I’ve often used the phrase “rinse, repeat” to refer to serial trips, but the last day of August might have been a record. The flight home from Chihuahua was late; it was almost noon when I got home, and I left for the airport at 2:15. The 135 minutes were filled: a nice catch-up lunch with Linda, a short walk for MacKenzie, a shower, and unpacking/repacking. A bit busier than I’d like, but it was time to keep a long tradition alive: judging , for my 22nd time, in the World Championship Barbequed Goat Cook-off in Brady, Texas, a town of 5,000 smack in the middle of our big state.
The itinerary was identical to 2011: at four I flew to Abilene, 170 miles west, and at five Jack picked me up in his blue Subaru. It was great to see him, and to meet one of his friends from Lubbock, Brandon, a bright and funny young man. We headed south, stopped in Coleman, Texas, for a pee and a drink, and by 6:15 were tucking into barbecue dinner (not goat) at The Spread. The boys peeled off to see high school football, I checked in, did a bit of work, and rode the hotel’s exercise bike, which was tonic.
I was up before 6:30 Saturday morning, back onto the bike, showered, and at 8:30 we met Adam Pitluk, editor of American Way (American’s inflight magazine), and drove to the judges’ brunch in Melvin, a nearly-dead hamlet 17 miles west of Brady. I recruited Adam to judging, and introduced him around; he got the traditional ration of rookie ribbing. After a big repast, Jack headed to help judge cooking rigs (not as important as meat, but an essential task that he really likes), and Adam and I drove back to town.
On the ride from Abilene, I noticed a nail head in Jack’s right-front tire, so headed to a repair shop next to the hotel. The door was locked, but a young fellow who worked there was in the shade eating a breakfast sandwich. He kindly agreed to fix the tire. I invited him to finish his breakfast; “it’s lunch,” he said, adding that he had been fixing and changing tires since 3:15 that morning. After two dunks in the leak tank and no bubbles, we gave the tire a good inspection and could not find metal. He did not want to charge me (“I didn’t fix anything”), but I pressed a $10 into his hand. Small-town niceness.
I motored out to the site of the competition, Richards Park, and ambled around for a bit. A short bit, because it was already almost 100º. Yakked with some volunteers, visited with old friends, and at two the first stint of work began, judging not goat but farmed venison. Some good stuff, but just a warm-up to the main event at three. There were 203 goat teams this year, which required more judges and more judging teams. Veteran judge Mark Pollock, a musician who owns a guitar shop in Alpine, Texas, captained our table, along with Paul Feazelle, a rookie named Kim, and me. We sampled 20 plates the first round, then 15, 10, and 5. A lot of protein. Some really good goat, and not many spit-it-out entries. In between tasting, plenty of time to visit with old friends. More than two decades on, it’s just pure joy to josh with a cadre of good ole’ boys (and a few girls, too). Not much substantive discussion, but that’s not the point.
This year we opted to stay Saturday night, something I hadn’t done in years, and that was a relaxing choice. After the winners were announced, Jack and Brandon headed off to Riley King’s family ranch, and I rode back to the hotel for a cooling swim with Adam’s family, wife Kimberly and daughters Maddie (7) and Lily (5). We chilled in the hotel room Saturday night, and Sunday morning drove back to Lubbock, dropping Brandon and fellow judge Stewart Storms, then heading to lunch. Jack dropped me at the airport, and I was home by 4:45, MacKenzie on leash.
Here are some scenes from the fun: