IMAGE of one of the recurring cookouts organized by 613th TFS Squids (file photo from the mid-1970s).
Like most Fourth of July celebrations, the one coming up on Tuesday is not going to be any different than many before. There will be fireworks, parades, talk of freedom, lots of barbeques and plenty family gatherings. I bet a lot of folks are going to have Monday off too, and if that’s the case, it’s going to be a four-day weekend for all of them. Woo-hoo!
In this part of north Texas where I live, a lot of people will spend the day frolicking at a lake someplace. There are tons of manmade lakes around here. I won’t be doing that; I will spend the day at home taking care of some self-imposed honey-dos, mainly getting some writing done. I will also barbeque. Chances are I will be alone, unless my daughter swings by. My wife is in Costa Rica taking care of her 100-year-old dad. She and two sisters that live in the United States take turns to be with him. He’s still in pretty good shape, is very active and spends a few hours everyday working in the garden and stuff related to the house. He reads a lot too and is well informed about this and that.
Our son and his wife, by the way, live in California. The grandkids live there too, along with a whole bunch of relatives. Brothers, sisters, cousins, nephews, nieces and lots, lots more. It’s a big family and gets bigger once I include those that still live south of the border. I know what you’re thinking, so I’ll say it for you: “Mexicans breed like rabbits.” Well, no longer true. Our numbers keep shrinking as we discretely dip our feet into the melting pot.
Returning to the talk about barbequing, let me tell you, I love to cook outside, throw meat and fixings on the grill and have a beer, maybe two, while I perform chef duties. I’m pretty good at it I think, especially when I do pork back ribs. They’re usually finger licking good; that’s what I’ve been told more than once, anyway. Of course, there’s a good chance that some of those folks that have given me compliments might have been fibbing, you know, just to be nice. Then again, maybe not. I’ve seen some of them licking their fingers and the bones of those ribs.
I learned the art of grilling them while watching others do it when I was in the Air Force. Had several opportunities to watch, but the one that is well stuck in my brain took place on a Fourth of July holiday. We were stationed at Torrejón Air Base near Madrid, Spain, but we had to spend every third month in Turkey, at Incirlik Air Base. Sort of like my wife and her sisters going to their dad’s home to help him. We took turns with the other two squadrons.
Someone in our outfit, the 613th Tactical Fighter Squadron, came up with the idea to barbeque pork back ribs in front of our Incirlik quarters to celebrate the civic occasion. It was in the mid-1970s. I tell you, those were great ribs. Cooked by two, maybe three Squids (that was the nickname given to the members of the 613th TFS) who would not allow anyone to get close to the grills with the racks of ribs to try to help. They were master grillers; they proved that skill set as they performed their art with lots of patience. They took their time doing their job. It’s a requirement with ribs, you know.
By the way, the phrase “Patience is a virtue” has become a cliché, but have to repeat it here; the Squids attending those grills had plenty of that virtue. Not a rack of ribs got burned and not one was bathed with sauce before it was time to do so. The reward? Finger licking back ribs for a whole bunch of hungry aircrews on temporary duty near the southern shore of Turkey. Not a bad way to spend the day celebrating America’s independence.
Of course, there are many other activities tied to the coming holiday. For me it will again be grilling pork back ribs and maybe some corn on cob, Mexican style. Whatever you do, though, have fun (and be safe). And, one final thought. I’m not a Texan, but I’ve gotten used to some Lone Star talk, therefore I’m going to try to parrot a few words that I believe are appropriate to salute the festive occasion, the way a Texan would say them:
“Have a great Fourth of July y’all.”
AUTHOR: Pedro Chávez