Over the weekend I joined the ranks of pitmasters who had their rig stolen. A rig on a trailer isn’t really of much use to anyone other than BBQ people. Hill Country BBQ had their massive 1 ton bells & whistles decked out smoker stolen 3 years ago. Earlier this year, BBQ giant Pat Martin had his specially custom Tennessee Whole Hog cooker stolen too, right in front of his own restaurant in broad daylight!!
Plenty of people are wondering why anyone would do this especially on my rig, which has so little monetary value. I think the options are pretty clear. They might have thought they were merely playing a harmless prank. They might have been under some “Robin Hood” delusion they were taking from the haves and delivering justifiable income/justice to the have nots. They might have done it for entertainment because it’s always funnier to cause harm when you don’t have to stare at the aftermath. Or perhaps they intended to cause me pain.
The frightening thing is that the people who stole my smoker are likely of the same ethical self-reflection as the vandals who graffiti on my wall. They likely consider themselves ethical human beings. They will demand their children learn right from wrong. They are disgusted when they see murder in the newspaper. They pray to higher powers in church. They don’t consider themselves monsters or criminals. Perhaps they like the feeling of being in control by essentially rendering me helpless.
My smoker was a royal pain in the arse. The trailer portion was flimsy. The design was illogical. She wasn’t the best at holding heat. She was a chore to clean. Despite all that, she was mine and I loved her. I figured out how to jerry-rig a pipe thru her to make a reverse flow smoker out of her when needed. I took advantage of her layout to cook more capacity than better built smokers. I made cold spots into holding areas and hotspots into strategic benefits.
My smoker and I were the same – deeply flawed and lacking in pedigree – yet, despite our humble background, produced moments of perfection. She crafted pork butts meltingly tender and fragrant with oak. She took on three 100lb pigs without blinking an eye and produced hog so authentic that it fooled event goers from the South into believing I was from the South as well. I dreamed of better smokers but would never imagine giving her away.
I should join the chorus of those calling for violent punishment for our thieves. After all it is my smoker. But instead I feel pity. I don’t believe in karma or the universe balancing out the worlds of its world. I do believe in the creation of self and what comes from that. BBQ is an act of generosity and community building. What we give out we have received back in exponential friendship. To cause harm for your own entertainment or self-benefit seems to be a lonely world to live in. Forever to keep company with the likes of other thieves, seem to me to be a hellish existence.
She was the conduit of my art. She was the center piece of my events. She caused strangers in NYC to smile due to her sheer absurdity. For many she broke the monotony of daily activities. For others she was a story you could share with friends.
But now she’s gone. The space she occupied in my driveway for years now sits barren. Perhaps if she wasn’t so big the space wouldn’t look so empty. Then perhaps I wouldn’t hurt so much looking at the emptiness.