Author: Rhynes, J.D.

Grass Valley, 1985, with the Country Gentlemen

Today's column from J.D. Rhynes
Thursday, July 24, 2008

Here awhile back, I had my cowboy pard, Pat Russell come down one early morning to share a good 'ol country breakfast with me. We like to get together at least two or three times a month for breakfast and swap stories, and jes enjoy each others company. As always, I cook up a large breakfast that will keep your motor runnin' fer most of the day, without havin' to stop and "refuel" until supper time. This particular day I cooked up a big breakfast of ham steaks, the kind with the circle of bone in the middle, and about 1/2 inch thick, scrambled eggs, hash browned 'taters, along with a big pan of biscuits, and a big, black cast iron skillet of good 'ol cracked pepper gravy gravy! Wow! You talk about a feast! Well, Pat made the remark that , "this is enough food fer a whole band of Cowboys"! That remark jogged my memory of the year 1985, the year that the Country Gentlemen first played our Father's Day Festival, at Grass Valley. So, dear readers, here's the story of the time I fixed breakfast fer the Country Gentlemen, during their stay at our festival.

The "Gent's", as they were called, by those of us that knew them, arrived at the Festival grounds on a late Friday afternoon. Along with Charlie Waller, was Bill Yates, Norman Wright, and Dick Smith, three of the finest Bluegrass musicians alive. Also, three of the "eatinest" musicians I ever saw! We all had a good visit and got acquainted with each other, well into the evening, and I thought that it would be a good thing to feed the boys a good substantial breakfast the next morning,[or when they woke up] so's they would feel like playing their best for their fans. Well, I asked Bill and Charlie if'n they'd like to have a good 'ol country breakfast the next mornin' ? Without hesitation Bill Yates said , me and Charlie will be there, and if we can roust the other two out, they'll be there too! So, to make sure they knew where I was camped, I took the boys over to my camp site, where we shared a nice "cool one", and sat around a shared a few good stories until well into the night. I made sure that they knew breakfast was gonna hit the table at 9:00 AM the next morning, and they took off into the night to enjoy some Jammin'.

Come daylite the next day, I was up at the crack of dawn gettin' my fire it in my BBQ, and making sure that everything was ready fer the boys first breakfast in California, and I wanted it to be a good one. The menu that morning was Thick Ham steaks, with a ring of bone in the middle. Not the kind that you can read a newspaper through, but real Ham steaks! Along with those, I fixed scrambled eggs, fried 'taters, Buttermilk Biscuits, and a big ol skillet of Cream Gravy! To baake the biscuits, I had one of my cast iron Camp Dutch ovens settin' in my BBQ with coals under it, and piled on top of it too. I also brewed up a big ol speckled coffee pot full of real Cowboy Coffee, the kind that you can run yer 'ol truck on! Sure as daylite, about ten minutes to nine, here came the whole bunch of "Gents", lookin' as hungry as a spring starved Grizzly, fresh out of hibernation! I poured 'em all a big cup of Cowboy Coffee, so's they'd get woke up real proper, and proceeded to make the gravy whilst' the biscuits were baking in the Dutch oven. I'd already cooked up the eggs, Ham, and 'taters and they were piled on big platters, and covered with foil to keep warm. As soon as the gravy was done, I poured it into a big bowl and set it on the table, lifted the lid on that Dutch oven and lo and behold, there before me was a beautiful sight that would make any country boy's heart start to race! One of the most perfect batches of biscuits that I've ever made in my whole life! I got 'em into a big bowl, set 'em on the table, and Charlie Waller grabbed that bowl of biscuits and in a flash he had about 6 of 'em piled on his plate. Not to be out done, Bill Yates grabbed the skillet of gravy, and was waitin' fer charlie to relinquish that bowl of biscuits. Charlie sez to Bill: Bill, how's about you lettin' me have some of that gravy? To which Bill replied: You set the biscuits on the table, and THEN I'll trade you some of MY gravy fer some of YER biscuits! All the time, Norman and Dick were settin' there grinning, and jes waiting fer this, almost daily ritual, I found out later, to end so's they could dig into their own breakfast. They were amazed that I could bake up such good buiscuits over an open fire like that. Norman Wright told me that his grandmother back in Virginta had a cast iron Dutch oven like mine,and she used to bake biscuits on the hearth of her fireplace in it. Needless to say, the "Gents" were a well fed band when they left my camp that morning, and Bill told me years later, that was the best meal they had on that whole trip to California and back. I was glad to fix it for 'em, and boy did they play some good music for us that week end! Charlie Waller probably had the greatest natural voice to sing bluegrass of any one I'll ever hear.

Every time I fix a mess of biscuits and gravy, I'm reminded of the time that Bill Yates held that big cast iron skillet of gravy fer ransom of some of Charlie's biscuits. Great memories of a time long ago, that can only be relived in the memory of those of us that were priveleged to witness such fun times. I guess that I'm gettin' old, because I sure wish that we could all live those times over again, but alas, it's not to be, at least not here on this Earth, and at this time. I'm sure that on the other side of "Jordan", we'll get to relive a lot of our good times, with family and friends that are a'waiting on us! I'd be willing to bet that the "Manna" that is talked about in the Bible, is good 'ol Biscuits and Gravy! If it is, I know that Charlie Waller is right at home!
Posted:  7/24/2008

Copyright © 2002 California Bluegrass Association. All rights reserved.
Comments? Questions? Please email