I dream of a low-slung cinderblock building bathed in a glow of preternatural yellow light from bulbs older than my Daddy.
Out front are picnic tables hewn by Moses and a few boxwoods that do little more than keep litter from the highway from getting underfoot.
Out back, there’s a pile of wood larger than the shack and a pall of thick smoke that you’d gladly choke to death in, for it smells of barbecue.
Real barbecue. Smoked on a pit over a pile of carefully split and aged wood barbecue. Neta’s Bar-B-Q. You order from a sliding window off a menu missing letters and you are overjoyed. You await your food in a cloud of starved mosquitos and rejoice. It gets there when it gets there and you couldn’t be happier. When my husband and I were dating, I lived in Ruston, about half an hour from Neta’s, which is on the Shreveport highway in Minden. I woke up one morning with a powerful craving for barbecue and convinced John to ride with me.
Once we got into town, my cell phone rang. It was Dad, who just happened to be sitting next to me at the red light.
“Where you going?”
No further explanation needed. He tossed me a $20 bill through his truck window and told me to get him a plate, too, and meet him at the house.
To this day, John still thinks it was rigged. It wasn’t. I’m not that creative in the face of a barbecue craving.
John told Dad he’d buy, which impressed him, but he made him take the $20, anyway. And after the barbecue was eaten, John fixed Dad’s driveway and tolerated his incessant ribbing, which impressed him more.
When I’m accused of rigging the meeting, I often point out that without that barbecue smoothing the way, Dad might have been in a much less jovial mood when he met John and things may not have turned out in such a positive way.
I’m just saying, Neta’s can work wonders and, sometimes, John needs all the help he can get. Especially when faced with a gun-toting father staring down his baby daughter’s boyfriend.
With one daughter at home and a second on the way, John understands the predicament he was in a little better. Someone needs to build a Neta’s South before Ainsley hits high school.
Beth Colvin is The Advocate’s assistant Food editor. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org