Little Pigs BBQ and the VA Hospital
Little Pigs BBQ
My last year in high school my brother and I had a little band. Our friends Ralph Morgan from Saluda played bass and Bill Gray from Hendersonville, NC played guitar and sang vocals.We played gospel music and a little bit of country. We were only amateurs (lots of folks made fun of us ) but we never had any expectations of going further with our music than playing and singing in area churches. It was the height of the Viet Nam War and my draft classification was 1A. I knew from talking to my friends who weren't in college it would only be a matter of time and there would be a letter from my Uncle Sam in my Tuxedo Post Office box. I had already talked to the Air Force recruiter and was waiting until I "got hot" for the draft to be inducted.
During that long year from 1967 until July 1968, our little band played lots of music and one of our favorite places to play was the VA Hospital in Black Mountain, NC. We would load my old 1956 Chevy Bel Air with all our instruments and make the drive from Tuxedo about 40 miles away. Along the way we would pass the outskirts of Asheville, NC and run the river road passing Dick's Pass Time Club and the old tobacco auction house where tobacco grown in WNC was sold each year. It is no longer used for auctions and the last time I was in the area it housed a huge antique shop. The smell of tobacco was still strong inside the building and a not so subtle reminder of the glory days when tobacco was king here in the Blue Ridge Mountains, especially Madison County. I think Dick's Pass Time Club was a bar but we never stopped to check out the inside of that business.
The drive took about an hour and when we arrived we unloaded and would go directly to the recreation hall to play for the veterans who were able to come and enjoy our music. We met a lot of WWII vets and even on one occasion we were able to visit the 3rd floor. The 3rd floor was where those vets who had lost limbs, in most cases both legs, or both arms and some even had lost both legs and both arms. For a boy about to become a man and a member of our national military, it sure made me think and my heart broke for these men who had given so much.
Towards the end of that year closed circuit radio was added to the hospital recreation program and our music went out live over the hospital station for any who wanted to turn their radio on and listen. I will always remember David and Steve Harris coming down to the recreation hall one evening when we were there. They had heard us in their dad's room while visiting.(Boyd Harris). We had gone to Tuxedo Elementary school with David, Steve, and Deborah and they lived in Frog Level.
We finished playing that night and on the way back home we stopped in Asheville to eat at Three Little Pigs Barbecue. I had seen this small sandwich shop many times but had never stopped to eat. During those years barbecue was something of a novelty for me. I had eaten barbecue cooked by our local volunteer fire department when they were raising money for our first trucks and had really liked the taste. Three Little Pigs is well known even today for the fine barbecue they serve.
As a bluegrass musician we often play in venues where barbecue is served. I like mine chopped and tend to favor the eastern NC style which has a vinegar base. That night at Three Little Pigs we ate like kings and would be the last time our little band would play for the veterans. I suppose it was a celebration because my next trip to Asheville was to catch bus to the induction center in Charlotte where for the next 4 years I would be an airmen in the USAF.