Having no cell phone means having no disembodied voice telling me where to go when traveling to the unfamiliar. Most of the time that’s a welcome reprieve from everybody else in my life either telling me where to go or thinking it so loudly I can hear them in my sleep.
I do own a GPS, it’s a hand-me-down from The Kid’s college days. But, it’s anything but user-friendly, and every time I touch it I lose the map I want and instead am given directions for a brisk 2,700-hour walk from my house to a soda shop in outer Mongolia.
So, I had three pages of hand-written directions to get me to Ayden, North Carolina, home of the Skylight Inn.
And I did really well, too.
Until I got about five miles from my goal. Then I wandered the countryside like a drunken time lord. I stopped at a convenience store and got directions. It took three more stops before I pulled into the parking lot of Skylight Inn—thirty minutes late.As I pulled in, a truck pulled out. I didn’t know it, but it was driven by my host Sam Jones. He’d been waiting, but he eventually ran to the post office.
He returned quickly, but in the meantime, I changed into boots and put my hair under a cap—I wanted to be able to go wherever Sam would let me. After suiting up I went around back. There an unexpected sight greeted me.
About fifty feet from the restaurant and continuing as far as I could see was pile after pile of split logs, ready to be tossed onto the fire and turned into glowing charcoal to cook the pigs. Coming toward me from this forest was a young man pushing a wheelbarrow holding at least four million logs.
Vulcan of this forge is also known as Daniel Williams. He is the man who keeps the fire burning, the pigs readied for the pit, the pork cooked, and the golden skin as crispy as a bad perm.
Inside the cookhouse, it’s at least 4000 degrees. But this is an old-fashioned place for an old-fashioned way to cook pig. So, the only way to regulate the temp is by shoveling more or less burning wood around and under the pig. The only thermometers used are the probe version to check the internal porcine temp for doneness.When I arrive the pigs, which have been cooking overnight, are finished, and ready for the next step in their progress to becoming lunch. Mike Parrot, AKA “Chopper” comes in with a large basin and takes a portion of porker back with him into the kitchen.
I follow him in.Chopper attacks the pig with skill, a touch of showmanship, and a pair of large, shiny, lethal-looking cleavers engraved with his nickname. He also has the same design tattooed onto one bicep, made toned and strong from the breaking down of up to ten or more pigs a day.Mike asks me if I’d like to give it a whirl. On any other playdate I would happily roll up my sleeves and jump right in, here I regretfully decline. I know myself, and I know that any length of time wielding those weapons of deconstruction would give a new nickname.No Chopper for me; I’d forever be known as “Stumpy”.
The day I spent at Skylight was very full. So full, in fact, I have to finish this tale next week. Join me for a field trip with Sam, my first bite of cornpone, and more time in the forge.
Thanks for your time.