Barbecue Poetry

by Daniel Vaughn · December 14, 2015

Frank “Trey” Felton is the owner of Thorndale Meat Market, which we reviewed last week on TMBBQ. Felton, a graduate of the Air Force Academy, is a talented pitmaster, but his skills don’t stop at the smoker; writing is another passion. Felton is the author of Jewel of Hiram, a historical fiction set in Milam County, Texas, and he’s also a budding poet. After my first visit to his restaurant, he sent me this poem he had written, a reflection about a life spent working the pits. We’ve published it here with his permission.


Man arises, crack of dawn,
Outstretched arms, hearty yawn.
Birds are chirping; setting dew.
Ready to face the day anew,
Yet hours behind the Smokin’ man,
Whose day kicked off at midnight’s hand.
The Pitmaster started yesterday,
Will go all night and through today.
Deep down certain, not the question –
Drawn to fire, and smoke that beckons.
Feedback’s fleeting, that right soon,
Have to wait ‘til stroke of noon.

On lonely tides, the 3rd shift idles,
Sporadic glimpses, Cookoff titles.
Thinking of the end in mind,
Perfect crust, coarse pepper grind.
A man devoted, on a mission –
Marching onward – keen of vision.
Counting down, that clock’s a tickin’
People lining, fingers lickin’
Halfway home, the briskets flip,
Fires roll on at healthy clip.
Stoking flames of oak well-cured,
Temp is constant, heat endures.

Sun peaks o’er the vast horizon,
Town awakens, people risin’ –
Plan their day around their bellies,
Breakfast tacos, PB-jelly.
Yardbird halves are roasting slowly,
Church bells ring, he’s feeling Holy.
Sacred is that lunch revered,
Herds make way to food joints near.

Here this man takes center stage,
Curtain draws, looks twice his age.
Half his age, is how he acts,
Sausage jokes, and random facts.
Flatulence would par the round,
All in tact, his mind profound.
Fingers black from creosote,
Whiskers greyed from too much smoke.

Blasting Willie; Waylon too,
But one thing, is deftly true –
Hip Hop jams don’t top the venue,
Bits and pieces, on the menu.
Mixalot will testify –
He likes Pig Butts, and cannot lie.
Tunes turn down, its back to civil,
Get this ship back on the level.
Scruffs the beard, and sports a grin,
Scratch the hair of plumaged chin.
Check the Point for tender give,
Mos Def moment, why he lives.
Define the moment, that he do,
Tin Cup tips his cap, adieu.

Smoke rings’ bueno, happenstance,
Flavor not, just Oak-y trance.
Sign of trade, he’s smoked it true,
Window dressing, just for view.
Spears his prize with two-pronged fork,
Devilish manner, Saintly work.
Perfect brisket, sliced with ease,
Flat is tender, moist as these….
Ribs that fall, straight off the bone,
Juicy, sweet – they stand alone.

All he asks for wages paid,
To look upon with steely gaze.
Sign that states he’s won this battle,
Long hard slug, high in the saddle.
Sign he’s once again perfected,
Look amazement – “good, expected.”
“Best damn brisket, ever had.”
“Even better than my dad’s.”
Should luck prevail, perhaps a mention,
Blogger’s spot, food snob’s pretention.
Yelp review, 5 stars a shinin’,
Facebook like, we “Wine and Dinin’”
Holy Grail, so many long,
A Texas Monthly word from Vaughn.
Heard it all, yet naught gets old,
‘Gain the same old story unfolds.

Isn’t luck, nor secrets cherished,
Lessons learned from books unpublished.
Years in trenches, paying dues,
Purest way to master ‘Cue.
It’s everyday at O-dark-thirty,
Lightin’ fires, gettin’ dirty.
One word fits this dedication,
Not for love, it’s not perfection.
Not for fame, it’s not for fortune,
Not for money, recognition.

So for food his pit has brought,
Here’s to him, we really ought –
Pay tribute to the Smokin’ man,
At lunchtime we’re his biggest fan.
It’s cause he wants to play this game,
Without it, Texas ain’t the same.
Not for fun nor past tradition…
It’s his duty – that word is Passion.

– Frank “Trey” Felton



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