Short Story Of the Day (flash fiction) – Like Regular Chickens by Bill Chance

Mr. X: Mary usually does the carving but tonight since you are our guest, you could do it, Henry. All right with you?

Henry Spencer: Of course. I’d be happy to. So I just, uh… I just cut them up like regular chickens?

Mr. X: Sure, just cut them up like regular chickens.

—-David Lynch, Eraserhead

Commemorative Air Force, Wings Over Dallas, Dallas, Texas

I have been feeling in a deep hopeless rut lately, and I’m sure a lot of you have too. After writing another Sunday Snippet I decided to set an ambitious goal for myself. I’ll write a short piece of fiction every day and put it up here. Obviously, quality will vary – you get what you get. Length too – I’ll have to write something short on busy days. They will be raw first drafts and full of errors.

I’m not sure how long I can keep it up… I do write quickly, but coming up with an idea every day will be a difficult challenge. So far so good. Maybe a hundred in a row might be a good, achievable, and tough goal.

Here’s another one for today (#85) Getting closer! What do you think? Any comments, criticism, insults, ideas, prompts, abuse … anything is welcome. Feel free to comment or contact me.

Thanks for reading.


Like Regular Chickens

I raised another basket of legs and thighs out of the fryer and hooked the wire to let them drain back into the sizzling oil. When the buzzer went off I dumped both baskets out onto the steel tray, shuffled everything around and slid them under the banks of heat lamps.

“Dark meat up,” I shouted.

Chuck had set this job up for me after they fired me down at the country club. It wasn’t as bad as it looked, though I hated the smell of greasy chicken, the uniform and especially the hat. The days went by fast and after my dad had cut off my allowance I needed the cash for walking around money. Actually, my father had offered me my allowance back. I don’t think he liked telling his friends that his son worked down at Chick’n Lick’n. I told him to go to hell.

With my paycheck the week before I had even been able to make the last payment on my car. It was a rolling piece of crap, the air conditioner had never worked, it make a strange growling noise whenever I made a left turn, and I had to put in two quarts of oil a week, but it was mine.

“Hey Sam, get over here, there’s something I want to tell you.”

“Elena, what is it?”

“Sam, what was your mother’s maiden name?”

“Decker. She was Brenda Decker. Why are you asking?”

“That’s what I thought. My dad has known her family for ages. Sam, there’s some guy out front. He’s been in for a couple days now. Says he’s from out of town. Says he’s looking for Brenda Decker.”

“That’s pretty weird… But maybe not. Brenda Decker, that’s a pretty common name.”

“Not that common, not around here.”

Elena and I walked out to the front. She pointed out an old, fat man, his head shaved. He was wearing overalls and sweating something awful, sitting in a booth off to the side, shoving fried chicken into his face.

“Elena, I’m taking my break, I’m going to go talk to him.”

I walked out around and up to the guy’s booth.

“Mister, I hear you’re lookin’ for Brenda Decker.”

“That’s right kid, ya know ‘er.”

“An old friend of the family.”

I’m not sure why, but I didn’t want this guy to know that Brenda Decker was my mother.

“I’m Sam,” I said.

“Brush, Brush Holland.”

He stuck out his hand. I gave a quick shake and sat down across from the guy. He still had bits of chicken in his mouth.

“I’m on break, I don’t have much time.”

“Well, where is she?”

“I’m not sure right now, but I can find out, maybe. First, how do I know that this is the right Brenda Decker. There’s a lot of ’em out there.”

“Sure, son. That’s her maiden name, her married name is Holland.”

“Well, then that can’t be her. The name is wrong.”

The Brush guy then described her. It was my mother, exactly. He had her age right, her height, weight, even the way she talked and walked. He said he hadn’t seen her in a long, long, time, that she’d be older, a lot older now. But he knew her, I was sure of that. It was my mother he was looking for.

“Well, I don’t think I know the Brenda you are looking for,” I said.

“Are you sure of that, boy.”

He stared close and hard. I don’t think he believed me.

“You hear anything, you give me a call, now, you hear. I know where you work.”

