BUYING THE COW AND THE FOURTH OF JULY
Sheryl J. Bize-Boutte
It is the 1950’s and the Friday before the Fourth of
July. At our house, this holiday
was almost a big as Christmas. And
since it was also the first of the month and payday, the men of the neighborhood
would stop off after work to fill their gas tanks, buy their spirits and beers
of choice, a carton of cigarettes, and plenty of charcoal for the coming
celebrations. At the same time,
the women would get off work and head to the meat market to buy pork ribs and
chicken, and then to the supermarket to buy the ingredients for the macaroni
and cheese, potato salad and deviled eggs that would be the main side dishes
for the big day. The beef that
would be laid on the freshly cleaned grills was not included in this last
minute buying frenzy because everyone had already bought the cow.
The annual buying of the cow was a tradition in many
neighborhoods and ours during those days.
Usually it was limited to 2 or 3 participants per cow to assure the maximum
amount of good cuts for the money.
The orders were usually placed in early spring with the proceeds from
the tax return, and if one had a small family, beef would be a featured dinner
menu item at least once a week for an entire year. Everyone had an upright freezer in the garage to hold the
bounty of steaks, roasts, ribs and what always seemed to be an overabundance of
Back then, I knew times were good when I had new skates, the
end of June was upon us, and I heard Mommy say to Daddy, “ Mr. Crenshaw is
going to deliver the cow on Tuesday.” Then Tuesday would arrive and Mr. Crenshaw would pull
up to the front of the house in his white paneled van filled with his cow
deliveries for the day. We would
all run out to the curb, and Daddy would roll out the wheelbarrow, check his
neatly stacked order, and along with Mr. Crenshaw, begin to unload. We helped by carrying whatever did not
fit into the wheelbarrow into the garage.
Mommy would instruct us on how to load the packages into the freezer;
roasts on one side, ribs in the middle and hamburger in one of the separate
bins. When the last blast of cold
air escaped as we closed the lid on that full freezer, we felt prosperous and
Soon the preparations for the big day would begin. Although
we were in an urban setting, it was not unusual to see a fire pit being dug in
someone’s backyard and spits being erected by the resident bbq engineer. If the party was at our house, as it
often was, Daddy and his friends would begin cooking the night before. The
night air would be filled with their laughter punctuating the stories they
would tell, along with the sweet smells of mesquite and Daddy’s secret
sauce. We would be “on call” to
bring Daddy the forks, spoons, pans, and seasonings he always forgot and would
request one by one.
On the holiday, our backyard would be filled with people
coming and going from the early morning to the dawning of the next day. We ate, laughed and danced to the music
of the times and tunes from back in the day. The aura coming from those parties
would sometimes draw strangers who were just passing by or neighbors we had not
yet met. It seemed everyone wanted
to be a part of the magic.
We moved twice after the first party I remember in the
1950’s and in different backyards, Fourth of July bbq’s continued at my
parent’s house for more than 25 years.
During that time, sons-in-law, grandchildren, disc jockeys and live
bands would be added the mix.
Somewhere along the way, the tradition of getting together to buy the cow
would disappear. But as long as
they were able, many of the same people who joined in that purchase in the
1950’s joined with us in the backyards of the 1960’s and 1970’s.
And each year,
with the stars and stripes waving in the gentle summer breeze and the fireworks
exploding in the night sky, we were happy to be together, once again.
"A Dollar Five-Stories From A Baby Boomer's Ongoing Journey"
copyright©2014 by Sheryl J. Bize-Boutte
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