With a little help from his friends

by david on August 31, 2017

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Victory in Victoria, Texas

Chef James T. Canter and the San Antonio Chef’s Cooperative were working hard for the people of Victoria.  Ramona saw his Facebook posts.  It was on her mind…..

The news reports coming out of Southeast Texas and the coastal areas are as endless as the rain which keeps on falling.  And falling.  And falling. With no relief.  Many thanks to the news folks for being there, telling the stories of heroism and tragedy,  and advocating on behalf of everyone affected.  We all have many friends who either are first responders, parents of first responders and military, or some who are in harm’s way.  The amounts of water and the incidents of people helping people are truly amazing.

What can we do to help the poor souls affected by the storm?  It’s a question many of us ask, then go mow the yard and think about something else…..


I had received an email from a friend who pointed out a headline and story in a newspaper in Fort Davis.  She was commenting on a blog post of mine about rain in West Texas and successful prayers for rain by some preachers I know.  She said that the Baptists were meeting again for their annual event at Paisano encampment up in the higher country in Texas.  We know from experience that West Texas Baptists often pray for rain and she commented that now it might  “REALLY” start raining.  I replied and told her if they did pray for rain, we were all probably doomed.

Little did we know.

We didn’t get much rain here in San Antonio.  It was gonna be an outside workday Tuesday here at the little rancho out in the country.  Some mowing and chores that had gone too long neglected were on my plate.  For me it was to be a very typical, mundane day with some outside work and some inside work.

But it was not to be.  I was outside mowing and the morning had dragged on too long.  I kept wondering why Ramona had not called me in for breakfast.  You ladies know that we men are simple-minded that way.  We only have a few things on our mind and one of them is food.  I got off the tractor and went in the house.  Ramona was very excited and told me:

“We’re going to Victoria!”

She didn’t seem concerned about my breakfast at all, but she was clearly excited about going to Victoria where the hurricane had knocked out all power to the city.  I had seen this behavior before.  there was probably no talking her out of it.

There was little else to do about this revelation of  ‘going to Victoria‘ other than to listen and see what her plan might be..

She had been busy…..”I’ve been watching the news and just had to do something.  I have some donations lined up and we’re gonna deliver some food to the chefs who have set up an emergency kitchen in Victoria.

All of this story I am telling you today is because of the wheels that started turning in one little head.  Ramona knows what she is doing when it comes to helping others.  She has done it before on a very large scale.  Her health (and her husband) have limited her activities somewhat in the last few years, but as the song goes, she is still as good once as she ever was…..

That was kind of an understatement.  She really knows how to organize and has organized events for Jerry and his kids, Frank and his rat pack, and Chad Everett and other celebrities.  She was the driving force behind many events in Nashville headlined by country stars you have actually heard of and love.

Like others who are successful at this sort of thing she has no fear of asking.  “Ask and you shall receive” is a lesson she knows well.  Or, there is another parable of Alladin rubbing the lamp.  All he had to do was ask the Genie what his wish was, and it would be granted.  Some folks are so concerned by the fear of possible rejection that they do not ask.  Ramona is not one of those people.  She is service-oriented and when a task presents  itself, she will find a way to accomplish the task.  She will keep on asking until she gets the a positive response.  There are many others like her….thank goodness.

For people like her and all those Texas and Cajun Navy guys and gals with their boats, all the first responders, all the kitchen volunteers we met in Victoria and all the volunteers to come, they have a service oriented mindset.  “How can I help?” is what they ask.  Then they do it!

Do or do not.  There is no try!” – – Said The Master Yoda

Helping the Chefs to help the people

Some of you know Ramona is writing a cookbook and has become friends with a good many chefs in San Antonio.  One of the organizations the chefs are involved in is called the Chef’s Cooperative.  It’s a group of chefs who assist each other and other foodie related businesses in times of need.  They often raise money for worthy causes.  One of their members, Chef James T. Canter, lives in Victoria.  Chef Canter had been feeding the people of Victoria for two days and was running out of steam.  Chef Cooperative members from San Antonio came to his assistance and pitched in with supplies, time, and considerable effort.

Chef Canter has a restaurant and food truck, Guerrilla Gourmet,  in Victoria and the town has been without power for several days since Harvey hit the area hard.  No power, no lights, no refrigerators, no water pumps.  But there were hungry people. James T. Canter was helping them in the best possible way.  He was feeding them.  The Chef’s Cooperative members stepped in to help one of their own….and to help Victoria.

