Sunday, July 24, 2011
I Saw A Grown Man Cry
One Saturday while my wife and I were visiting Fredericksburg, Texas, we went to a popular hot sauce shop that I had visited a few times before. The name of the shop is Rustlin' Rob's. The shop has all the hot sauces, bar-b-cue sauces, jellies and jams you can imagine and you can sample all of them.
Anyone that's been in there knows that the hottest of the hot stuff is in the back section of the store on the right. The area has warning signs all around regarding how hot some of the sauces in that area are. Most folks take heed. It's not a place for those with sensitive tongues and stomachs such as greenhorns and pilgrims.
Personally I love hot sauces. I grew up eating jalapenos, squash peppers, habaneros and many other peppers that once you bit into them, immediately brought you religion. With that being said, I'm not a glutton for pain. I don't like hot sauces just because they are hot. I like the peppers for their flavor along with garlic, vinegar, salt and the other various seasonings.
Prior to visiting Rustlin' Rob's my wife and I stopped and got a cup of coffee. You know the kind, those with the fancy foreign names and all the creams and caramels and such. I knew from experience not to go int RR's empty handed. So, we took our overpriced coffees left the shop for what would be the scene of yuppie devastation.
Fredricksburg, Texas is only an hour or so from Austin and is usually packed on the weekends. You can't hardly walk down the sidewalk because there are more people out there than at a rich man's funeral. We entered Rustlin' Rob's and being a weekend, it was packed as expected. Over 20 years I had watched Fredericksburg grow from a quiet destination for a few families to yuppieville every Saturday and Sunday.
I entered RR with my wife in tow and started showing her around since it was her first time in there. We sashayed through the crowd and looked at a few relishes, various chow chows, jellies and pickled everything. Once we got to the back of the store, I showed my wife the Hell room, as I call it. While perusing the various stomach and colon dissolving hot sauce concoctions, we discovered a hot sauce called "Defcon". It was something such as Defcon 4 or 14 or whatever, I didn't really pay attention to the number. The combination of "Hot Sauce" and "Defcon" on the jar immediately sucked me in like a hair ball in a vacuum cleaner.
So, I'm mesmerized as I examined the bottle carefully. All around the tables and shelves holding the sauces are 1 oz plastic cups containing a sample of each respective sauce. Sitting on a paper plate beside the cups are some kind of wheat crackers about the size of a teaspoon. I noticed that no one had sucked in their stomachs and pushed out their chests and tried that Defcon sauce. I observed two things. First, that sauce was as dark as the Galveston marsh mud. Secondly, everyone seemed to be giving that little old cup of hot sauce about a 5' clearance as they walked passed it. The fellas would look at it as they passed it and make some comment to their wives, who were usually dragging along two or three unhappy kids that tried to stick their fingers in everything. So, figuring it was hotter than a $2 whore on Saturday night, and not being one to throw caution to the wind, I took one of them small wheat crackers and dipped the tip of it in that sauce while several other folks looked on and waited to see the results of my endeavor.
Everyone has had those moments in their lives, usually very few, where time appears to either completely stop or slow down to a snails crawl. It is that one split second that seems like an eternity. It was like Jodie Foster in that science fiction movie, "Contact", where she dropped in that big ball thingy for a split second but in her time inside the ball it seemed like ages.
That was the way my life went when that cracker and hot sauce first entered my mouth. It hadn't even touched my tongue but the fumes assaulted me like my drunk ex-mother-in-law on Thanksgiving. I knew within the split second from that cracker and hot sauce entering my mouth and me letting go of the cracker that something just outright terrible was about to happen to me. It seemed like hours passed as I flinched and waited for that cracker and hot sauce to make contact with my quivering tongue.
To this day I believe that God himself hit me in the head with a sledgehammer. I saw flashes of light and I couldn't breathe but stood there like a man and tried my best not to curl in a fetal position and cry like a baby. I gulped down my cup of HOT coffee and then before I could think twice, I had grabbed my wife's cup of ice cappuccino whatever and sucked it down faster than a ex-wife spends an alimony check. Lava would not have incinerated my tongue the way that hot sauce did.
