The Mallard Creek Presbyterian Church barbecue snuck up on me this year. It’s always held on the fourth Thursday in October, but that’s usually the end of the month. Since this year’s October had five Thursdays, I thought I had another week.
One good thing about that: The barbecue never changes. I’ve taken pictures up there for years, and that timeless quality is part of what I love about it: The politicians handing out out stickers (I’m bipartisan, so I let a whole collection build up on my arm), the old friends I run into at the long trestle tables, and of course, that stew house, where the stirring goes on all day long. You have to stir regularly, with long wooden paddles, to keep the stew from sticking and burning.
Last year, I did a story on the history of the church’s unique version of Brunswick stew. I interviewed Richard Wallace, the nephew of the stew’s creator, Beck McLaughlin, and his son Rusty, who was taking over for his father. On the day of the barbecue, I stepped into the stew house, to pay my respects and watch the hard-working neighborhood women who work all day to stir that stew. Many have done it for 20 and 30 years; some have passed on their paddles and their jobs to their daughters and granddaughters.
Richard was there as usual, in fine form. Laughing and joking, watching everything, although he made it clear his son Rusty was in charge.
Richard Wallace died in July, an unexpected passing for a man of such liveliness and good humor. Since I couldn’t make up to the church today to give my regards to Rusty, I reached into my camera and pulled out a little of the footage I shot last October.