Grilled Onions

Nobody ever waded through a crowd of people at the fair because they smelled a snow cone.

You know are an adult when you start ordering grilled onions on your cheeseburger. You may have suffered from alliumphobia as a kid, but sooner or later you’ll grow up. The smell is what gets you. You can trick people into thinking that you’ve been working up a storm in the kitchen by simply putting an onion in the oven. If you’ve ever been at an outdoor festival, it’s the smell of grilled onions at the polish sausage stand that draws you over. Nobody ever waded through a crowd of people at the fair because they smelled a snow cone. It’s the caramelized onions that draw you.

I hated onions as a kid. I am still not the point where I can take a bite out of a raw onion like Ronnie Spates. Perhaps I’ll work up to that someday. Right now I tolerate raw onion and cilantro that they serve at the taco place, and the occasional slice of onion that comes on that turkey sandwich from Costco. I’m still not overly fond of raw onions, but I am talking about it so that is part of the healing process. Onions are ingredients, not stand alone food. People don’t just walk around eating flour or baking soda do you? I do remember people walking around at Smith’s Grocery eating starch out of the package. The kind of starch you iron your clothes with. “It’s great!” They said. “But my doctor tells me not to do it.” I never understood that. Eating raw flour might make more sense. Do you know any starch eaters?

I remember sitting in the buggy and eating raw hamburger meat straight out of the package at Food World. It was before Lindsay was born, so I guess I was under two years old. It seems like I was mesmerized by the shiny shrink wrap around the ground beef. I poked it with my finger. After a while I made a little hole in the shrink wrap and started eating the raw meat one little nibble at a time. It was the cashier who noticed that the package had a hole in it. Mom frowned at this discovery but never suspected me. I told her a couple years ago. And I just told all y’all. If you are wondering I’m fully recovered. Anyway, I was telling you about grilled onions.

It all started in Winchester, VA. There was a little hole-in-the-wall restaurant called The Snow White Grill. It had been open since the 30s and they were known for tiny little hamburgers. Imagine Krystal burgers, but good. The burgers are-perhaps were, I haven’t been in a while-made from fresh local beef on a flat top grill. They make about forty patties at a time, and they finish them with grilled onions. They take pride in their grilled onions. There is not an option to have a burger without onions and if you ask for no onions they will look at you like you ate the Lord’s supper.

The Grilled onions on the Snow White Grill cheeseburger is what got me. It was a completely new way to experience a burger. Like seeing your childhood neighborhood in a different city. One with a Chick Fil A. It’s like going from arithmetic to quantum mechanics. Or Perhaps just algebra. I’m not entirely sure what all quantum mechanics entails. Grilled onions on your cheeseburger makes it deluxe. Like the familiar standard model, but way better.

Maybe you already know this and have been putting grilled onion on everything from cheeseburgers to ice cream for years. You probably eat raw onions too. But some of y’all have never tried grilled onions on your cheeseburger, and if you’ve read this far so you might as well go do it. Just be sure it’s at a reputable hamburger place. I recommend Hamburger Heaven or Milo’s. And let met know about it.

Bacon Cheeseburger with Grilled Onions from Hamburger Heaven

Thanks for reading, sharing and supporting.

-Zane Wells

Rabbits

The rabbit was not living up to it’s image on the lawnmower throttle.

Wesley just chased a lethargic rabbit halfway around the garden and up the fence line behind the barn. The rabbit was not living up to it’s image on the lawnmower throttle. He must have doubted Wesley’s accuracy with the bamboo javelin he had poised for throwing. It looked a bit like a Road Runner cartoon in slow motion.

I have seen rabbits run a lot faster. Like the time we were working in the hayfield and had just stopped to get a drink of water to keep from dying from exhaustion in the sweltering heat. Up sprang a little rabbit. My brother jumped up chased him halfway across the hayfield before catching him in dive. He was parallel with the ground, arms stretched out in front of him. The rest of us watched cooly from the shade of the truck and sipped the ice cold water from little dixie cups. Zach panted triumphantly back to the truck and held out a tiny rabbit that was visibly throbbing from adrenaline and fear.

“You boys ain’t tired if you can still catch rabbits.” Pop said as he stirred us back to work, as if I had been out there chasing rabbits along with Zach.

Not surprisingly, the best rabbit story I can offer comes from my Dad. Back during the Reagan administration, my parents and Uncle Tony were setting on the front porch of the house were I was raised. Dad was leaning against the column and drinking a Pepsi from a glass bottle when someone noticed a rabbit out next to the kudzu. That’s about thirty yards away, depending on the last time the grass was cut. Kudzu can grow about a yard a day. Uncle Tony tried to hit the rabbit with a rock, but he missed. Which is not surprising since his glasses are as thick as mine. The rabbit tensed up and sat frozen while Dad took the last swig of his drink. Then he held onto the post with one hand and leaned out into the front yard and casually lobbed the empty glass bottle over a crepe myrtle tree in the general direction of the rabbit. The bottle struck the rabbit square in the head and killed it graveyard dead.

