would need two five-subject notebooks, to the tune of SIX AMERICAN DOLLARS EACH, as well as a two-inch, three-ring binder, which is roughly the size of the binder NASA has to hold ALL of the printed documentation of the moon landing, a calculator with function keys and mechanical pencils.  August will go down as THE MONTH DADDY WORKED 40 HOURS A WEEK TO PAY FOR ALGEBRA STUFF, and let’s not even talk about how that Godzilla-sized binder is going to fit in a backpack.  It should have come with a built-in handle and wheels, and I have no idea HOW it’ll be lugged home every night.)

The honest answer is that it’s time to send the boy back to school, even in my mind.  Yes, I’ve enjoyed having him home all summer, because I can issue orders like, YOU FOLLOW BEHIND MY VACUUMING WITH THE MOP, and it happens.  And now I have to go back to doing my own mopping during the day, but listen.  Our summer break is officially at the point where the camp counselor has just run out of fun activities to do, and she’s left her group of children alone in the cabin to READ or WRITE A LETTER HOME or WHATEVER, because all the excitement of SCAVENGER HUNTS! and HORSEBACK RIDING! and ROCK CLIMBING! and FRIENDSHIP BRACELET-MAKING! and POTTERY! and CANOEING! and ARCHERY! that was so real at the beginning of the summer has tapered off to JUST NOTHING LEFT OF THE ENTHUSIASM, and all the counselor really wants now is a hot shower, any type of real jewelry that doesn’t involve cheap string and beads from the Walmart craft aisle, and a cold bottle of Zima with a Jolly Rancher watermelon candy poked down into it.

(I speak from the experience.  I worked as a camp counselor for too many years.)

(Also?  I think that last full paragraph was actually pretty much one long-winded sentence, but whatever.)

We really do need to get back into the groove of getting out of bed before 11 AM and eating something other than ham sandwiches for dinner, because it was 97 degrees at the park this afternoon and no one felt like turning on the stove.

(And I should clarify that it’s only the boy who is sleeping in until 11:00 in the mornings, because Hubs and I have Thing 2, and he rises in time to actually wake the rooster up.)


As a last push to milk this summer break for every ounce of fun it has in it, Hubs and the boys and I drove over the river and through the woods, and up the mountain and down the mountain this last weekend, to a giant PROFESSIONAL BARBECUE COOK-OFF.  I don’t think I’ve tried to hide the fact that Hubs wants to grill meat for gold medals and accolades and applause and three-foot-long, cardboard checks written out to the tune of twenty-five grand, which are presented to him by blondes in red-and-white-checkered aprons.  Hubs is a slave to BBQ shows on the Food Network.  He researches marinades and smoke times and wood pellet flavors, and we’ve reached a point in our lives where we can no longer enjoy a steak at any restaurant, because Hubs just grills them better at home.

So, when our friend Melanie said, “Yeah… there’s this pro BBQ going on,” we were in.

I believe Hubs’ exact words were, “I just want to go over there and SMELL IT ALL.”

Obviously, we are very classy.

And obviously the pro BBQ was very classy, too, because there was a car show going on, which you had to walk through in order to get to the food tents and the giant barbecues that are bigger than some single-wide trailers, and THIS was there:

IMG_2713THAT, people, is some kind of antique muscle car, with a very clean engine, and THREE tigers on top.  (I think I was supposed to notice something more than CLEAN ENGINE beneath the hood, but all those hoses and wires and fan belts confuse me, and make my brain cramp.)  Those tigers are not the low-grade stuffed animals, either, because they came straight from the upper rack at the carnival booth.  They clearly scream out, “OUR OWNER HAS A SWEET RIDE WITH NO REAL MUFFLER IN PLACE, AND HE CAN THROW A DART AT A BALLOON AND POP ONE, FIFTY-TWO TIMES IN A ROW.  WE’RE UPPER-DECK ANIMALS, AND HE WON OUR ENTIRE FAMILY OF THREE.”

