Williamson County
Historical Commission

 

BBQ-A WAY OF LIFE IN
WILLIAMSON COUNTY


By Dub Ramsel  click on photo for a enlarged view
(These stories cover a period from early 1950's to the late eighties.  These stories have come from my memory with an occasional quote from some Williamson County residents.)


Since man discovered that meat was better eating when exposed to heat from fire, every way under the sun has been devised to accomplish the best results. In spite of the many ways, cooking on the open fire has remained the favorite for many. Texas has all of the ingredients and the right kinds of wood to do the job and, no doubt about it, the best cooks in the nation. Texas could be called the Barbeque State. 

When I first arrived in Williamson County and Georgetown, in 1952 someone was always cooking meat on the long pit in the San Gabriel Park on Sundays and often in between.

The Williamson County Livestock Ass. Had a big fund raising event once a year and thousand pounds of beef or goat would be roasted to feed about that many folks from all over the County. The Sheriff Posse also put on an annual BBQ to raise money for their many worthwhile projects. Church groups would have frequent picnics and the park and the BBQ pit would be utilized. Family reunions were the most reason to use the facilities, as well as birthdays. Whatever the reason, it was kept busy during the spring, summer and fall. When the weather got too cold or rainy it got to rest some. 

The old pit is still there in this year of 2003, but the fire box is gone. This fire box was a concrete enclosure about a foot and half high and five by five on three sides. It was situated near the southeast corner of the pit. It was used to burn hardwood for coals to be shoveled under the pit through the port holes that extended along the south side. It was also used to heat big cast iron wash pots for parboiling goat meat that might be a little tough. This water would be well seasoned to give the desired flavor to the meat. It smelled good and when enough par boiling was done, the meat would be thrown in the pit with pitch forks. There it would finish cooking and soak up the right amount of flavor from the smoke. 

Mesquite and live oak wood was mostly used, but most any kind of hardwood would do except elm. I have seen hickory used when it was available, but contrary to Clara Scarborough's Book " Land of good Water, page 18, I have never yet found any hickory growing in any part of Williamson County. She was pretty thorough in researching everything she wrote and, if I am wrong, I apologize. Maybe I don't know a hickory tree when I see one. But the true fact is that hickory beats all hardwood for cooking BBQ. 

Frank Montgomery told me once that everybody in the country ate goat during the days of the depression, six days a week. I smarted off and asked why they didn't eat it the seventh day. 0h, he said, that is the day they reserved for butchering. 

During the fifties and through the seventies, barbequing was done by two different classes. One the commercial and the other just country men who like to do it for the social reason or just for the hell of it. 

Since Frank Montgomery's name came up, I must rate him as the best I’ve known for none commercial class. Just give him a goat, dead or alive and he would convert it into a morsel for the king. In fact, he could cook up most any other kind of meat, sheep, beef or pork. I don't know that he ever cooked armadillo, but I wouldn't be surprised if he had. I have barbequed some and it turned out very good. 

Some of the other men I have known are Red Messer, Wilford Schneider, Earnest Wilson, Bob Gaines, R.V. And Wilber Barkes, Marvin Edwards.

Then there the commercial meat cookers such as Adolph Miller, Leo Lackey, Phil Ischey, Henry Peesely, Cub Spears, and the Zimmerhanzel Brothers from Circleville and Taylor, Louie Muller has also been around a long time as well as Rudy Mokeska of Taylor. 

Of the above mentioned, I probably knew Cub Spears better than any. He had a pit set up at Seward Junction at the intersection of Hwy 29 and 181. He was next door to my real estate office called The Crossroads Land Co. This was in the early seventies. He sold mostly sliced brisket and did fairly well so long as he stayed out of the "sauce and I do not mean BBQ sauce. He was most fond of Schlitz beer, but would drink anything. When he got overloaded he would shut down the pit and head for Hippy Hollow on Lake Travis. Then he would be hauled in for public intoxication and some friend would have to go bail him out of jail. Since Carlos Homes was about his only friend, he was the one who usually got him back on the job. 

The Judge told him after the third appearance before him, that if he showed up again, he was going to send him off for a year. So, Cub went sober for a while and then one day he told me that a "man has to do what a man has to do" and off he went again and got to spend a year in Huntsville as promised. He returned looking like a new man all slicked up. He moved his pit to his house on West 10th St in Georgetown and did his cooking there in spite of the objections of the neighbors. He didn't stay sober, but the Judge had retired and the new Judge just didn't want to be bothered with Cub. He died in the late eighties.

While Adolph Miller specialized in beef, Leo Lackey cooked up all sorts of exotic types of meat. He liked to buy his meat on the hoof at the local Livestock Auction that was run by Hudson Adams and later Alvin Braun. The sale was always on Friday which gave ample time to process it and have it ready for the Sunday rush. He tried to stay away from animals that would attract other buyers, because he liked to buy as cheap as possible. The ones he bid on were old Billy goats, young Jersey bulls, buck sheep and boar hogs. Now you wouldn't think anyone could convert this kind of meat to anything resembling good BBQ, but he could. He must have had some secret formula, at least no one I ever knew figured out how he did it. His competitors accused him of using "Road Kill" and all other unethical practices, but his customers did not seem to mind, and he built up a reputation that reached far and wide. He never spent a nickel advertising either.

As I said before, barbequing doesn't have to be done with a lot of fancy equipment. I have eaten off pits that cost several thousand dollars and also off pits that consisted of a trench dug in the ground with an old bed springs laid across the top. This method or one similar is my choice, because with this type, the coals are shoveled under the meat instead of being exposed to an excessive amount of smoke. Too much smoke can cause heartburn and indigestion. 

