This past Saturday I witnessed something that was I was starting to think might never happen. (When I could stand to watch the drama, that is. There were a few moments that I thought Glen would wind up as a grease spot on the driveway.) This was a milestone in our relocation to the country 3 years and 5 months ago. Yes, yes, we moved into the “forever home” in that time, and that was huge, of course. But this event marked the culmination of everything Glen has been working toward thus far in making us comfortable here.
Okay, in making me comfortable. He still has to finish relocating his welding shop and all of his equipment out here. But as far as I’m concerned, the pinnacle of his many achievements has reached its own forever home. “Forever” because he swears he’s never moving it again.
That’s right. Glen brought the smoker home.
And the day after that, he fired it up.
Here’s what I wrote about it in last year’s Thanksgiving post, “A List of Small Gratitudes, 2017”:
• That, on the smoker he designed and built, Glen makes the best Texas-style brisket and pork ribs I’ve tasted. EVER.
• For the day when Glen will finally move said smoker from his warehouse to our forever home so that we can enjoy his best-ever brisket and spare ribs at least one more time before the zombie apocalypse
He’d aimed to have it here by this Thanksgiving, but due to a driver who didn’t show up to transport it, he missed that goal by about 10 days. But that’s okay. It was worth waiting a little longer for.
It’s hard to get an idea of the scale of this thing in photographs. It’s 8’ tall from the base to the top of the smokestack and about 4’ wide. It weighs 3800 lbs., as much as my mid-size SUV. Every hinge and every handle is custom, fabricated by Glen and his friend Gene, also a welder.
The grilling side is on the left. This is the counterweight at the rear of the grill lid:
It weighs 300 lbs. It’s filled with lead. Without the counterweight, you wouldn’t be able to lift the heavy grill lid to check on your ribeyes or your swordfish. In the smoker, there are four racks that spin, making it easy to load and retrieve your sixteen sides of ribs or twelve briskets or twenty turkey breasts. There’s a thermometer built into the exterior smoker wall to keep track of the interior temperature.
As you might imagine, this thing took a long time to build. Glen (and usually Gene, too) worked late most nights every week for four or five months. Before he could even begin the cutting and welding, there had to be a thorough cleaning, because the smoker side is made of leftover drill casing pipe. There were practical design issues to figure out, like how to make the curved smoker door fit snugly to the curve of the smoker walls. Drill casing pipe is seamed like a toilet paper roll, and that caused a conundrum with the door which took days to solve. (Glen tried to explain it to me at the time, but I just nodded and smiled.) Sometimes, when he came dragging in exhausted on yet another late night, I thought he’d never spend his evenings at home again. More than once he wondered why he’d thought such an ambitious project was a great idea. But when it was finished, it added so much pleasure to our lives and opened up delicious new ways to entertain. And after doing without it for the last three-and-a-half years, I missed it terribly.
Finally Glen was ready to have it hauled out here to its new home, but with something this massive, the feat requires planning. He first hired a flatbed tow truck to bring the smoker out, and a few days later the tow truck returned with a SkyTrak, a type of small crane, which is needed to correctly lift and position the smoker on the ground. Here’s a screenshot of a SkyTrak from the Briggs Equipment website.
It’s a serious undertaking and tricky to do. Including Glen and the SkyTrak driver, there were four men outside the day it was moved into place. I didn’t take pictures because I was inside by the windows, peeking between my fingers. I was afraid I’d see someone smashed flat when the smoker tipped too far to one side. And when it finally touched down, exactly level on the concrete tiles where it will probably stay for the rest of our lives, I thought I was going to cry.
The next evening we enjoyed the result of Glen’s labors.
Please forgive the lack of artistry evident in the plating. It was all I could do to restrain myself long enough to take the picture, and you can tell I’m hovering too close to the food. Those ribs are bare not for their photo op, but because I’m a purist: no barbecue sauce. And no fancy rubs applied before they’re smoked. Just salt and lots of finely ground black pepper.
One bite told me: Glen still makes the best ribs I’ve ever tasted. And this home of ours? Now it’s forever.