Hawgeyes BBQ

2005 Senior Q

November 11, 2005

"Bear's Monster Grill" Has Heart


The sun hadn't yet risen in Hernando County, Florida, when Frank and Peggy
McDowell were sipping their coffee and packing and hitching up their mobile
BBQ for a big day. This was not just any day or any BBQ - the event was for
something very, very special.

In honor of "Senior Q" month sponsored by the Kansas City BBQ Society, of
which they are members, the McDowells wanted to give of their time, hearts
and talents to those they have much respect and admiration for -- the
elderly. His sister, Tammy Marshall, is the Activities Director at Forest
Oaks Care Center, an assisted living facility, which is nestled among the
oaks and pines in Spring Hill, in Hernando County, Florida - with over 130
residents, it was the perfect venue.

Frank and Tammy spoke several times on the telephone, brainstorming ideas
and menus, with both jotting down lists of what would be needed. Much
loving preparation was involved on both ends. With a cowboy theme in mind,
country western entertainer Bob King was booked, and 140 straw cowboy hats
were ordered immediately for the residents to wear on the big day.

Now, let's talk about this mobile BBQ. With a name like "Bear's Monster
Grill," it HAS to be big. Twenty-one feet long, yup, you read that right, a
twenty-one footer that is eight-feet wide. Custom designed and built by
McDowell and his longtime friend, Mike Nickerson, it is something to see.
With everything permanently built in, it has a commercial rotisserie which
can hold 75 whole chickens, a double stainless-steel sink with hot and cold
running water, a built-in 4-foot griddle, two propane burners, PLUS a huge
8-foot wide grill smoker across the entire rear end of the trailer that
requires an electric winch to hoist the lid up because it is so massive. It
is truly, a twenty-one foot "dreamboat" for those who ogle over stainless
steel, iron, shiny diamond plate and fire - -the combination is pretty darn
cool.

With the sun now shining brightly, the residents and staff at Forest Oaks
were getting excited. McDowell and his wife were rolling into the parking
lot. What a sight it was! Within minutes, a tent was set up, and a banner
proudly marking its territory reading "Bear's Monster Grill" and a large
American flag were hung. Of course, the Tampa Bay Buccaneer flag was also
flying atop the massive structure. The firewood was stacked, and the
McDowell's hard work continued and never stopped. Strategically parked
right out front of the facility for all to see, the smoker had flames
shooting up from the grill and the onlookers started to come out in a
steady stream to visit, hang out, munch cookies and chat.

Normally, on a Saturday morning, an intense bingo game is going strong in
the lobby at Forest Oaks, but not today. Curious residents peeked from the
hallways where they saw many volunteers setting up tables that were
borrowed from Hernando County's Parks Department and arranged in a
"corral-type" configuration. In a rustic, cowboy fashion, white sheets were
the tablecloths for the day with a colorful bandana placed in the middle,
and an old-fashioned style lantern was added as the centerpiece. Cowboy
hats were carefully hung on the back of each chair, and each place setting
had a tin plate and a mason jar for drinking iced tea.

We must say it was difficult to keep the hats on the back of the chairs
until the "shindig" began - a couple, okay, more than a few residents,
couldn't wait to don their hats. Some had even excitedly donned their
cowboy hats and claimed their seats hours before vittles were to be served
at 1:00 pm.

Ever had chocolate chip cookies baked on a BBQ?? Well, Peggy McDowell
has mastered the art of smoking cookies. It was her special treat for those
who visited them while they were cooking up the mammouth feast. Monday
through Friday, she is the Office Manager for a busy law firm in Dade City.
When the Monster Grill is in action, she trades in her professional attire
for a pair of blue jeans, a tee-shirt with the grill's logo and puts on a
bright red cowboy hat, which appears to have been to quite a few barbecues.
Peggy attends to all of the details of the prep, set up, cooking and
cleaning process, as well as being social with folks who have questions and
comments about their unique set-up. McDowell, who is the "Bear" of "Bear's
Monster Grill," got the nickname from his wife, Peggy. She adores teddy
bears, and it's obvious that she adores Frank, too . . . they have been
happily married for 20 years and are enjoying their new BBQ venture.

