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23 Jul

Life’s Best Times Happen on a Truck Tailgate With Friends……”Maters and Yardbird”

Anglers have a unique way of entertaining themselves when they’re not fishing. It could be smoking some meat on the smoker on the back porch, or it might be getting the gas cooker out and frying some fresh fish they just caught that day. One thing for sure is the menu can widely vary, but a couple of things for sure is that the beer will be ice cold, the food great and the fishing lies will be big. It’s a way of life my fishing husband introduced me to years ago. It was a lifestyle a world away from my growing up as a Marine Corps brat. Marrying a guy that lives eats and sleeps fishing as well as outdoor cooking meant that I had to adapt and comprise from my upbringing to his foothills of North Carolina raising. It wasn’t easy at first learning about the sauces, plastic forks, and cups as well the challenge of watching something cook for sometimes 12 hours.  

Learning of Southern outdoor living was not hard, but it was somewhat hard to understand at first. For years he had insisted it was all about the fun. Fun cooking and preparing the food, spending time with friends and of course telling the “falsehoods” I mentioned earlier. Not even close to the glass plates, cocktails and 3 courses. It was only when that sweet husband took me on a few business trips (if that’s what you want to call it.) He works in the fishing and boating business and calls it a job! But I digress. He had a client who lived in Savannah, GA and worked from home, so we stopped by the house to meet with him. We pulled into the driveway and Keith (the client) came strolling out to meet us. After going through the hugs, handshakes, and slaps on the back, Keith insisted we stay for dinner, and we certainly agreed.  

After a few minutes of chatting about business, Keith said, “Come on!” I was sure that we were heading out to dinner to a swanky restaurant with dim lighting and exquisite food. I asked Keith where we were heading. His reply was, “We’re going to get some “maters” and beer.” I wasn’t really sure what “maters” were, but knew what beer was. However, I did pick up that we were not going to that swanky joint for dinner.  

Just down the road we pulled into a roadside produce stand named “Killer Tomatoes.”  We got out of his truck, walked over to the produce, and I then learned what “maters” are. They’re giant Georgia red tomatoes. Hence the name of the produce stand. Now while I love a fancy restaurant, it takes the back seat to some good tomatoes (maters)! This left me wondering what the rest of the night’s menu held in store for us. On the way back, I asked what else we were having, and Keith’s reply was, “Yard bird.” That’s when I started to get dizzy at the thought of what I would be eating in a matter of minutes. Asking myself, “do they catch birds in the yard and cook them for dinner?”  

“Maters and Yardbird”


Once back at Keith’s, he rolled out a well-used charcoal grill and fired up the coals. Next came out the beach chairs and the cooler filled with cold beer. Before I knew it, there was chicken cooking on the dilapidated grill, wings and breasts. Next, I saw big slices of “maters” or tomatoes if you will, on a paper plate sitting on the tail gate of the pickup truck with a roll of paper towels and salt and pepper shakers alongside of plastic forks. Welcome to a dinner of “maters and yard bird.” The cold beer topped it off and it was all enjoyed from the tailgate of a truck or lawn chairs in the driveway at sunset. It was a place where the food was delicious and the conversation even better. A dining experience I’ll never forget.  

As the evening was ending, the guys smoked cigars while I ran to the nearby convenience store and picked up some ice cream sandwiches for dessert. We sat by the glowing charcoal laughing at their fishing stories that were “slightly” bent in truism.  

That night I learned something that my husband, Tim, had told me many times. Your best and most memorable times are the simplest. For years he had traveled across the country attending large corporate meetings and events. They are always great, but it was those times when he was talking to his clients while eating “yard bird and maters” that were by far the most enjoyable. It’s about the people you’re with and how you spend your time together.  

So, with warmer weather here now, about once a week Tim will ask me what I want for dinner. I always tell him yard bird and maters with a big grin on my face. An hour later the grill is hot, the neighbors are bringing over their yard bird in one hand and some sort of side dish or pie in the other. Our driveway becomes the place where the beer is cold, the food is hot off the grill, but most of all it’s a place where good times and memories come to land. The best times are the ones that aren’t complicated. All you need is friends, an old charcoal grill with come chicken (optional), sliced tomatoes (optional) and a bunch of fishermen sharing stories. 

I haven’t been back to a fancy restaurant since that night in Savannah nearly 30 years ago and don’t plan to go back. Tim taught me the art of enjoying life and it’s not about five star eating establishments. It’s about the laughter and being with friends.   It’s when he’s his happiest and now when I’m the happiest. If there’s a pickup with a tailgate and my fun-loving husband to light the old grill it’s gonna be a great time, I don’t care who you are!

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