A few posts back – in our “walking about therapy” – we spied a unique fire pit cooker in the backyard of Laura and Jerry Beckham. She told us it was made by a man in Chiefland – a welder - on rt 19, north from Chiefland to Fanning Springs.
So last Wednesday, after our chiropractic appointment – and the walmart shopping -in the sheeting rain, we ventured north, seeking out the Hogan Brothers and a Cowboy Cooker of our own.
“THERE THEY ARE!” I called out,
sighting two of the cookers on display behind a chain link fence at the front of a complex of buildings,
It was strewn with boats, golf carts and large equipment and forges and anvils and a collection of dogs and
LARRY HAGEN – the custom designer of a Cowboy Cooker.
What a face! What a Jolly, Engaging fellow.
Turns out, it was his son who first started making them – based on ones he’d seen out west.
The base is the iron cap of an oilwell pipe – the top of the cap becoming the bottom of the fire pit – where Larry added a lever to open or close the draft — I now finally understand: OPEN the draft to increase oxygen and HEAT! CLOSE the draft to reduce heat.
Larry considers his cookers a work of art and an improvement over his sons design -who has since moved on to greener pastures.
Larry pointed out the unit’s features – such as the legs – “I could-a used a smaller gauge pipe – but these legs will last your lifetime and I bend ‘em myself.”
Each cooker is a unique inspiration: deciding how much he twists the iron on the pokers and hanging bars and the number and placement of the real horseshoes on the unit.
The beauty of this unit is the swing. Both the grate and hanging bar swings out. He even has a rig for the coffee pot to hang over the fire – so you can pour a cup without removing the pot, —”just tip it over and pour it out” (extrapolated from “I’m a little tea pot”)…Also the grate can be raised and lowered by a pneumatic lever to accommodate cooking temperature requirements!!
Well – we looked at each other and knew we had to have it — crazy as it seemed – to buy a 150 pd grill – when we’re renting for two more months – but we had to have it! It made us giggle. And in an odd sort of way, it was our throwing down the gauntlet – our declaration that we want to put our footprint down in Cedar Key. So for the price of a day’s fishing trip and a dinner out, we could take it home!
After the confirming handshake, Larry got busy making us a few more hooks for hanging the pot and gathered up the log turner and meat turners and told us to throw some hickory wood in our trunk as well, to get us started.
He is a passionately spiritual man, sharing stories of learning from a horse whisper about how a horse feels his rider’s energy – and then grabbed my hand -”You believe in the spirit? Close your eyes and tell me when you feel my hand is over yours, just grab it!” he said with shining eyes.
We reorganized the back of the truck so Larry and I could slip the cooker in on its side (the swing arms are welded to the pot)
“Heck, you can drop this in the road and it won’t break” Larry said as we bungied the truck lid (fortunately the rain had subsided) and off we drove.
Talk about giggles — placing this cooker in the back yard continues to bring us smiles. Our own horseshoe print – declaring our commitment to coming back. (Like the guitar at the end of the movie: The Goodbye Girl)
With the rain, we had to wait a day to try it out – and it was torture!
But on Thursday — after an early morning appointment in Gainesville for John’s back,
We gathered round to light our first fire on a cool afternoon.
But now, the ultimate test. We wanted to roast oysters on it. So on our way back from Gainesville on Friday (for John’s second cortisone injection), we stopped by Jeanne Beckham’s place – just off Rt 24 – following the red OYSTERS sign, painted on jagged planks of wood – leading to a simple long, covered loading dock, framed by an office, work shop and large, walk in cooler – where we bought a PECK of oysters (1/4 of a Bushel) in a burlap sack for $10.
Ten Dollars. For about 40 oysters. Think about that when you next order oysters at a restaurant.
Of course…there’s some prep work for serving oysters as well. I’ve got the slits in my thumb and index finger to prove it.
Gloves and a proper oyster knife will soon be purchased.
But what a joy there is in the process.
We invited Lonna and Martin, our neighbors, to join us, and he shucked fresh ones and then showed us how to steam them -
placing the oysters on a piece of corrugated tin and topping it with burlap –
We also roasted them directly on the fire.
And everyone was satisfied.
Now clams will be much easier – but then, clams are not oysters!
Can’t wait to get another peck and test out what I’ve learned!
In the meantime, I plan to make a pot roast in the iron pot we got to cook over the fire pit!
How much fun is this?!
(so long as I keep a handy supply of band-aids)
till next time – xoxo Laura
PS: HAPPY BIRTHDAY BILLY MAC!