We're Backkkk.....

Back in 2009, we launched this blog to chronicle our initial journey the Jack Daniels World Championship Invitational Barbecue Competition - aka "The Jack.". Billed as the "World Championship of Barbecue", this epicurean "Superbowl" is held in the sleepy little hollow of Lynchburg, TN (pop.361) the 4th Saturday in October each year. It just so happens that Lynchburg is also home to the world renowned Jack Daniels distillery - the primary sponsor and namesake behind this culinary extravaganza.

Each year, tens of thousands of competition BBQ teams from across the United States (and around the world) spend countless hours and weekends competing in sanctioned BBQ events. These teams vie not only for Grand Championships & serious prize money (sometimes as much as $100K) - but perhaps even more importantly, they are all hoping by the end of the "BBQ season" to grab one of the 60 highly coveted spots to cook against an elite group of teams for the title of "world's best" (the "Jack" is by invitation only).

We competed in the 2009 Jack, and finished in the "middle of the pack" - an accomplishment we were certainly proud of. And after more or less taking the year off in 2010, "Hoochie-Que" is ramping up to make another run at a coveted invitation to the Jack in 2011.

So, after over a year of "neglect", we are "dusting off" this little ol' blog to once again share with family, friends, and other BBQ cooks/fans our experiences as we start our journey hopefully towards another invitation to the "Jack" in October 2011.

Also - and especially if you are new to this blog - make certain to read back through the "Blog Archive" to re-visit our experiences and trip to the Jack back in 2009! Some pretty good writing, memories & photos if I do say so myself!

Thanks - and we hope to see you in Lynchburg on October!

"Hoochie"
March 26, 2011

Sunday, September 20, 2009

And the World stood still...

Just as many of us navigate our way each and every day down the streets and highways that connect our homes and businesses, we also tend to weave in and out of the "busy-ness" of our lives... For many of us, we "zig" and we " zag" throughout our hectic days as we attempt to meet numerous deadlines - and/or as we rush to get to various places "on time" - and/or as we rush out the door at 5 PM to head home and begin our "2nd jobs" of starting dinner, doing the laundry, trying to help Johnny or Susie with math problems we ourselves thought we would never see again once we left high school or college, etc, etc...

And somewhere between 10 PM and 2 AM on many nights, we finally "fall apart" - only to hop up at 5-6 AM the next morning to jump back on our "roller coaster" again... That is, until life hits the "emergency brake" on our roller coaster... And forces our us - and our busy little worlds - to stand still...

As I posted a few days ago, this past weekend we were "practicing" getting ready for the Jack by cooking for our 12 year old son's football team and their families following their big game on Saturday afternoon... Upwards of 100 people maybe... Not really a big deal, as I on occasion have certainly cooked for bigger crowds... Our son, Reid, is perhaps his Dad's biggest BBQ "fan" - and he had been bugging us to cook for his new team/friends since early August... I must admit that while I felt I would get just a little bit of "practicing" in as I cooked for his team this weekend, I also saw this "practice" as more of an "inconvenience"... Just another "addition" to my hectic list of things to do that was already long and growing... I must also admit that I have been just a little too busy as of late to see what I and/or this event actually meant in the eyes of my son... It was just another "challenge" that I needed to deftly weave in and out of as I negotiated the "rush hour traffic" in my life right now...

So there were pork butts to cook and pull... Invitations and maps to print and distribute... Canopies and tables to set-up... Drinks to ice down... Numerous last minute trips to the grocery store to pick up this or that which we had forgotten on earlier trips... And despite the fact that we had begun this whole process on Monday of this past week - in a "well-planned" attempt to not be rushed at the last minute - we inevitably found ourselves still scurrying about like lab rats on Saturday morning as we were attempting to wrap things up before making the 30 mile drive to Oakley, UT, for the football game... And it probably should not come as a "surprise" when I relate that my wife and our 14 year old son ended up staying behind to "finish up" the final touches for the party as I rushed to get Reid (and his sister) to his mandatory pre-game warm-up activities on time...

I also confess that I found myself "grumbling" as we sped to his game... "Why couldn't we have done this another time... I have so many other things I truly need to be doing right now..." Grumble, grumble, grumble...

Oakley is a quaint, rural community that is surrounded by mountains in the not-so-far distance... The skies on Saturday morning were crystal blue... The temperature was cool & crisp... The fields were green and manicured... The maples and "quakies" were beginning to turn brilliant reds and oranges and yellows on the mountainsides... Families and friends were out in force to support their young "warriors"... As I scanned the playing and practice fields, the numerous teams present proudly sported every color an eager child might have hoped to have found in a new box of Crayons... It was simply a gorgeous, colorful day for football - and in a most beautiful setting to watch/play... Norman Rockwall would have been very busy - and very happy - capturing this scene himself...

