Springtime barbequing is a ritual here in the south. On any given Saturday afternoon you can drive through almost any neighborhood, and see smoke rising from a barbeque grill in someone's back yard. If the wind is blowing in the right direction, you may even smell the aroma of a rib eye sizzling over a grill.
It's a rite of spring that every red blooded southerner claims as his heritage. Our barbeque roots go all the way back to the cave man! For our purposes we will pretend that the only good grill is the charcoal grill. The men, or women, who don their aprons, have a spatula sticking out of their back pocket and have singed eyebrows due to an excess of charcoal lighter fluid are the true weekend heroes of the briquette set.
Every man believes it's his duty to let everyone within the sound of his voice know just how good he is on a grill! A case in point is my neighbor Fred. Last spring he decided to have a cookout and invite several of his neighbors over for the evening. For him, this was the first barbeque of the season and he wanted to do it up right. Much to his chagrin, I am a witness to what happened next. I call it "Miracle on Maple Street!" Fred's brother-in- law Joe was living with them at the time, convalescing from hip surgery.
Joe was in a body cast from his toes to his chest and except to go painfully and awkwardly to the bathroom, he was confined to bed. All the other times he was waited on hand and foot. Fred suspected that Joe wasn't in as much pain as he declared; enjoying the service was receiving from the rest of the family. On this fateful day in spring, Fred dusted off the old grill that had spent the winter in the garage and pulled it outside on the back patio about 5 feet from the house.
After piling on the charcoal and dousing the briquettes with charcoal lighter, he lit the fire. When the flames were merrily dancing in the grill, we went inside for refreshments. After we fixed our drinks, we went back outside to check on the fire. No heat, no fire! The coals were not burning at all. It must have been old charcoal or something. Fred stalked back to the garage for his charcoal lighter.
The can was empty! Failure was not in his vocabulary. He picked up a five gallon can of gasoline, opening the top as he marched back to the grill. I've always thought that Fred was not playing with a full deck. Before I could warn him he grinned and exclaimed.
"This time I'm not playing around. This will get the sucker going!" as he lifted the gas can. The instant the gasoline hit the coals; flames shot up from the charcoal and ran into the spout of the gas can. Obviously there had been a spark hidden under the coals.
Startled, Fred threw the can up as far as he could; about 5 feet and against the house! Flames were still shooting out of the gas can! I began running to the garage to find something to smother the fire, while Fred got out his garden hose and began pouring water on the can and the house. I forgot to mention that Fred has a cedar sided house and the flaming can was within one foot of the house. Nothing we did put out the flame! Fred's daughter saw what was happening and called the fire department, screaming to her uncle Joe, Fred's brother-in-law, "Dad's burning down the house!" Here is the first miracle! Within a minute of those words from Fred's daughter, Joe came bolting out of the house as fast as the crutches under each arm would let him. It was almost funny to see him galloping down the driveway to the road in his body cast and crutches. This was being done by someone who couldn't walk without assistance! It was like a scene from a movie! As he reached the road out front we could hear sirens a block away. As the fire trucks drove up, the flames shooting out of the can burned out.
The second miracle is that all the gasoline in the can burned out and didn't blow up, killing us all and burning down Fred's house. The fire chief said it was because the can was full of gasoline. If it had been half full, there would have been enough fumes to blow us all into the clouds. The message in this is simple. You're not playing with a full deck if you use gasoline to start your charcoal fire!.
Bob Alexander is well experienced in outdoor cooking, holiday eating and leisure living. Bob is also the author and owner of this article. Visit his sites at: http://www.bluemarlinbob.com http://www.bobalexander.ws