Our dear Mr. Bushmills wrote a lament recently about the lack of a national American sing-along. He is right as always and his remarks brought back a memory along those lines.
There used to be a shack of a BBQ joint on east Walnut, near downtown Abilene called Harold’s. Hands down the best BBQ and saltwater cornbread in the world. They had a picture on the wall of a white kid with dark hair and a pained look that said, “Only white boy to ever work the pit.” The place had a culture all of its own. To be sure the place had a lot grease on the walls, a lot of character and a lot of west Texas characters coming through the banged-up front door. Harold’s surely wasn’t any fancy franchised chain and people liked it all the more because of that.
Harold, the owner, was quite a guy, a big man and a big sports fan. He was a promoter of young Abilene kids in a town known for its high school football. When the fair came to Abilene, Harold would sell BBQ there, a lot of it. My sense was Harold was making out very well and for a good long time.
Harold had a talent for singing and when asked, would come out from behind the counter. I saw him do this one Friday when the place was full of airmen from Dyess AFB. He sang the Lee Greenwood song and I’m telling you I wasn’t the only one with tears. I’ll never forget that.
Here is Harold singing on a different day and the crowd joins him at 1:05:
How about that Patriots? Great BBQ and a free gospel performance, no extra charge. So unusual and so uplifiting. So uniquely American.
The place Harold built is closed now, a good man and his family gone to retirement. I don’t get to Abilene much any more but I always intended to go back for some Harold’s, for the food and for the experience. I’m so sad it is closed.
We’ve got plenty of BBQ places in the Denton area where I live. All of them have decent food but they are cookie-cutters, lacking the one thing that made Harold’s special. There’s no Harold. A blessing be upon him and all the builders like him.