This is our son's first year to play football... And after 8 weeks of practice and hard work, Reid had come home late this past week to proudly announce that he had earned a starting position on defense... Cornerback... Mind you, at 12 years of age, our son weighs maybe 95 pounds sopping wet - so he is definitely on the smaller end of the spectrum for his age group... But Reid has also always shown a lot of "natural" athletic ability/potential - and heart - in any sport he has ever participated in... So while we were elated at the news he announced to us on Thursday after practice, we were not totally "surprised", either...

The game kicked off, and from the "git-go" it was evident that this was going to be a hard fought battle... Both teams were hitting hard, and both offenses were struggling to get anything going... At this age level, most offenses generally center around a running attack... Passing/receiving skills just haven't developed as yet - and when teams at this age level do pass, well - it is mostly "Hail Mary" in nature...

Both teams were going back and forth, and without a lot of offensive success... My wife and I were also busy trading cell phone calls back and forth regarding last minute details for the dinner immediately following the game... In all honesty, I was paying less attention than usual to the game... Early in the 2nd quarter, just as I had just gotten off the phone for the "upteenth" time, I happened to look up just in time to note that the opposing team had the ball and was running a sweep to the left side... I frantically looked through the maze of bodies - and there was Reid, right was he was supposed to be... Now - Reid was playing cornerback on the "weak side" - so plays normally don't come his way all that often... But here they were, rumbling towards him... Reid deflected the offensive blocker assigned to take him out of the play - only to now find himself face to face with a runner coming at him full speed... The running back was definitely bigger than Reid, and was coming at our son like a locomotive... Reid recovered from pushing away the blocker - had just enough time to square himself up - and courageously held his ground and hit this "Goliath" right in the numbers as his opponent charged full speed at him...

There was a sharp "crack" of the pads that was easily heard all the way across the field where I stood as I cheered my son. Reid was not able to totally stop the runner due to the runner's momentum (Reid didn't have any time to begin any momentum towards the runner before they collided) - but he slowed him and held on to him long enough that other team members were quickly there to finish the tackle. As I watched Reid following the play, it was quite evident that his "bell had been rung"... He went from being flat on the ground to getting up on all "fours" for a few moments... And then he slowly stood up... I am certain I must have exhaled a sigh of relief, although I don't really remember now... But after a step or two, he slumped back to the ground - and then he was flat on his back again... The "zebras" quickly noticed the situation and ran over to check on Reid - only to quickly summon over an unknown man from the sideline... Then an unknown woman was summoned from the sideline as well.... After just a few moments of looking at and talking to Reid, these "strangers" were quickly and somewhat frantically looking around, and soon motioning to our son's head coach to come over... All I could see between the bodies that were beginning to congregate around my son was that they were being quite careful with things in Reid's head and neck region...

My world suddenly stood still...

Quite still...

My mind and heart began to race... Do I stand here on the sidelines? Do I rush out onto the field? Do I call home? What would I say? Flashbacks of similar scenes from football games I have seen in person or on TV over the years flooded my scrambled thinking... Then I notice the head coach jogging over to our sideline.... Right towards me... Reid is still not moving... I remember feeling my entire body going numb...

I really don't remember exactly what "Coach Mike" told me... Something about Reid's neck, something about his left arm.... Something about Reid's arms and legs initially going numb, but him now at least being able to move his fingers & toes... But also something about Reid saying he still didn't have any feeling in his neck... Something about a lot of pain when he tired to move his head... Something about summoning emergency medical help...

He jogged back out to where my son lay... I then see a fellow parent who I know - Randy Barnett, who is a surgeon - coming out onto the field and briefly examining Reid... Coach Mike and Randy exchange a few quick words... Then Coach Mike waves to me to come out onto the field...

When I arrived at Reid's side, the tears and pain I saw in his eyes wanted to "break" me, too... There are "roles" that we as men and fathers are to assume at times like these... Roles of strength - and courage - and confidence/reassurance that "everything will be alright"... But I will also share that it was all that I could do to not to let my own fears overwhelm me at that moment... Nor to let my own eyes fill with tears, also...