I’ve never intentionally killed a rabbit. Even when I was conned into going hunting in the back yard with Dad and Zach. I don’t remember what exactly we were hunting, but I jumped a rabbit in the sage patch and watched him bounce away while I held my shotgun on my shoulder.

“Hey, there goes a rabbit.” I said proudly.

“Why didn’t you shoot it?” My Dad laughed.

Now that I have a garden, I can relate a lot more to Farmer Brown and Elmer Fudd than Peter Rabbit and Bugs Bunny. I’m almost ready to start intentionally killing rabbits. I’ve taken the first step by giving Wesley a slingshot and a sack of marbles.

Thanks for reading, sharing, and for your continued Support.

Zane Wells

The Comics

For as long as I can remember, we got the Birmingham News delivered to our house. It was nice of the editors to add all the extra pages to keep you busy while you were waiting on your turn to read the comics. I doubt if I’d have known who Moshe Dayan was if I hadn’t been looking for the funnies. I guess reading the headlines and the blurbs beneath the pictures became part of my routine over time. The static photographs in the Newspaper were probably more effective in arresting my attention that any talking head could dream. I really learned how to keep up with current events by reading the newspaper, and what got me interested in the newspaper was the comics.

There were two pages of comics in the Birmingham News in the era of my childhood. I read them all, even the ones that I never seemed to catch on to the storyline, like Mary Worth, Rex Morgan M.D. and Judge Parker. I later realized that some people had been following these characters for 40 years. Sometimes I saved my favorites for last: Phantom, Zits, Pickles, Peanuts, Baby Blues, Wizard of Id, Beetle Bailey, and Hagar the Horrible.

After years of reading the comics it became apparent which comics were no longer being drawn and written by the original artists. It didn’t stop me from reading, or even enjoying those cartoons, they just seemed like reruns. It made the strips currently being written by the original artists stand out a bit, like Zits, Pickles, and Buckets. There was a freshness about the humor. Then again, some of the strips just weren’t as funny to me no matter who was writing them. Not everyone’s humor is the same. I’ve never been a big Garfield fan, so I’m always a bit wary of people who think that Garfield is hilarious.

Some comic strips resonate with you. As a kid I liked cartoons that made me laugh usually because it was silly, like Sarge pounding Beetle Bailey into a little knot of assorted body parts. Other comic strips made more sense as I got older. Like Peanuts, which can be much deeper than it’s seemingly sparse art would imply. And Dilbert, which really comes to life after you’ve worked in an office. The comics gave me an appreciation for wit, and really how to understand a joke.

I find it interesting to read other Newspapers because each one is unique. The AP articles were all the same, but the character of the Newspaper is in it’s local news coverage, and it’s comics page. Reading another Newspaper’s comics page is like going over to a friends house and playing with his toys. I discovered Cul de Sac this way. Having worked in an after-school program for a number of years, this strip resonated with me. Whenever the comics page was rearranged and old strips shuffled out and new strips shuffled in, it caused a stir in our house. It was similar to getting a new student in class, and you read it with interest testing the waters. I learned to like Get Fuzzy so much that I forgot what it replaced.

Gary Larson and Bill Watterson had both retired, the cause of much sadness among my adult relatives, by the time I had learned to read well enough to enjoy the comics, so my introduction to The Far Side and Calvin and Hobbes was through the printed collections. These two comic strips were popular for a reason, they’re extraordinarily good, and they are probably my favorite. Most everyone would enjoy Calvin and Hobbes, but I’ve met more than a few people who did not like The Far Side. I’ve always been a little wary of people who fail to see the humor in the Far Side. They’re usually Garfield fans. We had several volumes of The Far Side, Calvin and Hobbes, Zits, Baby Blues, and Get Fuzzy at home. What’s nice about reading a comic collection, is that you don’t have to wait until the next day to find out what happened. You can consume a lot more than the daily prescribed dose of comic strip. It’s kind of sad to consume a year’s worth of work in an afternoon. Part of the beauty of Newspaper comics is that you have to wait a whole day before you can pick up the storyline. You also think more about a single strip that way instead of blowing through them in the books.

Sarah got me the Complete Far Side collection when we were dating. Which reaffirmed my plan to marry her. But the Complete Calvin & Hobbes has evaded me for years. I found it over the weekend in a Thrift Store for a deal too good to pass up. I don’t think that it had ever been opened. I’ve been introducing Wesley to Calvin & Hobbes since then. Let’s hope it helps his joke telling.