Knowing that he'd need help to pull this off smoothly, McDowell, who has
been employed by Hernando County for 21 years and the Director of Code
Enforcement since 1991, recruited his friendly fellow county government
co-workers and some of their spouses as well to assist with the day's
tasks. The following folks, appropriately dressed in western attire,
generously gave all of their Saturday morning, plus most of the afternoon
in "high gear" the whole time: Gary Adams, County Administrator; Jean Rags,
Health & Human Services Director and her husband, Ron, who works for the
Sheriff's Office; Debbie Andrews of the Dawn Spouse Abuse Center, along
with her husband, Russell, and Jeffney Davis, a Customer Service Specialist
who works for McDowell. Also in attendance was Mrs. McDowell's brother,
Randy Cusick, who is celebrating 30 years as an exec with Xerox. He was in
town from Virginia, so naturally he came along to help. Mr. Cusick, one who
doesn't generally wear hats as a rule, even put on a cowboy hat for the day
- that's just how it was. Everyone was caught up in the spirit. Marshall
was right in the heart of things too, along with Camille and Pat, who are
new volunteers who have been coming in each week to the Care Center to
kindly assist her with activities. Marjorie McDowell, who is Frank and
Tammy's mother, also arrived in the early morning to help out. All decked
out in her cowgirl get-up, she was a proud momma; as her face beamed with
delight, seeing her children involved in something that gave so much joy to
others. Marjorie's friend, Don Halloran, was also in attendance and let
Forest Oaks borrow a 4-foot high, stuffed animal horse which stood its
ground in the middle of the dining corral. The adorable horse will be
presented at a Christmas program for children at the Shriner's Hospital in
Tampa.

The menu for the day consisted of savory smoked chicken, "Frank's baked
beans" (a special, tried and true concoction of molasses, brown sugar, BBQ
sauce, onions and red & green peppers) buttered corn on the cob, hot fresh
biscuits and sweet pineapple coleslaw, homemade by Elizabeth Dees, the
Administrator of Forest Oaks. Normally, the residents dine restaurant style
in a home-like, serene environment during mealtime. But this day, things
were definitely different! Instead of their regular dining staff, dressed
in uniforms and carrying a tray of plates that have been prepared with
gracious presentation, their servers were the eager volunteers sometimes
stumbling over each other, ready to roll! The finger-lickin' vittles were
rustled up directly from the hot grill and then served "chuck wagon style"
onto their tin plates before their very eyes. Clad in their blue jeans,
cowboy boots, hats, bandanas and toy guns, the volunteer servers all had a
memorable time. The foot-stomping music was blaring, and the lobby was
filled with lively banter. Although the residents were happily "stuffed"
from the delicious hearty meal, there was no notice of anyone turning down
the pie a la mode prepared by the Forest Oaks staff.


Amazingly enough, no seasoning was used to prepare the chicken. After
loading over one hundred pounds of oak and hickory firewood into the
smoker, McDowell says the meat gets its flavor from the smoke, heat and the
slow-cooked rotisserie action. The chicken was a beautiful, rich brown
color, was tender and moist and had that great smoked flavor. Two cases of
chicken were donated by Nick Sessa, owner of the Palace Grand and The Show
Palace, and another case was provided by the Care Center. With everyone
involved, approximately 160 meals were enjoyed. Something kind of funny . .
. while planning the event, some people questioned McDowell about the corn
on the cob selection, wondering if it was appropriate for residents of an
assisted living facility - I guess because of the denture issue. Dentures
vs. Corn On The Cob - no problemo! I am happy to report they LOVED the
corn; the kernels on the cobs quickly disappeared, and they soon were
asking for seconds and thirds.

The newspaper clippings, with a detailed story written by a local reporter,
plus the humorous and colorful pictures that made it on the front page of
the local paper, still hang proudly at the front reception desk of Forest
Oaks Care Center. Even a few weeks after the event, residents, staff,
families and the volunteers are still talking about it. Who knows, it may
even become an annual event that all will look forward to. Just in case,
the cowboy hats, bandanas and lanterns have all been carefully tucked away,
ready for next year!

Seeing the smiling faces and hearing the sincere, tender thank-you's from
the residents gives your heart a feeling that cannot be fully expressed in
words . . . it just makes you want to see it happen again! (END OF
ARTICLE)
 

Thanks for your help! Frank and Peg McDowell

Hawgeyes BBQ
1313 SW Ordnance Rd
Ankeny, Iowa 50023
T 877.841.7192 or 515.965.1206
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