He handed me a slip of paper with a cell phone number and I told him I had to get back to work. It was hard to concentrate and I burned myself on a fry load of gizzards. The day went slow, I kept sneaking a look out front to make sure Brush Holland wasn’t back. He didn’t show.

—————

“Mom, I met someone down at work. He said he was looking for you. He called you ‘Brenda Holland.’”

My mother looked like someone had hit her in the back of the head with a baseball bat. Her mouth opened and her tongue came out a little, her eyes grew wide.

“I need to sit down,” she said. “Sammy, can you bring me a glass of water, some ice. Maybe put some vodka in it.”

I went to the kitchen and when I came back she was sitting on the couch, her shoes off, her face ashen. She took the drink wordlessly, raised it and drank the whole glass down.

“Do you need some more?” I asked.

“No, I’m fine,” she said, pulling a cube out of the glass and rubbing it across her forehead. She did not look “fine.” She did not open her eyes or raise her head but asked me in a strange, calm voice, “Was it Brush?”

“Yes, Brush Holland. Mom, why did he use his last name for you?”

She was silent for a long time, but began to shake, slightly at first, but her hands began to tremble more and more until she couldn’t even hold the sliver of ice that remained in her fingers, with a tinkle it fell and shattered on the hardwood floor. Then she said is a low voice, so quiet I could barely hear.

“Because he is my husband.”

When she said that she let out a long low moan. I had never heard a human being make a sound like that before, it was like something an animal makes, maybe a farm animal, maybe when it realizes what is in store, mabye when the slaughterhouse is in sight. She moaned and trembled and then wept.

I didn’t know what to do. I sat there, across from her and couldn’t stop staring at her there. She didn’t look like my mother any more. She looked so sad, but so beautiful, like she had been dropped there, crying, on that couch from some spaceship, dumped on this planet with her sadness and grief as her only baggage.

Slowly, the weeping slowed, then stopped. My mother sat motionless for a while, then she seemed to relax. Her head raised and her shoulders unhunched. The color returned to her face. Finally she opened her eyes and looked straight at me. He eyes grew wide and she looked surprised, like she was seeing me for the first time, like I was a strange boy that had showed up in her living room. Finally, her face relaxed and I even saw a little flash of a smile for a second. Then she sighed a little exhalation and began to talk.

“Oh, Sammy, I never thought this was going to happen. Or, actually, I knew it was going to happen. It’s just that, I guess I hoped it wouldn’t, though, deep down, really deep, I knew it would.

You see, Sammy it was so long ago, so long ago. I was only sixteen. Things at home were, oh, Sammy, you can’t imagine. I was so miserable; I was scared all the time. I had a boyfriend, it’s been so long, even his memory, Sammy, I can’t even remember exactly what he looked like.”

“Brush?”

“No, no, he was later. This was Dwayne, a boy from school, we ran away. He had a car, we barely had enough money for gas. We were going to Las Vegas, we were going to get married, he was going to work in construction and I was going to dance. We made it to Arkansas, and the car broke down. And then… Dwayne was drinking, he was being stupid, it was dark, the fog… the train, it was so fast. Well, see, he died. I had nowhere to go, I was alone, I could not go home.

So I did the best I could. I got a job in a chicken plant. It was awful. The chickens would come down and a machine would cut their heads off. I had to take the bodies and plop them down on a cone, so the rest of the machines could cut them up. Thousands of chickens, tens of thousands. The smell. It was cold, too, my hands would ache. At night, I couldn’t wash the chicken smell off.

And then. And then there was Brush.”

“What kind of a name is Brush?”

“It’s an Arkansas kind of name. He was the supervisor, the manager. He noticed me right off. You’ve met him?”

“Yes, mother.”

“Well, then you know. I guess he’s old now, he wasn’t all that young then. But I was. I was young, I was pretty. He had his eye on me. I was trapped. I had to get… had to get out of there. He had his eyes on me. I had no choice.”

“You married him, didn’t you.”

“Of course I did. I had no choice. No choice. You can’t imagine.”

“How long were you married?”