Ramona had been on the phone earlier that Tuesday morning while I was out mowing.  She had secured a cash donation from a very generous couple and then parlayed that into well over a thousand pounds of shrimp, meat, spices, water, and supplies for the chefs to use to feed the people.

We gathered up some of our own supplies and headed out.  Our first stop was just down the road at Schott’s Meat Market.  Mike Schott is famous in Helotes and San Antonio for his sausage and custom meat market.  We can personally attest to the meat there.  Ramona buys Christmas prime rib, tenderloin, and steaks from Schott’s.  He was also looking for a way to help.  His generosity was prodigious. A good many, very large, tightly packed, cases of his delicious sausage and meat was loaded by him personally into our truck.  He wanted to help.

From there, we headed to Groomer’s Seafood.  Ramona shops there quite often.  Rick Groomer, family and employees supply most of the major restaurants in San Antonio and south Texas.  They have locations here and Corpus Christi.  His location in Corpus Christi is without power and his customer base is gone, washed away by Hurricane Harvey.  He wanted to help also.

He and his crew loaded a very tall, full and heavy pallet of shrimp and fish onto my truck as well as cases of shrimp boil and spices for the chef’s.  He knows James T. Canter and the other chefs, and wanted to help.

Have you priced gourmet meat and sausage and over a thousand pounds of shrimp  and six cases of spices lately?   It was a generous act and we appreciated the help loading from this crew.  Both these business owners have very successful businesses, but they are not sit-in-the-office executive types.  They got in there with their men and women employees and helped with the loading, strapping the boxes down, and securing the load.

The truck was so overweight, my tires were almost flat.  I had to stop at a gas station and curse the damn $1.50 pay-for-your-air beat up machines that never work.  Back in the day, Warner Lear would never have had any such piss-ant machines at his gas station.  Warner exploded my bicycle tire one day with a loud bang.  His air compressor was a dandy.  We finally got air and headed out. The truck didn’t wobble on the road quite so much.

As we were leaving, Ramona  said a prayer  for protection on our trip and protection for the truck to not tip over and spill our load.  She’s a Baptist too.  Have to watch out for them and their prayers.  They are kinda powerful.

It was a 360 mile round trip and we called our close neighbors to come let the dogs out a couple of times during the day…..they were happy to do it, and the dogs appreciated it, mucho.  She takes them baked goods and treats several times a week as they are testers for her recipes for her cookbook.  They have a place in Flour Bluff right next to Corpus Christi that was probably torn up some.  That has been on their minds.

Our route took us through Goliad,  Karnes county and the Eagle Ford oilfield, and on down to Victoria.  I gave her a few Texas history lessons on La Bahia and ‘Remember Goliad‘.  We went over a very swollen Coleto Creek and I had another story about that battle back in the Texas Revolution days.  She acted interested.

We started seeing major damage some 30 miles out of Victoria.  Very large trees uprooted.  Metal buildings twisted up and scattered.  Standing water in huge pools stretching back in the distance.  Houses stripped of their roofing shingles.  Downed trees and brush choking culverts.

On closer to Victoria there were line crews trying to re-string electric lines.  When I see those guys working I always think of  West Texas Utilities employees Jack and Ray and Clarence.  They worked for WTU back in my hometown.  I even had a memory of an outage one time when Ray was gone out of town and it was Jack and his son Larry working at the substation over on South Depot replacing a big transformer.  WTU would have probably had a cow, but Larry and Jack got the town back up and running again.

There was no power past Goliad.  Convenience stores were somewhat open, but had no lights.  We pulled into Victoria and had to dodge downed trees in the city streets and then on to Constitution Street where James T. Canter’s place was.  No traffic lights were working.  He had been sent home exhausted by his Chef buddies and they looked at my loaded pickup with amazement.  James Foote, Executive Chef/Owner/Operator at Cicada Catering Company, Grill Cook at Greek’s 205 Bar and Cooking Chef at Guerrilla Gourmet, told me to back up to this big door and volunteers started to help me unload…..very appreciative for the re-supply.  They had been feeding folks in Victoria free of charge for several days.  They had generators running for the cold storage unit and a bigger commissary room in which dry supplies were clearly dwindling. I also had as much water as I could stack in and around all the other stuff on my truck.