But, that was when things got interesting. You see, I fared relatively well. The burning eventually stopped as did my profuse sweating. But there were a couple of the yuppie fellas from Austin that couldn't help but comment. Now, I don't have anything against yuppie pilgrims, but if you're standing their in khaki shorts, a polo shirt knockoff and $5 Target store boat shoes, you probably shouldn't make snarky comments to a fella wearing Wrangler jeans, a cowboy hat and button down shirt who just bit into a small bit of brimstone hell. A lady standing their watching me asked how hot it was. I said it was hot enough to melt the shoes off a horse but it was tolerable. Her khaki short clad husband apparently took that as a test-of-manhood challenge. He suddenly reached out and grabbed one of them little crackers and spooned about a teaspoon of that Defcon Satan's Sweaty Nut Sack hot sauce on it. He casually plopped that cracker in his smirking, smart aleck mouth as he looked at me.
And that was when reality proved what a bitch it can be.
First his face turned red. Redder than a greenhorn's ass after a full day in the saddle. It was obvious that he had given up the annoying habit of actually breathing. I would have offered him something to drink but I had already drank my coffee, my wife's coffee, some 6 yr old girl's water and the milk from a baby's bottle that I snatched out of his stroller during my bought with the inferno. So I'm watching that yuppie fella and I couldn't be sure, but I was thinking he actually started turning purplish black. I had never in my life seen a living human being turn that color. It was like he was already dead and his body was in the process of decomposing right before my eyes. Then I thought, well maybe that sauce has a chameleon effect and he's just turning the same color it is.
While I was watching Mr. Yuppie with mild amusement and wonderment at how he was still standing, another khaki boat shoe clad character who had been watching came up with his wife. His wife said "It can't be that hot". If he ever gets divorced from that woman, he can use what she said against her in court after what happened next. That man took a spoon full of demon's testicle extract and put it on a cracker and plopped it in his mouth like it was a cold apple fritter. Within about a second he tried to spit it out but his mouth wasn't working. I know because my face was still numb from my encounter. The sauce just kind of dribbled down his chin while his eyes shot tears straight out like a horny toad. He doubled over and opened his mouth just hoping that stuff would fall out since he couldn't spit. It appeared that he tried to bite his tongue off a couple of times just to end the pain.
Meanwhile, Yuppie Numero Uno has a couple of bottles of water his wife grabbed. I don't know how much he actually drank because he was pouring it all over his face. I chalked it up to the numb face syndrome. I also think he was suffering from temporary blindness because I almost lost my vision after my encounter. His shirt was soaked with water and sweat and his fancy khaki shorts were soaked with water and, apparently, various bodily fluids.
The store manager came back there to see what was going on because of all the commotion. She huffed like an old veteran cop at his thousandth crime scene, looked at me and said, "That is the way it usually starts. One person takes a small taste and then a couple of others gotta do it but they always take a bigger bite than the first guy."
At this point, she became the best crisis worker in the state. If that woman was a hostage negotiator, she'd talk the bad guys out and save the victim every time. Both of those fellas were still bent over gasping and talking to Jesus. She stood between them and bent over while calmly talking to both of them like she was talking them off a tall bridge. She said "It's ok. The burn will be gone in about 15 minutes. Just breathe and take it slow. I'm here with you. You're doing fine."
An employee brought back a jar and she gave them some sort of pecan butter to put in their mouths. They got the butter in after the third or fourth tries because they still couldn't feel their faces. Their wives just stood there talking and trying to figure out what happened because as one of them said "It couldn't have been that bad. I don't know what his (her husband's) problem is.".
One of them turned to me and said "I saw you taste it, why didn't hit hurt you like that?"
I said "I'm from west Texas and I know not to step off the porch before I know what's in the grass."
We left while both of them fellas tried to stand upright with dignity while they continued shoving that butter in their mouth like they were stoking a coal burning stove.
© 2011 Bill Hancock