“Oh, almost two years. I thought the chicken factory was bad. It came to a point I couldn’t stand it, could take it no more. All I thought about was killing myself. Finally, again, I ran. I paid cash for a ticket and when Brush was out cold drunk I hitched a ride to the bus station and was gone. I switched buses at the next town, and switched again at the one after that. I knew he’d try to find me, but I figured if I ran far enough…. So I came here, started some junior college. Then I met your father.”

“When was that?” She saw me starting to count on my fingertips and actually let out a clear chuckle. I realized it was the first time I had heard her laugh in years.

“Sammy, don’t worry, Brush isn’t your father.”

“So you left and you divorced him. That’s not so….”

“Well you see, that’s the problem.”

“What?”

“I never divorced him. I just ran. I just ran.”

And then she looked sad again. She looked so so tired.

“Mom, you look awful. You need to get some sleep.”

“Sleep? How can I?”

“Go upstairs and forget about it. Forget for now. I have an idea. Let me try something.”

My mother looked hollow. I took her by the hand and led her up the stairs to her room. She drifted through the door and I pulled it shut. She looked so worn out, I knew she’d be able to get some sleep. I didn’t want to think about what dreams she would conjure up.

I didn’t have time to think, I had things to do.

Short Story Of the Day (flash fiction), Plastics by Bill Chance

Mr. Maguire: I want to say one word to you, Benjamin. Just one word.

Benjamin Braddock: Yes, sir.

Mr. Maguire: Are you listening?

Benjamin Braddock: Yes, I am.

Mr. Maguire: Plastics.

—-The Graduate

Grapevine, Texas

 

 

I have been feeling in a deep hopeless rut lately, and I’m sure a lot of you have too. After writing another Sunday Snippet I decided to set an ambitious goal for myself. I’ll write a short piece of fiction every day and put it up here. Obviously, quality will vary – you get what you get. Length too – I’ll have to write something short on busy days. They will be raw first drafts and full of errors.

I’m not sure how long I can keep it up… I do write quickly, but coming up with an idea every day will be a difficult challenge. So far so good. Maybe a hundred in a row might be a good, achievable, and tough goal.

Here’s another one for today (#29). What do you think? Any comments, criticism, insults, ideas, prompts, abuse … anything is welcome. Feel free to comment or contact me.

Thanks for reading.

 


Plastics

 

Baker worked for Yoyodyne Injection Moulding (marketing insisted they always use the British spelling). One thing he had to do was to walk out every morning to the tank farm where the monomers were stored and inspect the containment around the tanks to make sure there were no leaks or spills – no foreign material inside the dikes.

It rained all the time, especially at night. There was usually water in the containment and the maintenance crew would come out  most afternoons to drain the accumulation. They were the only ones with keys to the valves.

He had a form on a clipboard that he had to fill out. Date the top, make checkmarks by each line that corresponded to a tank. At the bottom was a space for corrective actions in case of a leak. He had never written in that spot.

It was very tempting to pencil-whip the inspections – not do the walking around and looking – simply check the forms and file them away. He knew that’s what Duane did, the guy that used to do the job. He would sneak out for a smoke when he was said he was going for the inspections. But Duane was caught with a joint in his mouth while he was operating the big press and they fired him. The union was going to get him reinstated but the inspections looked like they were Baker’s for good.

The factory was located in a swamp in the south and it was always incredibly hot. Humid too. And giant mosquitoes. Baker would try and get out to do his inspection right as the sun came up but it was still so soggy and sweltering he felt he couldn’t even breathe properly – the air so full of hot water that it displaced the oxygen. The very air of the place could not support life.

At dawn, the sun would be peeking orange over the swampy jungle that surrounded the factory, the tanks looming huge – white cylinders shrouded in mist burning away by the growing daylight. All sorts of birds would be chattering, chirping, or singing – their sound competing with more guttural cries from swamp critters – Baker had no idea what was making those noises and didn’t want to learn. The smell of decomposing miasma wafted across the property and competed with whiffs of acrid stench of volatile monomers coming from the vents as the tanks were heated by the sunrise.

That day, however, it was not like that. It was February and a historic cold front had blown through the night before. These blue northers were not common, but they happened. There had been a good bit of cold rain and he knew there would be water in the containment. Baker dug an old musty coat out from his locker and had brought from home a knit cap and gloves that he had kept from when he had moved from that more northern, civilized place.