As I kneeled next to my son on the field and held his right hand, my mouth and words were trying to keep him calm and assure him that things were going to be okay... At the same time, I could feel my heart and soul bursting with prayer just as hard and fast as they could go... When Reid wasn't trying to be tough and brave in light of the pain he was experiencing, you know what his biggest "concern" was? That I had spent my last couple of nights doing a lot of cooking just for him and his friends on the team - and how his teammates now might not get to come over that day to enjoy his Dad's "championship BBQ" following the game!! Here I am, trying with all my might to hold back a flood of fears and tears for my son - and here is Reid, worrying about a couple of "long nights" I had recently spent cooking for him and his buddies - and whether or not he might be able to "show-off" his Dad's BBQ to his friends...

It felt like at least a century passed while we awaited for the EMS personnel to arrive... And the trip back to the new hospital in Park City - maybe 30 miles away - seemed to go on and on forever like a stretch of road in the middle of West Texas... Fortunately, this new state-of-the-art hospital opened just this past week - otherwise it would have been a 60+ mile trip back to Salt Lake City... Which at that moment in time in our lives would surely have seemed like a trip to Mars...

Being that the hospital is brand new - and not exactly running over with business as yet - we received the "red carpet" treatment to say the least... And what a blessing that was... Other than a delayed "response" from the radiologist on duty that afternoon, Reid received prompt attention and wonderful care from everyone there... It was like they had been "rehearsing" and preparing for this very moment all for their lives...

About 3 hours after we arrived at the hospital, Reid's pain & numbness in the neck region had begun to significantly subside, the x-rays taken showed no broken bones/vertebrae - and Reid was able to walk out of the hospital wearing only a soft neck brace. Talk about your answered prayers...

Since getting home last night, we have had an outpouring of phone calls from coaches, teammates and their families, close friends, and family regarding Reid's condition... The president of our youth football district, Dan Garcia, also showed up about an hour after we arrived at the hospital - and stayed with us for well over 2 hours until we received the good news that the x-rays were negative and that they were going to let Reid go home... Definitely not your standard/"obligatory" 15-20 minute visit to wish a speedy recovery to some kid and his family that he did not know from Adam before that afternoon...

When I awoke on Sunday morning and gazed out our bedroom window, the skies seemed just a little more blue... The maples and "quakies" in view were just a little more red and orange and yellow than I had remembered from the day before... And as is generally the case when our "world stands still", I am a much different person today than I was yesterday... I am so very thankful for the blessings God poured out on our son and our family yesterday...

And it's kind of funny... While in the midst of all that I thought was so very "important" leading into the events of yesterday, I received an "award" from those happy blue eyes of my son as he lay motionless on that field - a "trophy" that even a Grand Championship at the Jack will never even come close to equaling...

In case there are any other competition BBQ teams out there reading this, I hate to tell you this... But I have already "won" the Jack... And I have also "won" any other contest I will ever cook at again in my life... That's right... I am already the "Grand Champion" if I ever happen to cook against you...

How's that you say? Because my "judges" are my children - my wife - my friends... I am their "Grand Champion"... And there will never ever be anything any more important to me... Until this past Saturday afternoon, I don't know if I had truly taken the time as of late to stop and fully realize/appreciate this...

I almost missed one of the most important "walks" to the award stage in my entire life... But thanks to a most wonderful Father in Heaven, I didn't...

I am truly blessed, folks... And so are you...

(Our many, many thanks to the "unknown" EMT guy and the nurse who just happened to be on the sidelines and first arrived on the field to attend to our son... To Reid's wonderful Judge Bulldog coaches - Mike Clark, Jesse Eskelson, Bob Pelley and Spence McKean - who have done such a beautiful job of coaching Reid so far this year, and were there for our son when it really counted on Saturday... To Dr. Randy Barnett - we owe you BIG time - 2x now!... To Dan Garcia, Judge District president... To whoever provided that pink blanket to keep my son warm and dry while he lay helpless on the ground... To the entire ER staff at the new IHC hospital in Park City... And to Reid's teammates and their families, and to so many of our family friends, who have called/emailed / held our son in their prayers... Again, we are so very blessed because of ALL of you!!)

Drs. Michael & Venssa Knight
Dylan, Reid & Caleigh
"Hoochie-Que"

16 comments:

John Dawson said...

Mike - That is such a profound story. How often we, as you say, look at life as if we are rats in a wheel. It's like we're almost on autopilot just "getting through" day after day. We are so very, very blessed and we take it for granted.

I remember having a moment like yours when our youngest was rushed to NICU just hours after birth. I was an unbeliever at the time, yet I was praying like a mad man. Funny how that works.