We visited with the guys there and some of the locals.  Slipped a few large bills into the tip jar in the serving line inside the restaurant.  The serving line was growing longer and included white, black, kids, hispanic, older ladies and a few old men. These folks had been without power since the start of weather hostilities and they were all friendly and cooperative.  As we were leaving, I went to take a few photos of some of what we had unloaded and was amazed all that stuff had fit on and in my truck.  A young black woman came up and hugged me and said, “Thank y’all for all this, we were running low.”  I talked to her some, figuring she was a local.  But nope, she was from Austin, down to just help out where she could.

Ramona visited with Chef Stephen Paprocki, founder of Texas Black Gold Garlic, and one of the founders of the Chef’s Cooperative.  She is writing a cookbook using Texas Black Gold Garlic.  Today Chef Paprocki’s duties were on the grill station.  He was grilling chicken, rack of lamb, hot dogs and tonight he would cook the Tur Duc Ken’s.

Chef Toby Soto, of Humo of San Antonio, a caterer, says “There’s nothing like two good friends to help elevate the experience in great cuisine.”

Chef Soto was working inside, preparing the cooked food getting it ready for all the hungry folks.

Chef Tatu Herrera, chef and co-owner of Tatu’s Food Debauchery in San Antonio, was cooking away in the Guerrilla Gourmet food truck, using every space available to cook.

You’ll see these hard working chef’s all over Texas and at some Nationwide contests, but mostly helping people.  That’s what its all about.  Lending a helping hand where they can.

I was itching to get back over Coleto Creek, hoping it would not rise and block the roadway out.  We had heard reports of another creek on the route out over in Cuero where the creek had crested/was cresting, and there was uncertainty if it would go over the road and be impassible.  Obviously we made it out….but the chefs are still there.  Cooking their butts off and the people are being fed.  They had several big ole’ west Texas style barbecue pits, the kind mounted on trailers that they were cooking on.

But Victoria is still a ways from Houston where it is really bad. And then there is Rockport and Port Arthur that we just heard is under water.  And Beaumont.  And all the other little towns in harms way that were torn apart.

We made it home about 11:30 after a side trip to the Buc-ees in New Braunfels to get two packages of Berdoll pecans. Ramona said the holidays are coming and she needs to get to shelling pecans. I have been having her buy the pre-cracked pecans Berdoll’s sells online.  We saved the shipping costs.  Save money here and there and spend the savings on gas to go to Victoria.  smh.

But.  As an old relative often said….”it was a glorious adventure.”  And, as a newspaper man, I just had to see it for myself.  Texas’ biggest disaster……

The people in Victoria will have a shrimp boil and sausage links fixed by some very competent chefs.  The chefs are doing their part. The generous individuals and major suppliers did their part.  We contributed in a meaningful way, and this sort of thing is happening all over the state.

People helping people without regard to Any. Other.  Considerations.

I really admire all the good ole boys and their boats.  They are out rescuing people from flooded neighborhoods in the cities without any thought of compensation other than helping their fellow man.

I’m still concerned about people I know in Houston.   Still wonder how Kim Page is holding out.  Bum and I flew my plane down and got her late one night when her mother died.  She is dry, so far, and still has power.  My cousins Rick Noble in Katy and Jim Noble in Pearland are among the lucky few to be dry and have power, but they can’t go anywhere. There are others.  People you know and love.

The entire Texas National Guard has been called out.  Around 15,000 troops.  Just watched a family and their dog rescued by helicopter in Beaumont.  I also am concerned about a classmate of son Joe David.  Matt Gully is a chopper pilot for the U.S. Coast Guard.   Bet he is flying non-stop missions of rescue just like I saw on TV.  That’s what he does.  His daddy was a Game Warden and his momma worked for the Post Office.

If Victoria suffered that much damage….Houston, Port Aransas, and Rockport, Beaumont, and Port Arthur’s damage must be epic. Biblical.  It’s still raining there.

I know it’s almost sacriligious for the Baptists in Piasano to pray for the rain to stop.   Maybe a re-direction?   Just so you know…Tropical Storm Irma is lurking out there.  You Baptists need to be aware of that…..

Thanks mucho to a lot of people.  They are helping others.  I’ve seen many instances of Texans helping Texans in smaller towns. Barbecue plate sales, auctions, bringing in a stricken farmer’s crops. The huge scale of these efforts after all this water is just hard to imagine.

It means a lot to those who have lost literally everything….

I’m David out in Real Texas

….here with nothing but admiration for all the volunteers,
first responders, and those who have been able to help others.



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