“Cold one out there today,” said Dale, the shift boss.

“Yup,” was all that Baker could think to reply as he pulled on his gloves.

“Better you than me,” said Dale.

Bundled up, he trudged out to do his inspections.

Right at the first containment he saw there was something wrong. The water that stood inside the dike was almost covered with solid plastic. Baker’s heart jumped as he looked at the contaminated containment. The material looked to be about at least a quarter inch thick on the side nearest him… maybe more in places. It tapered off across the water until it disappeared on the other side – he could see ripples there where there was still open water. The solid material was smooth and clear.

The material must have leaked out of the tank – bad valve, overfill, broken connection – floated on the water and then polymerized. He wasn’t sure what was in that tank – maybe styrene, maybe vinyl chloride. Any of them could do what he was looking at. He was surprised that it didn’t smell worse than it did, but the polymerization must have been complete and the cold would keep the vapors down.

He wasn’t sure what to do. There was a little guard shack and he grabbed an empty metal paint can and a pair of tongs. The technician that unloaded the tank cars used these to take samples. Carefully leaning over the concrete dike he grabbed the edge of the solid polymer with the tongs. A chunk broke off easily and he transferred it to the can.

Leaving his clipboard behind he hurried back into the factory. Nothing about this was his fault and it was a good thing that he had done his inspection and found the leak – but he was afraid he would be blamed anyway. He was always the fall guy – the outsider – who could be blamed for anything. That wasn’t altogether bad – Baker had learned in his short career that if you could take unlimited blame and abuse – well, there was surprisingly good money in that.

Inside the warm factory he found the nearest phone and spent a minute getting his gloves off so he could dial. He called the emergency number. A tired and bored voice answered.

“Hello,” the voice said.

“We have a spill,” Baker said.

“Where is it? What material?” the voice said. It still sounded bored and bothered, like this happened every day.

“The containment farm.”

Baker looked down at the paint can he was holding and was shocked to see it contained a clear liquid instead of the chunk of plastic he had put it in there. It was weird – he didn’t smell anything.

At that moment there was a click inside Baker’s head, a shift in understanding so sudden he almost could hear it.

The stuff in the can was water. The spill in the containment was ice.

It was usually so hot and tropical he never imagined that the water could freeze. It never entered his mind. The blue norther had dropped the temperature to freezing. Ice. Ice.

“Umm, never mind,” he said into the phone.

“What do you mean? Where is the spill?”

Baker hung up.

Later that day, he wrote a letter to his Uncle in Chicago. He never really liked that branch of the family tree, but he asked if knew of any job openings in the city. Baker was thinking he wanted to return to civilization. Even some place that had ice half of the year.

Atlas Metal Works

West Dallas, Dallas, Texas

“All our lives are symbols. Everything we do is part of a pattern we have at least some say in. The strong make their own patterns and influence other people’s, the weak have their courses mapped out for them. The weak and the unlucky, and the stupid.”
― Iain Banks, The Wasp Factory

(Click to Enlarge)

(Click to Enlarge)

Dallas Blonde

As I work on what my future is going to be like, I had, for all practical purposes, quit drinking. I simply don’t have the time or the calories to spare. The one exception is that if there is an interesting something… I’d give it a go.

Lately, around town, I had been stumbling into events that served beer from the Deep Ellum Brewing Company. If you live in Dallas, you know what Deep Ellum is. If you don’t – it’s a historic district, just east of downtown, that has seen a roller coaster of ups and downs over the last hundred years or so and is, arguably, the heart of the city – from the days of Leadbelly and Blind Lemon Jefferson, to the heyday of the 80’s, and beyond.

Deep Ellum has been struggling for a few years now, but it still has industrial space and is a magnet for the young, hip… and the notso young and hip – anyone looking for something different.

So it is where you would expect a quality craft brewery to sprout up.

