In the Spring of 1994, Susan and I had been dating for less than a year when we decided to drop out of college and take our now infamous road trip “out west”. We spent a week visiting Carlsbad Caverns, the Grand Canyon, Meteor Crater, Old Tucson, and a bunch of other things. We returned home broke and unemployed college dropouts. Prior to our road trip we had been living in a mobile home in Weatherford, Oklahoma, but using money borrowed from my Dad, we moved the mobile home from Weatherford back to Oklahoma City. At that point we became broke, unemployed college dropouts in debt.
For a month or two, it looked like we might not make it. Jeff paid our electric bill one month, just to keep us going. When the air conditioner died, we borrowed two box fans and put one near the front door and one near the back door just to keep (hot) air flowing through. Susan has always had a knack in the kitchen for making “something out of nothing”, but once there was literally nothing left to eat in the house, we began raiding my dad’s cupboards on occasion, pilfering packages of Ramen Noodles and jars of peanut butter.
That same summer, Susan’s mom decided to open her own BBQ Restaurant and hired Susan and me to work for her. My first job was to ride around town in the back of Liz’s convertible in a pig suit in the middle of a hot Oklahoma summer, waving to people and holding a sign that read, “Kiss the Pig at Liz’s BBQ.” It makes me chuckle when I hear people, especially teens, telling me what kind of jobs they will and won’t do. I suspect may of the pickier ones haven’t spent an entire summer without air conditioning eating Ramen Noodles …
To get more business, Liz decided that Liz’s BBQ needed a sign. She asked me if I could paint a sign and I said yes. In reality I didn’t know anything about painting signs, but I’m pretty sure I got a free plate of BBQ out of the deal. Liz bought some paint and a 4×8 sheet of plywood which I propped up on milk crates in my dad’s garage, and I painted a sign.
The sign was then mounted on the side of Liz’s smoker, a giant of a machine that could smoke 24 slabs of ribs at once. Liz’s boyfriend Joseph tended to the actual cooking of the meat, while Susan and I ran the inside of the restaurant. There was no prestige involved — all we cared about was (A) working, and (B) working at a place that served food.
The BBQ business soon moved from the southeast side of OKC over to Yukon, and the sign moved with it. The business didn’t make it long over there, and I couldn’t tell you why. Later that summer Susan got a job at Caremark, and in August I got hired by Best Buy. Our BBQ days were over. When the restaurant closed its doors, the smoker ended up parked back down on Liz’s farm. It got moved down there in 1994, and it’s still sitting there today.
This past week, Liz sold the farm. She’s got 30 days to clear the property, and that includes the smoker ($3,500, you bring a set of tires and a truck to haul it). While Susan was walking the property looking for any old keepsakes worth keeping, I spotted the following piece of rotting trash, ready to be hauled off to the dump.