I had the distinct pleasure of working with a southern gent. He was a real-deal kind of guy who you loved, or walked the long way around not to hear his song of the south. He came from a time long ago where P.C. meant pocket change, and smoking cigarettes was an Olympic sport. But the years I spent with him left an indelible image burned into my memory. He loved thanksgiving time, and every year he would regale us with his going home tales that had the feel of a Clark Gable movie.
Ron was a man’s man… He stood upright, and carried himself with swagger and confidence that made you look past his age and rugged face. He dressed to the nines everyday at work, and you could hear him a mile away as every other word he spoke was the “F” bomb. Yep, it was true to course that this man was one-of-a-kind. But going home to Thibodaux, Louisiana every November was a homecoming party.
I can still hear his booming Louisiana accent, “Eddie, you don’t know a damn thing about eatin’ boy. Whatever your mama cooked would be fed to the dogs on the back porch.” Needless to say, Ron had the tact and humility of a sledge hammer on your baby toe. The story would always start the same as no matter where he was in the world, he would make it back home. First there was stopping by to see mama and the kin, and after a lunch with the men. He would head off to the Fair Grounds for a real Cajun Homecoming.
Entering historic Fair Grounds would have to start at least an hour or so in advance. This was to give you enough time to smoke a pack, and catch-up with the local folk who have been your long time friends. With coffee in hand, and non-filter Camel in the other, Ron would hold court telling jokes and lies at a break neck pace. After everyone had heard enough of the gossip and tales of the south. It was time to head to the grandstand to find a seat and start handicapping. There were men named “Fat Tony, Hog Head, and Smokey,” the group would sit and bet together all day. There would be some winning, and without fail Smokey would be the first man to go broke every year. Halfway through the card they would start talking about what was for dinner, and who all would be travelling home to sample the one-of-a-kind dishes.
I can still hear the menu in my head, and I have to admit it made my mouth water. ” Eddie, here is a little something we called dinner.”
Cajun stuffed crawfish bread, spicy crab jalapenos, and fresh veggies with jalapeno ranch dip.
Cajun deep-fried turkey, and Cajun baked ham with Sugarcane-Bourbon glaze, Oyster stew, and boiled crawfish.
Mama’s cornbread dressing, Creole rice dressing, candied sweet potato casserole, and Miss Sadie’s spinach pie. Jalapeno-sausage cornbread, and Mama’s sweet cornmeal biscuits.
This would all be followed with an assortment of desserts that would let you his home-state leads the country in king size men.
After dinner a nap was needed, and a little later more leftovers would follow. The tales from the track would detail how they just missed out on the big score. About that time the men would start making plans to return back to historic Fair Grounds the next day. “See Eddie, I told you were stupid. You don’t know a damn thing about eating good food.” Maybe he was right after all…
Ron was a man who loved to bet the Louisiana tracks. The cheaper the race, the more he enjoyed it. He was a man of great work ethic, and if he couldn’t get it done, there was no man with a heart beat that could get half as far as he did. He taught me many things in our work together, and most of them were filed under what not to do in the workplace. He was an original one-of-a-kind man. They had to break the mold after he was born, as the world was just not big enough for two of these kind of men. He has been gone for some years now, and I still can see him smoking a Camel and holding court with whoever would listen to his profanity laced tales.
Thanksgiving is time to remember, and give thanks for all that we have. A time for friends and family, and a time to sit and break bread together. No matter where you are, or what will be on your dinner menu for the day. Hoist your glass, and loosen your belt! – Have a safe and Happy Thanksgiving Day from your friends at Winning Ponies.