Casey Jones was a barbecue man. Ran his business in a travel trailer stand.
Yeah, I know that’s a poor attempt at poetry, but it’s the best way I know to get into a story about a relative of the late country singing legend George Jones. And, since I never knew Jones and can’t lend anything to his biography, this story will have to do. Besides, it’s a better story.
Always on a Texan’s hunt for “ideal barbecue,” I’ll try almost any place. Casey’s “joint” looked like just about anything but a barbecue restaurant.
Casey Jones’ Bar-B-Q was, lo those many years ago, in a little remodeled silver travel trailer on the roadside of SH 321 between Conroe and Cleveland. Casey’s place was near Fostoria, site of the old Foster Lumber Co. camp and mill. It had one door for both entrance and exit, convenient for someone running a one-man barbecue operation of chief cook-bottle washerwaiter country style bon vivant.
Right by the door, behind an L-shaped counter, was the barbecue man himself, Casey Jones, and he greeted each customer, even strangers, with a sincere-sounding, “Hi, Sis, Hey, Bud,” took their money, served them and steered them to the old chair-arm-school desk dining stations in his little establishment.
A constant banter ensued between Casey and any customer who could manage a word between chews and Casey’s one-liner entertainment and floorshow unique to country eating establishments. On my visit there, one customer, apparently a regular, played straight man for Casey’s vaudevillian commentary.
“Doctor, Doctor. I got my arm broken in three places.”
“Well, don’t go in those kind of places.”
Somehow, the subject of George Jones came up and Casey began talking about “Cousin George” and their rough-and-tumble upbringing in the Big Thicket town of Saratoga.
Casey could, and would at the drop of a biscuit into gravy, launch into any number of stories about his legendary cousin.
He said George began playing and singing with country bands as a young teen of 13 or 14. While, Casey had absolutely nothing derogatory to say about Cousin George, it was apparent he knew of the lures to which George succumbed in those impressionable young teen years, probably a very early flirtation with alcohol that led to a long-term “union.” There were other temptations of country honky-tonks as well and if local legend can be honored, Jones jumped into most of them with both feet.
Actually, the severe limitations of Big Thicket nightlife and entertainment allowed youngsters to ease into the near-outlawry of such establishments with a “wink-wink, they didn’t look like no kid” from a doorman or manager. These clubs were habitats of the timber cutters, mule skinners and saw mill operators that fought and scratched to make a living in the toughest atmosphere. Besides, no self-respecting liquor board agent or selfprotecting lawman would darken the door of these establishments.
Obviously, Jones fell into the woeful sounds and messages of an area’s music that reflected the desperate attempts to make a living and hold a family together.
It is of such scrambling and rambling from which most of country music’s songs emerge, sung with the desperate nasally moans so chained to that genre.
Since Casey was no spring chicken 40 or so years ago when I was in his b-b-q joint, I doubt he’s still around. Pity. It’s actually guys like him about whom a lot of country music is written and who, somehow on their own, are great promoters of that entertainment branch.
And, his barbecue was pretty good, too.
WILLIS WEBB is a retired community newspaper editor and publisher of more than 50 years experience. He can be reached by email at email@example.com.