Monday, June 6, 2011

The Sounds of Que

What is that I hear?

The sounds of a BBQ contest can range from quiet to very noisy. Much of the sound is dependent upon which part of the day it is. I almost think at times, if I were blindfolded or were listening to the recorded sounds from a contest, I could tell you what time it was just by listening to the sound being created.

Friday morning the begins somewhat quietly, a few teams may have arrived on site the day before but for the most part, the contest grounds are empty with the exception of the contest staff. Teams begin arriving just after daybreak and are directed to their areas by volunteers many times using golf carts and verbal direction. You’ll hear sounds of teams setting up camp, metal poles clanking together, stakes being driven, cookers being unloaded, set into place, some even lit.

The astute observer will begin to notice a few pleasant smells being generated as early arrivals toss on assorted items to be served for lunch or perhaps involved in the ancillary contests set for Friday night. Conversations overheard will be greetings and other pleasantries as folks see their old friends and meet new acquaintances, introductions are made to neighbors, much laughter will be heard. Contest reps move about inspecting meats and providing information as to ice deliveries, cooks meeting times and any other pertinent information that will be needed by the arriving pit masters.

As the day progresses spectators arrive and begin to walk about asking questions and making observations. Maybe the event is in conjunction with a carnival, rides are tested and begin to operate, and perhaps a band begins to play offering attendees some evening entertainment. The evening wears on and things build to a pitch around 8:00 or 9:00 PM when things begin to settle and the cooking part of the contest begins in earnest.

Weed burners can be heard lighting off fires around the grounds, the band has packed up for the night and the only music that can be heard are the assorted tunes drifting out from the individual cook sites. Even this entertainment begins to wane as the appointed quiet hour draws near team member drift about, most of the public has departed for the evening, laughter a good times sounds waft form several sites that seem to have become gathering spots for some of the cooks as they swap lies and attempt to steal a few secrets.

Listen closely and you can hear the contest drifting off to sleep, muted conversation and the occasional crackling fire rule the sound waves for most of the overnight, that is if you are lucky and aren’t next to a bunch of loud and obnoxious drunks, in which case, I recommend a set of earplugs.

Morning comes very early at a BBQ contest. The day begins for power cookers around 3:00 to 4:00 AM, occasionally, the sound of a weed burner will be heard bringing cold and silent cookers to life. As day breaks, smoke rolls in earnest as the giant awakens. Banging doors from nearby spot-a-pots and tearing sheets of aluminum foil signal that morning has broken.

As morning progresses, some familiar sounds and smells of breakfast being cooked in some sites rules the airwaves. Teams huddle together for strategy sessions and make preparations for impending turn-ins. More foil is torn, cooker doors can be heard being slammed, orders are shouted, the occasional cuss word can even be heard. The cacophony builds to a crescendo around 1:30 PM when the last box is submitted. If you listen closely, you’ll hear the definite sound of a sigh of relieve coming from are the cooks and team members. The noise softens for a bit as folks busy themselves with beginning clean up, wetting their whistles, and running to the can.

It is now when the fun begins, cooks, in anticipation of the results begin laying down the excuses. “My chicken was dry, the pork was over cooked, my brisket OK, but my ribs, the best we have ever cooked.” You will here this over and over around the site as pit masters are asked, “how was your food?” This conversation is soon drowned out by the sounds of teardown. Trucks being loaded, trailers hitched, the shuffling to awards.

The awards ceremony brings more announcements, maybe even a band, eventually the sounds that everyone has come to hear yet only a few will get to experience, the contest calls accompanied by applause. If you are lucky, you’ll hear your team called and take the walk. If nothing else, you will hear it called when they hand out the score sheets, although, that doesn’t really count now does it?

Congratulations, back slaps and high fives are mixed with folks saying goodbye, trucks starting and the grounds beginning to empty. All except that one guy over in the corner, sitting on an empty 5 gallon bucket turned upside down. He is staring blankly at a few pieces of stapled white paper, a score sheet perhaps. As you drift past the fellow you can almost feel his pain, maybe you have walked a mile or so in his shoes at some time in the past. You avoid eye contact, much like a beggar on the street as you hustle by, anxious to get into your vehicle and away from the man on the bucket. As you passed, you heard him muttering to no one in particular, “ ……….what happened? can it be?.....”. As you sit in your truck, you take a quick glace at the overall score sheet and there is the man on the bucket, securely in DAL, you almost want to get out and pat him on the back, tell him everything will be alright. But you do not, some things are better left unsaid.

As you depart the contest grounds, your home for the past 36 hours, you realize that it is only a mere stroke of a pencil that separates you and the man on the bucket. It could be you or anyone else that his signed up. In fact, it has to be someone, someone must be last, it is inevitable. It is the way of the world. If only……………….HONKKKKK!!!!!!!!.... Suddenly, you are jarred back to reality, as the last sound you’ll hear at this contest is the loud horn blaring from the vehicle behind you as the driver pleads with you to get the heck out of the way and quit daydreaming! Travel safe.

1 comment:

Los Grande Gringos said...

Very true George, all very true. I hope to stay off that bucket this year.