Their manifesto:

Beerfesto

  • To you, the beer drinker, Deep Ellum Brewing Company pleges:
  • To never waste your time with gimmicks
  • To let our beer do the talking
  • To never live or work in a dry county
  • To remember our roots
  • To never serve a single glass of bad beer

And, from their website – more of their philosophy:

  • The Founders of Deep Ellum Brewing Company Have Had Enough
  • Enough of watching beer’s good name being tarnished.
  • Enough of watching big, corporate breweries pumping out the same old dull, watered-down stuff, Slapping a different label on it and telling you that you have choices.
  • ENOUGH OF BAD BEER
  • To show their dissatisfaction with the status quo, the four founders of Deep Ellum Brewing Company have set up shop in Dallas’ most nefarious neighborhood, and between their big personalities and bigger beers, they plan to show Big D what it’s been missing.

I had some of their Farmhouse Wit at The Foundry and some Stout at the Cedars Food Truck Park (served up by the folks from Lee Harvey’s). It was very, very good. I’m not an expert on the brewing world or a properly educated beer snob, but I know good things when I swallow them… and this was good.

Trying to find something to do on the weekend, and looking at the Brewery’s Web Site, I found that they offered tours. At noon Saturday (and Thursday’s at six) you can pay ten dollars, get a glass, samples, and a tour. That sounded like a plan.

I had to go to work really early on Saturday, but that meant I finished early and had time to get in a bike ride (and a flat tire) and still make it down to Deep Ellum by noon. I changed clothes in my car and was hot, hungry, and thirsty – but hot and thirsty is the best and only way to tour a brewery.

It was a blast. They have a little beer garden down there with live music (the guy was good and I have no idea who he was) [PS – I think the guy was Jes Spires) and a great crowd. A food truck showed up (I needed to get some food in me) and the taps were going strong. I am definitely planning on going back. Thursday evening sounds like a plan.

And the beer was so, so good. I tried their newest brew – Dallas Blonde, then moved on to the Deep Ellum IPA and finished with the Double Brown Stout. I can honestly say every Deep Ellum Brewery beer I’ve tried I’ve liked better than the one before. For example, I’m not that big of an IPA fan – but that stuff blew me away. It’s pretty rare that I think “Wow” to myself when I first sip a new brew – but I did with each of those.

So now I have to modify what I say. Instead of “I don’t drink anymore” I have to say, “I don’t always drink beer – but when I do, it has to be from the Deep Ellum Brewing Company.”

Music in the Deep Ellum Brewing Company Beer Garden

There was a big crowd for the brewery tour.

Zach talks about hops.

A hearty cheer – for good beer.

The taps were going.

Where the magic happens.

Some of the limited production beer is aged in wine casks.

Finished Product

Sunday Snippet – Forklift Rodeo

Randall Zaphtig took his daughter Penelope by the hand and led her from the car. They were on a long roadtrip from his ex-wife’s (Penelope’s mother) funeral back to his home in Oklahoma. He had decided not to fly, thinking that the drive would give him time to get reacquainted with his daughter before introducing her to his new wife – her new mother – for the first time. The trip was turning out to be quiet and even more awkward than he had been afraid it would be. He was prepared for tears, but not for the withdrawn, silent, robot-like waif that his daughter had become.

On a whim, Randall left the Interstate at the New Calebtown exit. He turned off almost by habit – he had lived in New Calebtown for his first three years out of school and had worked in the Caleb Brother’s hat factory there as a production engineer.

For some reason, unknown even to him, he had a strong desire to show her the factory he had once worked in. He drove to the plant parking lot by reflex memory but when they both climbed out of the car he saw that the building was no more. All that was left was the cracked parking lot, with mean looking weeds starting to poke up through the fault lines in the asphalt.

Still he took Penelope’s hand and together they walked across to the broken lines of concrete footings that outlined where the factory used to be. Looking down at the parking lot next to that he saw peeling, faded, yet still visible orange lines stenciled in and over the almost invisible now yellow parking demarcations and a strong, long forgotten memory came flooding back, causing him to stumble a little.

The orange lines were from the forklift rodeo. The men in the shipping department took great pride in their ability to move undamaged product out of the door quickly and a great part of that was their ability to drive their forklifts. These were country boys and men, farmers, that had grown up driving trucks and farm equipment not long after they had shed their diapers. Industrial and agricultural machines were in their blood – hydraulic fluid, lubricating grease, and diesel fuel moved under their skin. Driving a forklift at the plant was nothing more than a further fulfilling of their destiny.