And then Hubs paid ten dollars in cold, hard, backed-with-all-the-gold cash to secure this little cup of loveliness:

IMG_2718That is what is commonly called THE BBQ SUNDAE.  Lest you think that it’s a tiny cup of ice cream and toppings, let me set you straight.  It’s pulled pork, smashed in between layers of mashed potatoes, covered in barbecue sauce, and topped with bacon bits and a cherry tomato.

I’m fairly certain that these will be served at the next presidential inauguration ball.

Hubs made the rounds of all the food tents, and, after taking samples, declared himself more of a Barbecue King than anyone else there…

… until he crossed the dirt road with Darrell and Sister’s Husband and entered into the PROFESSIONAL BBQ COOK-OFF SIDE.  Lo!  He had just been on the amateur side of things, sampling sundaes covered in bacon pieces.  On the other side of the dirt road, he found a rack of ribs that he wanted to marry.  He came back with grease and sauce and flavor all over his chin and beard, and he was HAPPY.  He had met the big boys, who grill for real prize money.

Meanwhile, Sister and Melanie and I stayed on the amateur side of things, while the husbands were gone, where the shade was happening and where sodas were $3 each.  It was all about supply and demand, really.  When it’s 412 degrees outside, you become dehydrated and will shell out nearly any amount of money for a giant cup filled with seven pounds of ice and two ounces of Pepsi.

When Hubs came back to our simpler side of the dirt road, we had to break the news to him:  We had gone into debt by $726 because we were baking in the August temperatures, and we needed fluids.

AND… don’t judge us.

Because?  Have you ever had a toddler with as much energy as Thing 2 has?  Or the ability to dart into traffic and crowds like he’s a bolt of greased lightning?

Hubs and the boy and I were quite determined to still have Thing 2 at the end of the weekend, because we do adore that child tremendously, so we…

… ah…

… well…

used a leash.

Yes.  We used a leash, even though Hubs cringed in horror and declared that he couldn’t go through with it, because A TODDLER ON A LEASH??  It’s just wrong.  And I used to be there with him, but now I can’t throw rocks, because GLASS HOUSE, Y’ALL.

Glass.  Stinking.  House.

Except… That leash freed up our hands, and we could lower our vigilant attention just a touch, and holy sweet mother of WOW!  It just worked!

IMG_2714 IMG_2717 IMG_2735 IMG_2726Thing 2 felt like he had some freedom with that stuffed owl strapped to his back, and we felt like WE had some freedom, too, because I wasn’t chasing him nonstop in the desert-like heat.

We did, however, have to make the older kids rephrase their questions of, “Can I walk Thing 2 now?”  Because HE’S NOT A POODLE!  So the statement of the day became, “I’m going on a run with Thing 2 now!”

IMG_2721 IMG_2722 IMG_2733That pack of kids plum wore our toddler out!

Hubs and Cousin H also had a little discussion on how he could grill any chunk of beef or pork handed to him better than anyone on the amateur side of the dirt road could do.

Little H went along with him.  She’s still missing some molars required for eating brisket, so she just nodded in agreement to everything her uncle said, while she waited for someone to make the next $3 soda run.

IMG_2732 IMG_2730By the end of the day, Thing 2 was tired.

He’d been on forty-eleven runs with different big kids, while they held his leash.  He’d eaten one single bite of chicken all day, because WHO HAS TIME TO STOP MOVING TO ACTUALLY EAT AT THIS EVENT?  He had consumed his weight in Pepsi and ice cubes.  He had lost entire buckets of sweat.  He had thrown rocks and sticks, and he’d had a very fine day.

He snuggled up with Taylor, when a nap felt like it was unavoidable, even for him.

IMG_2738And then boom!

IMG_2711And that was our weekend, folks.

(I apologize for the blurrier-than-normal snapshots tonight, but I used the iPhone this weekend.  And my iPhone pretty much needs an exorcism, because it’s packing attitude and stubbornness these days.)

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