… a “Band of Brothers” (and a few sisters)
These guys just plain do good.
Whether it is in their community, their service to our country or their roadside barbecue…they, and their chicken, are made from “the right stuff”.
There are really two dynamics here: The chicken and the men behind it.
One of our favorite summertime experiences in the Delmarva Peninsula is visiting the local BBQ Chicken stand. We’ve been coming to this stand for years.
Until this past weekend, I’ve never really thought…who are these guys? They are out every weekend barbecuing chicken instead of lounging on the beach.
Well now, “curiosity was killing the cat” and I had to go and find out their story.
It all started in 1960 when VFW’s were looking for concessions as a way to support veteran’s relief and services. If you are local to the Delmarva Peninsula or have visited, you know their bbq is good...I mean so good you go at 9:00am to snag your chicken before they sell out.
These guys are at it well before 9 am, though. Try 4:30 am – that is when the first crew arrives.
Morning duties include putting charcoal in the pits and starting the fire so the charcoal has a chance to burn down.
At 5:45 am the second crew is over at Holly Farms picking up the chicken. Once they arrive back…. its go time.
They marinate the chicken with their special secret recipe prepared by the ladies of the auxiliary or the “Sauce Girls”. I tried getting it out of them but they wouldn’t budge!
Chief cooker, Ken Weber, described the recipe as “It’s brined chicken split that we augment with a special sauce that is typical Delmarva based bbq sauce with an oil vinegar base.” … humm, think I’ll start experimenting.
They cook 5 racks with 15 chicken splits on each rack at a time.
The chickens cook for an hour and 15 minutes…now I understand why they arrive so early!
The first set is ready to go around 7:30 am for those early risers heading out for a day of fishing.
They go through about 750 chicken splits every Saturday and stay there until around 2-3pm, when the last one is gone!
All of the funds raised go to numerous causes and organization that the VFW supports: outreach programs, services, and donations to local communities in the form of scholarships for high schools in the area. Last year they raised $24,000!
While the chicken is tender and just falls off the bone, these men are rock solid.
What truly grabbed my attention was how welcoming they were each time I went….kept thinking…who are these guys?
They always greet you with a smile and if you get there early enough a slice of cantaloupe may be shared while you’re waiting for your chicken. They have served everywhere from WWII, Korean War, and Vietnam. They have men from all of the branches of the military.
These guys moved to Bethany and found each other through shared experience. Experience defines family and families have a tendency to find homes- whether it’s a beach house or a covered grill pit.
Like kindred explorers pitching a camp for the night, these men decided to build a home together and their 'campfire' beckons visitors.
Wearing a faded, camouflage hat, Korean War Veteran, Jim Fiske, meditatively tends the grill as I ask him about his life and what he's learned on his journey. He's survived war, cancer, and glows when describing his first thoughts when he wakes each morning:
"I know it’s a good day when I wake up and there’s not grass on the ceiling; I put one foot on the ground and if it doesn’t yell at me, I put the other down and if it doesn’t say anything, I go…”