Summer, 1984: The blazing Amarillo sun beats down upon four weary travelers as they pile out of their car, and head into the Big Texan restaurant. Yes, it’s a tourist trap, but they don’t care–they’ve never been there. To any observers, appeared to be a normal, nuclear family: man, wife, and two boys. Of course you wouldn’t know from looking, but the man wasn’t the woman’s husband, nor the boys’ father. He, after her divorce, was the live-in boyfriend.
And now they were traveling together, these four, on a meandering path across America, from Arizona to Pennsylvania. Two middle aged adults, an angry teen, and an eleven year old boy. Like the ill-fated journey of the Griswald family (as chronicled in National Lampoon’s Vacation), it was certainly a recipe for something.
Like the day mentioned above, they’ve burned a lot of daylight rolling through the vast, dry barrenness of the New Mexico desert to reach the steak Mecca that is the Big Texan. Lunch there will be a welcome respite before the second leg of that day’s journey–another four-and-half hours on the road, and rest in Oklahoma City. The man that is not the dad has family there.
Our intrepid band waits, is seated, and a waitress asks about drinks.
“What do you have on tap?” asks the man.
“Well, we got three kinds: Mickuhllohbe, Milluh’s, and Kerr’s” she says.
“You know–C o o r s. Kerr’s.”
The man smiles. Says he’ll have a “Kerr’s.” The mom has a “Milluh’s” (with ice). The boys have soda. The waitress takes their orders.
Twenty minutes pass…
The food arrives. The man gets a “Southwest Sampler,” replete with rattlesnake, armadillo, and rocky mountain oysters. The mom gets some kind of steak; the fifteen year-old gets a buffalo steak, and the young boy a cheeseburger (do eleven year-olds eat anything else?).
None of this would have been a problem, but… There was field across the street–one where the buffalo roamed, one which the young boy had seen.
“A you eating buffalo?” he asked his brother.
“That’s right–I’m eating one of your friends from the field. He’s tasty, too.”
“Mom!” he said, lip quivering.
Tears starting to pool, trickling down his chubby cheeks.
“That’s enough! Why do you always have to start in on him?”
“Aw, come on, mom. I didn’t mean nothin’.”
“Just stop it, ok?”
“Say–why don’t you try this? These are rocky mountain oysters. Farm-raised. Just
Ike when I was a girl.”
“Farm-raised oysters? Never heard of ’em. Guess I’ll try ’em. How do they raise ’em on the farm? Those have gotta be some big water tanks.”
“Something like that, son.” She has the man pass her son an “oyster.”
He eats it. “Not bad. Wasn’t fishy at all. Can I have anutha?”
“Sure,” she replies, pressing a napkin to her mouth, suppressing a smile.
The man takes a sip of his “Kerr’s,” puts the glass down.
“Do you know what you just ate?” he asks. “Those aren’t “oysters,” kid–they’re balls. Bull’s balls.”
“What? I just ate #%%€#£+¥? Mom, how could you? Bet you’re more used to the taste, aren’t you?”
“Hey, now! Don’t talk to your mother that way!”
And so it went the rest of the across the country….