Back in 2004 Danny Masters and I were sitting on the liar’s bench at the local truck stop talking about traveling. He said he’d never been any further than Kentucky and Eastern Indiana. So, I told him about a BBQ place in Huntsville, TX I wanted to try so why didn’t he and I get in my van and go get some ribs and a brisket sandwich? The BBQ joint was next to and operated by the New Zion Missionary Baptist Church and the lady in charge was 86-year-old Annie Mae Ward. It was known far and wide as the church of the Holy smoke and CBS Sunday Morning laid claim that it was the world’s best BBQ.
Danny agreed so a few days later we were driving through Memphis, TN and headed south and west. We had no trouble finding Annie Mae once getting near Huntsville. We pulled over and asked some utility line workers and they gave us excellent directions and said they never failed to eat there when working that area.
The two things I remember more than the food was walking up to Annie Mae Ward and saying, “Annie Mae, I drove all the way from Ohio just to see you.” She immediately shot back, “Well, how I look?” That still makes me smile. The other thing was walking up to the pit master outside, a very large and manly looking black fellow, and asking if I could see his meat? I didn’t consider the implications until I’d blurted it out.
From Huntsville we worked our way down to San Antonio and the Alamo. For some reason it wasn’t open so we set sail for Del Rio, TX and the Mexican border. We crossed into Mexico by taxi and had lunch and shopped in Ciudad Acuna for several hours. Danny was now an international traveler.
From Del Rio we headed west and stopped for a short visit at Langtry, TX the home of Judge Roy Bean, the law west of the Pecos. It was dark when we left Langtry and headed further west to Sanderson, TX. We checked into a cheap motel in Sanderson and walked across the highway to a local bar and dance hall. The place was packed, the beer was flowing, the barbecue fresh, the jukebox was playing Tejano music, and we were probably the only non multilingual people in the place.
Life in that Texas bar was a culture shock for both of us. But, we adjusted quickly and discovered the locals were friendly. We ordered up a couple of genuine long-neck Lone Star beers, some smoked ribs, and took in the sights. Two guys and a young gal with a cast on her arm came in and sat at the table behind us. I struck up a conversation and it turned out one of them was a local sheep rancher who owned about 40,000 acres, lived 25 miles from town at the end of a 5 mile long dirt driveway. Danny got to talking with the girl in the cast and asked her where she was from. Her answer was, “I’m from Fucking No Place, Texas!” We learned later that fucking no place was actually Midland, TX.
I don’t know how many Lone Stars we had that evening but several locals bought us a round and a 90-year-old Mexican sheep shearer came in and bought the house two rounds and invited us all to his 91st birthday party on Leap Day later in the month. It was impressive how much the crowd obviously respected this old man. My new-found rancher buddy said the guy was still shearing sheep at the age of 89.
The gal with the broken arm disappeared into the crowd and later showed up two-stepping with a studly looking cowboy type. Suddenly the cowboy stopped, looked towards Danny and shouted, “Hey asshole, we don’t treat women like that down here so wipe that look off your face or I’ll give you an old-fashioned Texas asswhoopin’!” Immediately I had this vision, straight out of an old black and white cowboy movie, of a massive bar brawl breaking out in a frontier town and Danny Masters was going to have a starring role.
It turned out the cowboy was looking over Danny’s head at the guy from No Fucking Place, Texas who had the hots for the girl in the arm cast and was expressing overt signs of displeasure with her dancing with the studly cowboy type. Several long-neck Lone Stars and no more incidents later we got up, said thanks and good night to everyone, and headed for the motel.
Several days later and near the Texas Panhandle, Danny decided he wanted to take a case of long-neck Lone Star home as a souvenir and to share with his horse riding friends. So, we pulled into a carry out to discover they didn’t stock Lone Star. The same thing happened for the next 100 miles, no Lone Star. We’re both asking how can a Texas beer store not carry a beer that bears the nickname of the Great State of Texas?
Not finding any we abandoned the idea until a couple of hours from Cincinnati. Suddenly I had a possible answer, Jungle Jim’s in Fairfield, OH, a place famous for its huge beer inventory. He had never been there so we decided to make that the last new experience of the trip. Sure enough, right down there on a bottom shelf was a large supply of Lone Star 6-packs and suddenly it was mission accomplished. We had driven all the way to West Texas to enjoy Lone Star but had to come back to Ohio to get a refill.
On subsequent trips to the Jungle I would sometimes pick up a couple of 6-packs for Danny and he even made the trip once on his own. Sadly Danny Masters died in an accident several weeks ago and I’ve found myself reliving the adventures we shared during that trip and another one two years later. Last week I was at Jungle Jim’s and happened on to a display shelf of Lone Star beer. The memory of our night in Sanderson, TX came rushing back resulting in this blog piece. If you ever come across a bottle of Lone Star keep my friend Danny Masters in mind as you enjoy it.