Sometimes you stroke one out of the park.
After a long meander out through the East Travis County countryside, I find myself in Bastrop County, and faced with the choice of rolling through downtown Bastrop or hitting Hwy 21 and god knows what.
I take the latter option, and head west towards San Marcos. A few miles later I spot smoke rolling over the highway and decide to investigate; “could it be a pit fire?”
I see a small shack off the side of the road with some chickens scratching around and what appears to be a small business tucked away.
It’s barbecue; Alexander’s Barbecue to be precise.I approach the humble structure and peer inside through a screen window. A pot belly stove sits within, a cutting board is off to one side, and some ancient photographs are tacked on the walls.
I start getting excited. A gentleman approaches and asks if I’m hungry. In spite of the fact I have a belly stuffed full of Willies Smoked Chicken, I answer yes and begin looking at the menu.
It’s the classic Texas Barbecue Menu with brisket, ribs, mutton etc. I ask for a pound of fatty, charred brisket and a link of hot guts. The pit boss fills the order and we adjourn to the patio, a couple picnic tables off to the side within spitting distance of the pit which is rolling blue smoke and good smells all over the place.
I begin my feed as Tom Alexander elucidates on what brought him to Bastrop county. His Great Great Grandfather was a slave in Tennessee, and got sold to some Christian folks who’d started a church down the road and needed a cook. He rode in a horse drawn wagon to Bastrop County to begin his new life in this strange land. A hundred plus years later, Tom fills me in on the history of the ancient stove in the cook shack (his Grandmother bought it on a payment plan of a dollar a month…some months she could only pay 50 cents but the company was kind enough to not repossess this treasure). The road near where we sat was where Tom and his brothers used to race each other as young boys….laying on it in the dead of night and feeling the heat of the day in their bones as they stared at the stars.
We talk about Austin and how when he was a young man he’d come into town to buy some new threads and compete in “Biggest Afro” contests. We talk about Catfish Station and how 6th Street used to be strictly for the rough and tumble set before the frat boys took it over.
I’ll treasure his words for many a moon.
The brisket is delicious. Not fork tender but filled with smoke and this man’s good soul. The sausage is nice and fatty with the skin popping rightly before the juice flows. This is fine,fine Texas barbecue in a picture perfect setting.
At the end of my meal we shake hands and Tom explains to me a good shortcut back to Austin. The late afternoon sun is all manners of purple and orange as I follow his directions, his tales echoing in my skull as I motor back up North to the big city.
106 FM 535