Friday, August 5, 2011

The People You Meet

Stopping for lunch at Lexington Barbecue #1 is never a bad idea – their consistent, well-smoked and flavorful pork and homemade sauce are the pride of Davidson County. Top it off with a sweet tea and the kind of fries you just can’t get at a fast food joint, and you’ve got a meal for kings.

But this Friday in particular was an excellent day to stop at the Honeymonk. Flying solo and with a crowd already waiting for a table, I asked an older gentleman sipping coffee if I could grab the bar stool next to him. We struck up a conversation – turns out he is an insider, related in some way to the Monk family, and was sitting around waiting on his grandson and wife to have a baby (his fourth great-grandchild out of 13 grandchildren). He was hoping he could grab Wayne and head over to the hospital. When he found out I was down from Greensboro, he was interested to get my opinion of Stamey’s brand of ‘cue since Mr. Stamey had passed away, and how it compared to Lexington’s. I was way over my head at this point and clearly dealing with an expert, but I played along cheerfully since he couldn’t hear half of what I said.

At some point I told him I was originally from Spartanburg, to which he replied “Well that’s a damn hell hole.” Apparently he did basic training at Camp Croft in 1944/45, before shipping over to Okinawa for overseas duty. Soldiers at that time were restricted on weekend liberty to a 50 mile radius of Spartanburg, but as he and a friend couldn’t find any decent ‘cue they used to sneak up to Lexingotn ever other weekend to sate their appetite. We had a good little chat about our common experience on Okinawa – he was amazed how about much Naha had changed in the last 60 years. One of the luxuries I apparently missed out on was trans-Pacific troopship cruising, something he did not recommend. On the 23 day trip over to Oki, he found a lifeboat on deck under which to sleep and keep his seabag, because of the heat and the stench of the berthing quarters below decks.

On his trip back to the states in ’46, a general officer on board earned an upgraded ship which made the northern trip in to San Fran in 18 days with much improved accommodations. In Oakland he and two friends ran in to a boy from southern Virginia, “the only Southern boy with a dollar to his name.” Twenty dollars, to be exact, which got the four of them a cab ride across the bay and admission to a then-famous strip club. The sparkle in his eye led me to believe that was one of the highlights of his military service, but by the way he stared when he talked about the “boys” he met and knew and served alongside, it was not the only worthwhile experience.

I could have sat there talking to Sam Everhart for hours, but he had a great-granddaughter to go see and I had to get back to work. Flat out made my day, talking to that old man.


Doc said...

I pray, one day, you're the old man at the counter, waiting on our 13th great grandchild to be born and make some young man's day by sharing a few stories. I love you.

matilda said...

I pray Lex BBQ #1 is still hopping in 2069, regardless of where I-85 has meandered off to..