This is why I love Thrift Stores so much.

Comic strips, not to be confused with comic books, have always been a big part of my humor. If you ever catch me laughing aloud by myself, there is a good chance that in my mind I’m rereading a comic strip from years ago. The humor is lost in me trying to describe the strip to you. But if you had read the strip as well, then all I have to do is say the punchline and then you can laugh too. I sometimes answer the phone with a punchline from The Far Side. “Oh yeah? Chief say your horse ugly too!” or, “Ooh, this not be cheap.” The result will be a belly laugh from my Mom or Brother.

As I became an adult, it became apparent that the highlight of everyones day had not been reading the funny pages. It’s a wonderful thing when you do find someone with the same humor as you. I seem to get along quicker with people who grew up reading the comics as if we share a common language. With all that, I’m a bit ashamed that I have not subscribed to the paper since I moved away from home. I hope my kids don’t turn out to be Garfield fans.

Bicycles

I will say that I do not recommend taking a bicycle on the railroad tracks.

You probably remember when you first learned to ride your bike. Maybe your Dad had been running behind you, holding on to the banana seat, and you looked back to see that he was standing twenty feet back with his hands on his hips grinning at you. You panic and then crash. This is repeated until you don’t crash, and that’s how a lot of people learn to ride their bike. Others never started out with training wheels, and were told to just go ride it. My Uncle Tony taught me to ride without training wheels at Gram’s house. It was a faded blue bike with gummy white rubber grips on the handle bars that left a tacky feeling on your hands. He was running behind me as I peddled, until he wasn’t, and I kept right on going. I’ve only met a couple adults who never learned to ride a bicycle. It’s difficult to imagine childhood without bicycles.

It seems like I wore out and outgrew bikes like I outgrew shoes. It probably didn’t help that we left our bikes laying in the yard to get rained on. My Dad would just shake his head when he saw this. When you got a brand new bicycle for Christmas it was easy to haul it up onto the porch and use the kickstand, but the new wore off pretty quickly after one good winter mud puddle. It never occurred to me to clean my bikes. The only maintenance I ever thought about was air in the tires and oil on the chain. Dad would catch the spent motor oil in an old kitchen pot with only one handle whenever we changed the oil in the family vehicles. After crawling out from underneath the truck or van, he would tell us to fetch our bikes. He flipped the bikes over and we would work the pedals as he poured the gritty black oil over the moving chain. You could feel the whole drive train working more smoothly as the lubrication was applied. This usually made a glorious oily mess as much of the oil splattered all over the rest of the bike. We didn’t mind though.

I had a bicycle with cement tires. It was already old when I got it as it refused to be worn out. Not many people I’ve talked to have heard of cement tires. There is a reason cement tires never caught on. Imagine riding on a pothole riddled road in a car without shocks at full speed. That almost gives you the same feeling as riding that bike.

Not content with standard issue, every boy in our neighborhood felt the need to modify his bicycle. The junkyard of worn out bikes at each house usually supplied us with adequate parts. Sometimes, probably most times, the modification did not make the bike any easier to ride or better. It was the feeling of seeing an idea come to life that gave us satisfaction. Adam Bryant put a go cart steering wheel on his BMX style bike. It was the hardest thing in the world to steer. Zach and I put bicycle tires on a scooter. It went a lot faster, but the bigger tires raised the platform to an uncomfortable height for anyone who actually wanted to reach down with a foot to scoot. Jared and Creed put roller blade wheels on a pair of two-by-four studs and pulled them behind their bikes. I’m not sure why, and when I talked to Creed the other day, he still wasn’t sure why. But they did it, and when they rolled up into our yard each with a makeshift trailer rattling behind them, their face shown with pride because of their ingenuity, and they wanted to share their success with us.

I will say that I do not recommend taking a bicycle on the railroad tracks.

We rode bikes everyday until one of us got a car, and our bikes sat out in the rain and rusted until one day a man that Dad knew came and picked them up for scrap metal. We didn’t realize it at the time but as I watched him drive away a chapter closed in my life.

To combat the sedentary nature of my desk job, I recently purchased a proper adult bicycle. I’ve ridden 225 miles since I started three months ago. The changing temperatures that you feel as you ride through the shade and the hollows of Alabama takes me back to being a child on a bicycle. Having a wreck on a bike as an adult however, is a completely different experience.

I’ve tried sporadically over the last year to teach Wesley how to ride his bicycle without training wheels. At times I’ve felt like a failure as a Dad because I haven’t had as much time as I’d like to devote to this task. Other times I felt like he almost had it, but he stopped short. A few days ago while I was at work, he got on his old smaller bike, and told his mom, “I’m going to practice riding my bike without training wheels.” Without any help on that particular day, he figured out how to ride his bicycle.

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