The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Columns

September 14, 2013

The flag of America is bib overalls at a food trailer

From The Back Porch column

ASHTON — While driving the two-lane roads of this nation, I often have “This is America” moments. I had one Wednesday evening. It was, after all, Patriot Day, a perfect day for such a moment.

All summer I had noticed a food trailer parked in a wide spot of this community that is barely more than a wide spot itself.

This is the kind of community where, when you open the front door of the post office, a man yells “Boo!” at you and then apologizes profusely because he thought you were someone else. Yes, that really happened when I stopped to drop some letters in the mail on my way through to work.

It’s got a Baptist church, a new Dollar General that opened a few months ago, a farmer’s market and, for now, the food trailer. Those amenities are plenty enough for me.

The Bib Overall Ice Cream and Eatery is a small metal trailer painted like a Holstein cow. A pair of bib overalls tied to the front flap in the wind. An oldies country station pipes music into the al fresco dining area. That’s fancy talk for picnic tables under a tarp.

A storm was approaching, but I felt optimistic as I chose my meal from a hand-lettered menu and placed my order for a cheeseburger, half a basket of fries and Chunky Dunk Lemonade through the small open window.

The woman called me “Baby” and I’d just met her. But she was a woman who could call you Baby and not be offensive.

I pulled a couple of small napkins from the dispenser and took my seat in the al fresco dining area. I anchored my napkins with my cup of Chunky Dunk and waited for my food, hoping it would get here before the storm or that I would avoid getting soaked if it didn’t.

A barefoot man got out of his vehicle and walked gingerly across the gravel parking lot to place his order. His feet were filthy. I studied them, trying to figure out whether he’d just run through a busy cow pasture or stomped grapes all day.

I decided it didn’t matter. This is America, by golly, and if we want to eat with dirty feet on, so be it.

My food arrived, and the server said I needed a lot more napkins. It turns out she knew better than I did.

The food came in red plastic baskets lined with aluminum foil — the way God intended this soul food to be served.

I bit into the burger, and a cornucopia of flavors assailed my mouth. This was the best burger I’d eaten in years. It was running-down-your-arm juicy good. And it was so big that once I got a good grip on it, I didn’t want to put it down for fear I’d not get all of it together in my hand again.

I clutched the burger in my left hand and used my right to alternately wipe my face and attack the basket of fries that actually tasted like potatoes and not the cardboard container that usually accompanies fries.

She came back to check on me. I told her the burger was delicious. “I’m on my way to choir practice, but I’m having a religious experience right now,” I added.

I ate every bite, emptied my trash and handed the baskets through the window.

My stomach was the most at peace it had been in weeks.

As I drove down the road, I wondered how the Affordable Care Act would affect the couple behind the window. I thought about the impact of small businesses on the American economy. They create more jobs than the big industries. She told me they were going to keep the trailer open till Dec. 1. This was a small, seasonal business. I wondered how they make it the other months of the year.

But for this moment, in this cow trailer along the roadside, I got a heaping helping of hospitality and a meal made more flavorful because pride and love were the special ingredients.

Yes, this is America.

— Young is a Register-Herald columnist. E-mail: ynerissa@frontier.com

© 2013 by Nerissa Young

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