Barbecue it, and they will come

The park began filling up with campers and travel trailers more than two weeks ago. As of Wednesday evening, a full-fledged invasion appeared to be on at Richards Park as cooking teams from across the state made their way to Brady for this weekend’s 30th annual cook-off. In doing a bit of research on this special 30th Anniversary of the event, I have come to one conclusion. It can be dry in McCulloch County all summer long, but as soon as the Labor Day weekend comes close, rain all of a sudden becomes a force to be reckoned with. It doesn’t matter if it hasn’t rained for the entire summer, come Goat Cook-Off time, more often than not, rain will come around. Two years ago, it virtually flooded Richards Park with some two inches of rain falling on the Friday before the cook-off. Last year, if I remember correctly, we had some showers that week as well. This year is holding true to form. Even in the very first cook-off 29 years ago, the newspaper reported that rain was part of the equation. The Friday, Aug. 30, 1974 edition of the Brady Standard wrote about dark skies, cookers trying to keep wood dry underneath the show barn and how thankful the farmers and ranchers were for the rain. In 30 years nothing has changed. I was speaking with what I know to be one of very few 30-year veterans of the cook-off, Sherwood McNeely on Wednesday. His family ties are in the Salt Gap and Doole area and he made me chuckle when he mentioned that he wished the rain would wait until later to fall. “People would do me in if they knew an ol’ Salt Gap boy was hoping it wouldn’t rain,” he said. “Being from this part of the country, I know how important rainfall is and how badly everyone needs it.” It is funny how the more things change in this world, the more they seem to stay the same. I still hear farmers and ranchers praying for rain, and I join them in their efforts. I must not be praying hard enough. If I were, we would probably get more than we could ever hope for. I know DeLaine Poe and all of the Chamber directors are hoping the rain waits a little while (at least until after the winner is announced) but if it does rain, everyone will deal with it. I must say that standing on the sidelines Friday night with an expensive camera trying to hide from the rain while I shoot photos doesn’t sound like much fun. I don’t mind though. If the rains come, let them come. Mrs. Poe wrote a column about her experiences two years ago with “the flood of 2001.” Her conclusion’just like the field of dreams, if you build it, they will come. The holiday weekend is here. The pits will smoke and the food and beverages will be consumed. The Heart of Texas welcomes any and all to the Labor Day festivities, including the rain clouds.

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