35 years; ‘water’melons; Brunswick stew less

Published 7:48 am Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Maybe it only felt like 110 degrees on Aug. 2, 1979.

I was as nervous as a you-know-what in church on that steaming hot summer day 35 years ago.

Dressed in a three-piece leisure suit – polyester apparel that was popular among the age 20-something males back in the seventies – I made the trek from Pinetops (the Northampton community; not the Edgecombe County town) to Lewiston. There, Louis and Mamie Vann met me on the front steps of their home….a few, short minutes later they were joined by their beautiful daughter, Deborah. That marked the last time Deborah stood with her parents as a Vann. A couple of hours later she became a Bryant when we exchanged wedding vows in a quaint wedding chapel in downtown Elizabeth City.

Thirty-five years and 10 moves later, Deborah and I are still together. We’ve experienced plenty of life’s memorable moments together – highlighted in 1985 by the birth of our only child, Danielle, and in 2013 by the arrival of our first grandchild, Brody Ray Harrell. On the flip side we’ve suffered heartbreaking losses – the deaths of both sets of parents, one sister, and a brother-in-law.

In hindsight, would I do it all again….yes, without a doubt. I just didn’t gain a wife/mother/grandmother in this deal, I gained my best friend for life!

As is tradition around the Bryant household, I typically have to work on the day of my wedding anniversary. That’s because it always coincides with the annual North Carolina Watermelon Festival in Murfreesboro.

This year’s festival began with ideal weather….low humidity and pleasant evenings on Wednesday and Thursday. However, Mother Nature threw a curveball on the event’s final two days. Rain washed out Friday’s schedule and we awoke Saturday morning to gray skies and cool temps.

But Saturday’s show went on. Murfreesboro’s Main Street was lined with folks taking in the sights and sounds of the annual parade. And the deluge held off just long enough….despite one brief downpour….to completely finish the always popular Watermelon Princess and Little Mr. Farmer/Miss Farmer contests.

The rain fell for most of the afternoon and early evening, sending patrons scurrying for cover. But, all in all, the event again served notice that with proper planning, a small town can serve as the center of the universe for four short days. The Planning Committee of the Watermelon Festival is to be commended for once again staging a well organized event. Mother Nature may have not cooperated with those plans, but the show went on. I can’t wait to see what’s in store in 2015 when the Watermelon Festival turns 30!

Finally, I want to share some advice to the management of a popular local eatery.

On Friday, I had a taste for some pork barbecue for lunch. A typical BBQ plate for me includes slaw, French fries and Brunswick Stew. Much to my dismay, the restaurant I chose to spend my money with did not have stew. But that wasn’t the real issue in this particular case….rather it was the excuse I was given why Brunswick Stew wasn’t on the menu.

“We won’t have that again until it turns cold,” said the voice on the drive-thru speaker, obviously referencing “it” as the weather.

I pondered that excuse as I waited in line to advance to the window after placing my order. Upon arrival, I told the cashier that I knew this wasn’t their fault, but what does the temperature have to do with not serving a particular food item.

“Other than your slaw and potato salad, aren’t the other items on your menu hot,” I inquired. “It’s summertime and you are serving creamed potatoes, cabbage, collards, etc….all that are hot, so why not Brunswick Stew?”

The blank look of response spoke volumes of how this employee was not properly trained….plus they got my drink order wrong and when I got back to work to eat lunch there was no cole slaw with my plate. Pork barbecue without cole slaw breaks a cardinal rule here in the South.

Perhaps the latter was due to the fact that Friday’s weather was cool and damp….not good for a “cold” food product, but it was just right for Brunswick Stew!

Cal Bryant is Editor of Roanoke-Chowan Publications. He can be contacted at cal.bryant@r-cnews.com or 252-332-7207.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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