Bobby Horton 1962 - 2006
Last night, we were heading into downtown to grab dinner and a check out some music by Gillian Welch, Dave Rawlings and Bright Eyes at the historic Ryman Auditorium. Dinner, of course, was going to be at Jack's Bar-B-Que because the super secret back door at Jack's leads right to the Ryman's side door where all the stars walk in and out. Jack's for dinner and then a show at the Ryman is a classic pairing in my mind, for many reasons. We have not been to Jack's for dinner since the fall for many reasons. I have been there for lunch a few times since the Fall of 2006, but something has been missing.
Jack's Bar-B-Que was one of my favorite downtown Nashville, TN chowdown eateries. Jack's was my favorite bar-b-que, barbeque, bbq, smoky goodness joints, smoked brisket, smoked ribs place in Nashville. I don't care what other people had to say, Jack's was my place for some smoked brisket love. The reasons for loving this food wasn't necessarily the food, the atmosphere, or Bud in a bottle, it was one man Bobby Horton. Bobby Horton, the Pitmaster of all Nashville BBQ pitmasters. When Bobby made the brisket, it was going to be great!
Here is how it would go down... I would walk into Jack's, see Bobby standing on the back corner of the room ready to give me the best cut of brisket, and he would say with a big smile, "Hey babydoll how is my girl today? The usual right? I know exactly how to serve it up the way you like it." Then he would proceed to pull out a new brisket from the smoker chamber, trim off all the fat, reserve some of the top black and charry goodness just for me, slice up some of the lean and moist brisket, and then put the black and charry goodness on top. That was the way I like it with that charry goodness, and I am the only customer he did that for. Bobby was the best Bar-B-Que Pitmaster that Jack's has had. He would stay up all night checking the temperatures, making sure the meat did not get too hot because the meat would dry out. He had the gift of knowing the right amount of wood coals, and when to add another hickory log on. He was proud of his work, I was pleased to eat it as often as I could.
I liked walking in and seeing Bobby working the "front" because for that moment, no matter what kind of day I was having, all the negatives would melt away, and I knew I would be embrassed by a wonderful, kind, giving and talented spirit in the form of Bobby Horton. The guys at work, when heading down the street to Jack's for lunch, would always want me to go too, and I would be happy to go. They finally told me why they liked me to go to Jack's. They knew that Bobby treated me with extra special goodness, and when I brought people with me, they all got the same treatment, with a little extra brisket or tasty bit on the plate. That was one way Bobby showed me that he recognized me as a loyal customer who appreciated him and the excellence he put forth in his work.
One of the last times I saw Bobby was September 2006. Matt and I went in for dinner, and Bobby was working the front of house. He got us the best cuts of brisket and ribs for us to dine on. When he got time to take a break from work, he sat with us, visibly tired from working all day, but with a twinkle in his eye. His daughter had an adobable baby. Bobby pulled out the photo of his new grandbaby, the love of his life, his apple cheeked cutiepie. I may have been the "babydoll" customer, but I know Bobby's grandbaby is the real babydoll of his life. Bobby was so happy to be a grandfather spending his free time babysitting for the baby, and cooing at the baby. Truly, that baby had the best grandfather Nashville could have.
That has all slipped away now. Bobby Horton was a strong, fit and hardworking man, but he had diabetes and did not know it. Not too long after the last time I saw him sharing his love over his grandbaby, he slipped into a diabetic coma, and then passed on October 28, 2006. I will miss Bobby Horton, not because of the best bar-b-que he made, but because he was a kind man, and for any given moment when he spoke to me, he could make it seem like any ills in the world were suspended. I want to remember Bobby in that magical moment when he was expressing pure joy while talking about his grandbaby and his growing family while we feasted on his excellent brisket. Bobby, it is not the same without you, and I will miss you.
Bobby Horton 1962 - 2006
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