Change is inevitable. Some things we are able to expect to see the changes and we accept and acknowledge them. Like for instance watching your children growing up. They will not remain as drooling, incoherent bundles of joy, but there are times that they will come precariously close to that state as they learn the joys of the brew. Other things we are unable to see that change and from our perspective they are unchanging. We are comfortable with the feeling of permanence, like mountains for instance. Unless you were one of the unlucky souls hiking on Mt. St. Helens when it erupted, whose last thoughts were probably "Damn, that is not supposed to happen".
Ball BBQ has been a mountain for me for many years. As I travel north on one of my uncountable road trips I can be sure that I have a place to stop for lunch and be absolutely sure that I am going to have a magnificent plate of barbeque. The unchanging quality of the food has made being on the road a little less stressful. An oasis of quality in the crappy fast food desert.
Johnny Ball began his career as a butcher and opened his shop in 1970 with this brother Tommy as a meat market. A few years later he started selling smoked meats to his appreciative clients and noticed that instead of taking their BBQ home with them they were lounging around in the parking lot devouring their loot on the spot. Adding a few tables outside did little to alleviate the crux of barbeque junkies hanging out in the parking lot and so in 1974 they reinvented themselves and opened Ball Hickory Pit Bar-B-Que.
I went to college (many years ago, don't ask) with one of Johnny and Bobbie's sons who bragged continuously about how good the barbeque was from the family. Yeah right ... if I had a dollar for every BBQ joint that I have tried that someone raved about I could pay off my student loans. So one day as I passed through on my way from somewhere to nowhere I stopped off on a whim and was immediately sorry that I had waited so long.
After so many stops I have gotten to know the owners, Johnny and Bobbie are like family and greet us like long lost friends every time we walk in the door. And for one more week we and the hundreds of other BBQ junkies can expect that same greeting ... only one more week, because next Saturday, July 27, 2013, Ball Hickory Pit Bar-B-Que will shutter it's doors.
Johnny and Tommy along with their wives Bobbie and Kay are retiring after over 40 years of continuous service. Those of you who have worked in the food service industries know how physically and emotionally demanding serving the fickle public can be and can appreciate the wear and tear that 43 years can do. I am so very happy for them all and wish them a glorious retirement, but for now, well, my mountain has turned into my Mount St. Helens. This is not supposed to happen.
My friends, you have 4 days (Wednesday through Saturday) to make the trip 2.5 hours north and try some of the finest BBQ that you will ever try for the last time, or for the first time. As for me I will be driving up Saturday to spend the day with some of the finest people that I know.
Ball Hickory Pit Bar-B-Que
319 W Shawnee Ave
McAlester, OK 74501