Praise God that Reid wasn't seriously injured! Please give him an extra hug for me, and pass one on to Vanssa, too. Thanks for sharing this very important lesson, brother.

In Him,
John

Brian said...

Mike
A truly touching experience. We are glad that everything has turned out good. Thanks for sharing this as it helped to open my eyes again that I too have won because of my family. It is sad that at times it takes something like this to "wake" us up.

Thanks again for sharing and reminding me of the truly "special" ones in my life.

Good luck and thanks.

Brian, Tara and Ian
HQO BBQ

Jessie Bost said...

Wow.

What a day... thank God that Reid is okay!

Thanks for sharing my friend, love to your family.

Cheers, Jess Bost

Anonymous said...

Mike,

Wow, what a touching story and you are truly blessed.As the father of 3, And having a 12 and a 15 year old playing numerous sports I can relate.

Here's to the rest of the season being uneventfull! And thanks for putting things in perspective, It's nice to notice a sunrise every now and again.

Hope to meet you at the "Jack"

Dan Mc AKA Mutha Chicken
3EYZ BBQ

pipcutter said...

Mike - Texas Scott here-

You were always a Grand Champion in my eyes anyway. It is the little things that show that. It is nice when a trophy comes our way once in a while, but as you noted, the real judges already know who is the Champ. What a pleasure it has been in my life to get to know you and spend time with your family.

Anonymous said...

I'm very grateful to hear your son is ok. I remember when my daughter had an accident in soccer and crumbled on the field with a torn ACL. I ended up carrying her off the field and taking her to the hospital, etc. Not a word was said by the coach or any of the other players. They were only worried about winning. Glad to see you have a coach who cares. Sure puts life into perspective. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

Phred

Spuds BBQ Co. said...

Thanks for your story Mike. We have been so busy this year with out any perceived time to slow down. I can't imagine the fear you felt in so many ways. Your narrative has pushed me to plan a vacation that has absolutely nothing to do with work, but everything to do with family. Thank you.

Thom said...

Thank You for writing this

Lawrence said...

Wow! What a story and what a wonderful end to a very scary moment. Thanks for sharing this and good luck at the Jack. Kim & Larry

Wade and Lesa Peers said...

Mike
My heart fell as I read your very touching story. We are so very grateful Reid does not have any lasting injuries. Wow, we just never know, do we? You are truly a blessed man- you are a great husband, father, dentist, BBQ-er and writer! Seriously you have been given a gift. Thanks for sharing all of these gifts with us as friends and believers. It is wonderful to know how merciful the Lord is to all of us and that He is answering prayers all around us. It just makes this life experience more amazing. Good luck at the JACK! We are sure rooting for you!
Love, Wade and Lesa

Anonymous said...

Mike and Vanessa,
Gene called me and told me to pull up your web page and read "And the World stood still..." My heart and prayers go to you and we are so glad that Reid is OK. May all of your hopes and dreams come true and best of luck at the "Jack". We love you and miss you lots!!!
Gene and Brenda Atkins

ohmes5 said...

Hey Mike,
Never knew you were such a good cook. Jane and I will definitely have to stop by the next time we're in Park City for a sampling.
Jay Ohmes

SLC Fraziers said...

Amazing and heartwarming story Mike. It reminds me of when my boy was an infant and had unknown illness that put him in and out of solitary rooms, spinal tap procedures and the such. It's these types of moments that really make you realize what is truely important in life. While I do not know you or your family, I'm happy to hear that he'll be just fine.

Enjoy your GC status at home my friend. With this kind of motivation on your belt, the Jack will be a cake walk!

supearl said...

OH MY GOSH.

Thanks so much for you and Vanesa's help with my hillbilly look. Maybe it would be good for Kentucky!

I'm back in SC and good to be with my family for Yom Kippur. Will offer up a little prayer of gratitude for Reid's good outcome following his tackle.

Susan

chefmike said...

Mike
Many things you have said, and written have touched me over the past few years, but none more than this story, Thank you for sharing.

It is an awe inspiring thing to know how God watches over us, often when we are sometimes preoccupied with other (read less important) things.

So wonderful the way things turned out.

An additional thank you for reminding me what is REALLY important in life. Hope to see you and you family again soon in my travels.

Taylor said...

Dad,

Glad to hear everything is okay, I love the site and all the pics, I wish we could get out and head to the competition with you, you will win anyways!!!

I just want some of the bbq dropped off in Denver on your way back

Love you guys,

Taylor, Lisa, and Roman