Unfortunately, a lot of so called BBQ today is nothing more than oven roasted meat with BBQ sauce added on the plate. I don't understand how they get by with it. 

Regardless of what kind of meat is being cooked over the coals, a cold beer is always in order. So long as the beer holds out one can always have plenty of help with the cooking. I have seen as many as twenty helping with the barbequing in the San Gabriel Park when the Livestock Assn was getting ready to feed a big crowd. A few of the names come to my mind and perhaps you have heard of them, some are still living - Wilford Schneider, R.D. Fletcher, Andy Prude, Roy Huckabee, Son Shell (Jonah), Jack Sudduth, Alvin Braun, Alfred Lairden, Red Messer, Frank Yearwood, Fats Kimbro, Tommy and D.D   Godwin, Donald Irvine, Neil Landry, Lester Ihms, Othel Langfnrd, Floyd Gibbs, and Frank Montgomery. A beer in hand is also something handy to have when the fire flares up and might scorch the meat. A sudden splash on the fire will quiet them it down. 

Most backyard cooking today is done by the "Charcoal Burners". It is quicker for steaks and such, but a far cry from the live wood coals from the old pit. In my opinion, it is just scorched meat and flavorless. 

Out in the Arizona Mountains where I grew up, folks did their barbecuing differently. Since hardwood was hard to come by, they dug deep trenches and built a fire in the ground and when it was well burned down to coals, they put a layer of dirt on top and laid their large chunks of meat that had been wrapped in bed sheets and burlap, which they wet down. Then another layer of earth was spread on top and a new fire was built on top. This procedure took all night to cook, but it came out tender and juicy. Also, large cast iron pots with beans can be cooked in the pit with the meat. 

The North Carolina folks think their barbecue is the best, but I differ with them. It is always pork and shredded at some stage of cooking. A lot of vinegar is used to give it a distinct flavor that they seem to like. I do not agree with that method, but everyone there thinks it is great. 

To have good BBQ one must have meet carrying a good bit of fat. The fat melts off and leaves a lean, juicy, and flavorful meat. 

I got to observe Wilford Schneider barbecue, some goat one time and he was sopping the meat. I asked what kind of sop he was using. His answer was "the only kind that is worth a dam is hog lard". Then he said that for "those who are afraid of hog lard, just don't eat any of it and that will save more for me" 

Deer meat is a dry meat and has to have some oil of some kind to keep it moist .I have used bacon grease with good results 

In selecting meat for BBQ I prefer kid goat or lamb. The goat will need some soppin but the lamb will always have plenty of fat to cook itself - maybe too much, but it is the best flavor of all and this is just my opinion. The forequarter is always more desirable than the hind quarter, it’s best to cook the hindquarters in the oven and serve with mint jelly. 

My friend Hershel Gaddy, who used to live near Liberty Hill, went to Tarelton Univ. In Stephenville. While there he helped his fraternity put on a feed for the rival fraternity and barbecued burro meat. The next year, the other fraternity served dog meat-which went over like a lead balloon. It stands to reason that both meats were probably tasty, but just the thought.

 

 

 

The photo above was taken in about 1957or 58 in the San Gabriel Park. A barbecue was being prepared for the Williamson County Livestock Association to raise funds for the coming livestock show for the FFA Chapters and the 4H Clubs of Williamson County.

 Those participating in the cooking of briskets were as follows:

 From left to right are Wilford Schneider, Hartman Holmstrom, Jack Sudduth, Bub Dub, I.M. Hausenfluke, Alfred Lairden, Jim Cairnes and John Wakefield.

 Wilford Schneider and his wife Mary Loise lined on their ranch NW of Georgetown on Hwy 195. The Schneiders were both active as leaders in the FFA and 4H activities. Wilford was a superb barbecuer, with a specialty in goat and lamb and sopping with hog lard.

 Hartman Holmstrom and his wife Jean lived on their ranch in the NW sector off Hwy 105 about a mile behind "Rattlesnake Inn" on Co Rd 239. Hartman was a dairyman in the Jonah area before buying the ranch that used to belong to Otto Grumbles. He and his three boys all liked ranching better than milking cows. Hartman was not drinking any of that beer just delivering to the other who did drink it, (This is for Jeans information). Jack Sudduth lived with his wife Nettie on a twenty acre spread NE of Georgetown on County Rd 151. He was a sheep dealer and covered the Central Texas Area buying sheep and shipping to Ft. Worth. He was a quiet man, but very knowledgeable & told it like it was without any sugar coating.

 Dub Ramsel, that’s me, was working for the Texas Agricultural Extension Service and had the title of Associate County Agent. The job made it possible for the Ramsel family to weather the "Drought" until things got better. His job was working with farmers and ranchers on a one on one basis, and had cooperators all over the County. Note: that two pound sirloin steak he was holding was for his lunch. There was no recollection of what the others had to snack on. Brisket is tough until completely done, so not much grazing was allowed during the process.

 Hausens fluke and his family lived on Berry Creek and operated a ranch there. He saw what was going to happen in the way of people moving in with the tide and sold out and moved to Eldorado - smart move.

Alfred Lairden was a row crop farmer in the Bell Gin Area of Williamson County. He also raised some registered Hereford cattle. Alfred was always handy and available for all volunteer chores that go along with helping the kids.

 Jim Cairnes was new on the job as Agriculture Teacher for the Georgetown School System. He came from Kerrville and was a graduate of Texas A&M College and stayed on this job until he retired. He lost his first wife Billie to cancer at an early age. He raised three sons.

John Wakefield was also new at his job a* Head County Agent for Williamson County. John replaced Roy Huckabee, who was promoted to district Agent and moved to San Angelo, Texas. John stayed and retired-then went into Real Estate.

 Mike notes that the Park was not crowded in the year of 1957.

 


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