Wednesday, July 7, 2021

Amarillo by Morning

 Growing up I hated country music. I couldn’t stand it.

Then I joined the US Army. My first Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) was as a helicopter flight crewmember. My goal was to eventually go to flight school and become an Army pilot.

The Army had created a test to determine what personality traits were common among successful helicopter pilots. They called this test the Flight Aptitude Service Battery.

They interviewed a bunch of old crusty pilots and asked them a series of questions to determine certain personality traits. The most common answer became the “right” answer.

One of the seemingly random questions on the multiple-choice test was “what type of music do you prefer to listen to.”

The possible answers were classical, country or jazz. As a fan or rock, none of the choices made sense to me.

I learned later that the correct answer was country because most of the “successful” Army pilots listened to country music.

As I entered my dream career of being a flight crew member, I quickly learned that the control of the radio was in the cockpit and that I was at the mercy of the pilot’s choice of music. As I mentioned, most of them supposedly listened to country. In practice, this proved to be true.

Me doing my best Top Gun pose

So, as it turned out, I had a simple choice. Listen to country music or listen to the drone of the engines and transmissions for what sometimes would be hours at a time.

After years of being confined to a small area and almost forced to listen to the gentle twang of country singers, I actually began to enjoy it.

Soon I became a fan of Randy Travis, George Straight, Garth Brooks and others. I also began to listen to a little bit of western music (if you don’t know the difference, a quick google search should answer any questions).

Which is how I find myself sitting in the airport in Amarillo, Texas, hoping to catch a flight home.

Several months ago, I received an email from a Youtube creator that I follow, Cowboy Kent Rollins.

Kent spent most of his adult life as the cook on a chuck wagon in real life cowboy camps. I mean “round them up, brand em” cowboy camps.

The years of being in the camps has supplied Kent with a great many stories, most of them about life in the camps. He also has a skill for telling those stories. And some pretty awful dance moves.

That maybe why his wife Shannon convinced him several years ago to start a Youtube channel dedicated to real cowboy cooking either on the grill or in cast iron.

I enjoy watching Kent cook, as he shares his cooking tips with a healthy dose of cowboy charm. The food looks good, and at the end of every cook, his enthusiasm for what he has prepared usually causes him to break out his best dance moves.

So when I got the chance to have dinner at the chuckwagon, I jumped on it.

Wellington, Texas

Kent, along with Andy Nelson (cowboy poetry and humorist), and Brenn Hill (Western musician) were going to do a live show in Wellington, Texas, and Kent was bringing his chuckwagon to cook dinner for 75 people before the show.

I’d never been to Wellington, so I looked it up on Google maps.

I’m not saying the town is small, but it is about 18 streets wide and 18 streets long.

Kent had the wagon set up in the park next to the Ritz Theater. It was a hot, humid Texas day. Not only was it hot outside, but the cooks were also using Kent’s trusty stove, “Bertha.”

Kent's Rig

Now Bertha was putting off about 500 degrees of heat from the hardwoods they were burning. And they had to cook filet for 75.  I’m sure it was miserable, but the result was great.

Later we went into the theater for the show. It was quite good. Brenn would start a song, pause while Andy would inject a poem or story that fit with the song, then Brenn would finish. Next Kent would tell some type of tale from the cowboy camp days.

If you get the chance, I’d go.

We flew from California to Amarillo, TX and then drove the 90 miles to Wellington for dinner and a show. And yes, I would likely do it again.


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