The highpoint of their year was the forklift rodeo. There were local, county, and finally State competitions and it was a sad year when somebody from Caleb Brother’s did not place high in the State Finals. A handful had won the competition over the decades and their trophies were displayed proudly in a glass case at the entrance to the office row.

A young hotshot out of college – Randall was expected to referee the factory rodeo. The orange lines were painted on the lot to the exact specifications of the annual contest. They were supplemented by piles of wooden pallets in strategically placed locations to form an obstacle course the contestants were expected to navigate with the heavy trucks, moving forward and backward, fast and slow, picking up, moving and dropping loads according to strict rules and regulations.

Randall had to stand on the dock over the aisle where a contestant would enter with a pallet on his forks, drop the pallet, back out, then turn around, re-inter and retrieve the pallet. He had a checksheet where he would note the proper use of the horn, back-up signal, and whether the driver would turn his head and look for oncoming traffic. He would note the angle of the forks when picking up or lowering, and the height of the forks when moving naked.

There were dozens of details that had to be adhered to and Randall used his checklist to grade the contestants. They would argue later over over whether their heads had turned or if they had looked closely enough or moved too fast backing out. In order to be victorious in the contests, there had to be practice and Randall was assigned to help out with this an hour a day for the month leading up to the Rodeo.

He hated standing out there for hours in the heat watching those men riding the smoke-belching machines, making little tick marks on his forms, and having to argue over every little detail. The men would rib him, especially teasing him endlessly over the fact that he couldn’t do what they did every day. It was humiliating.

Now, decades later, he wondered what happened to those men when the plant closed down. They all had families – sometimes three generations had worked there. Men like that had few options. There wasn’t anything else in New Calebtown for them. Randall had no idea how their families could survive.

He was pulled out of his sad reverie by his daughter. She had been walking along the cracks in the pavement and looking at the harsh spiny nettles that were fighting their way up. A few of them were blooming and she had carefully pulled the flowers off of the sharp stems.

“Here, Daddy, for you,” Penelope said, handing him the bunch of surprisingly colorful blossoms. He held them to his face and was surprised at how sweet they smelled.

“Come on, let’s go,” he said to his little girl, “We’ve still got a ways to go.”

Le Petit Baton Rouge

Somewhere miles deep underground the dried salt remnant of an ancient sea is being squeezed by the unimaginable weight of the Mississippi delta building up above. All the loose mud from Ohio and Minnesota ends up washed downstream, piles up, and presses down. The salt becomes a sort of geological fluid and globs rise like pale columns in a crystalline subterranean lava lamp – reaching miles up until they almost burst forth under the starry sky.

One of these salt domes sits under Avery Island – pushing the land upwards above the surrounding sea-level flatness. It is truly an island – a disk-shaped protuberance rising above… not the trackless sea but the feckless swamp – a bit of dry, elevated land looking down on the miasma and the bog.

The salt dome rises and bears a number of gifts. There is the salt itself – mined or boiled from springs for centuries with only a short break when the saltwork was captured by Union troops during the Great War Between the States (as it is known in these here parts). There is the gift of petroleum – oil is dragged along and concentrated by the rising column until, like Spindletop to the west, a forest of derricks sprout up sucking at the black gold.

And finally, there is the gift of high, dry farmland – rich and fertile. The Avery Island Plantation could grow pretty much any crop and – luckily for us – they chose a unique crop, grown from seed brought back from Central and South America… Hot Peppers.

For Pepperheads and fans of spicy food Avery Island is capsaicin ground zero and a visit there, at least once during a lifetime, is a necessary pilgrimage – a hot sauce Hajj.

Avery Island is the home and only manufacturing facility of the McIlhenny Company – the maker of Tabasco Pepper Sauce. Every little red bottle – somewhere around 750,000 bottles a day – are made on Avery Island.

We were going to drive back to Dallas from Lafayette, about a seven hour drive, but I wanted to go see the McIlhenny Tabasco factory on Avery Island first so we drove south instead and, after a couple of wrong turns, crossed the little wooden toll bridge (one dollar per car) onto the complex of green hills atop the salt dome.

The first thing you notice when driving up to the factory is the smell. It is wonderful. It’s not a hot, painful tear-gas like capsaicin reaction like you might expect, but a mellow, complex warm feeling that envelops the whole complex. First, we took a tour of the factory. You get a lecture; watch a film, then walk past the filling lines behind a glass wall. It was a Sunday, so the filling lines weren’t running, which was fine with me – I’ve seen plenty of food filling equipment filling food in my day. It was good enough to be standing behind the glass looking at the place where all the goodness happens.

At the end of the tour was a little museum with facts about Tabasco Pepper Sauce. I already knew most of it, having seen it on the How It’s Made television show. The most amazing thing about Tabasco is that the ground up peppers are aged in second-hand whisky barrels and allowed to ferment for three years before being mixed with vinegar, blended, and bottled. The barrels are covered with a layer of Avery Island salt while they age. Ground peppers (the seeds are developed on Avery Island, though the peppers are grown in Latin America), water, salt, and vinegar… that’s it.

To help the pepper pickers pick the perfect peppers they are given le petit baton rouge – a little red stick. This is painted the color of a perfectly ripe Tabasco pepper.

Then we walked across to the Tabasco Country store and bought our share of touristy knick-knacks and hot sauce products. I looked long and hard at the gallon jugs of hot sauce with the plastic pumps – and was able to resist the siren song. They had a sampling table with all the different flavors, including one I have never seen before – a chipotle raspberry sauce (I bought a bottle). There is no reference to this chipotle raspberry Tabasco anywhere – it’s a bit gimmicky, but it tastes good.

They also had spicy cola, two flavors of ice cream, and anything else you can imagine – plus a few you can’t. Candy bought some stuff for Nick (he loves Tabasco) and a bag of cooking wood made from their broken fermenting barrels.

One odd thing I did buy was a big ziplock plastic bag of pure pepper mash. I’m not sure what I’m going to do with it, but it makes every room smell wonderful.

I took a walk around and snapped a few pictures, like a good tourist. Down at the end of the factory were some long brick buildings – these must be some of the fermenting warehouses where the sauce ages for three years in those oak barrels because the odor wafting out of the vents was unbelievably wonderful. One must have been the Chipotle warehouse because I could detect a smoky note in the air.

We had planned on stopping by a tony Cajun restaurant north of Lafayette on the way home, but there was a little trailer set up next to the country store selling red beans, rice, and sausage from crock pots. Of course, there was a large selection of spicy condiments available for testing.

I doubt the expensive restaurant had anything on the five dollar foam cup of red beans that I gobbled down with dabs of at least seven different Tabasco sauces on different nibbles.

There is a lot more to Avery Island – the Jungle Gardens and the Bird City went unvisited by us. We had a long drive ahead and couldn’t tarry. I’ll be back though, to smell that smell and explore some more. Once is not enough.

The factory has this crazy bayou gothic look to it.

The recycled whisky barrels with salt on top. The mash ages in these for three years.

Walking around, I found this pallet of old barrel lids after the peppers have been aged.

A box of labels from the filling line.

The food stand - great beans, rice, and sausage.

I haven't seen or read about this anywhere else.

Avery Island, Louisiana

Taking on Big Tabasco – Or, a little undercover research into le petit baton rouge

Tabasco’s Red-Hot Beginnings in Louisiana

The Fascination of Tabasco Sauce

Cajun Country’s Saucy and Spicy Tour

That’s a spicy ice cream

January, 2012. On the Geaux – Again – in Louisiana

McIlhenny Tabasco – Avery Island, Louisiana

Avery Island and Tabasco Sauce

Yes! My Camera Loves New Iberia Louisiana

5 Healthy Reasons to Love Tabasco Sauce

Avery Island – Tabasco, Alligators and Egrets

Touring the Tabasco Hot Sauce Factory and Scenic Avery Island, Louisiana

RV Trip Favorite Photos #51-55

Roadtrip: South Louisiana, Part 1

653: St. Martinville_Avery Island

Prejean’s Famous Gumbo