Lying with legends
March 18, 2014
By David Hayes
Local barbecuer is immortalized on quilt
Throughout the ages, tribute to the greats have been immortalized in art of all genres — Abraham Lincoln has his 98-foot sculpture at the center of the Washington, D.C., memorial; Gilbert Stuart’s unfinished painting, the portrait “Athenaeum” of George Washington in the National Gallery of Art; and the godfathers of competition barbecue in a quilt.
The original of the latter was bought at auction for $800 at the 2013 National Barbecue Association trade show. But a copy of the quilt, featuring digitized images of 16 of the earliest and most honored barons of barbecue, can be found atop Bob Lyon’s bed.
“It’s the only place big enough in our apartment to display it,” Lyon said.
Lyon’s own smile is featured in the quilt’s biggest image, a photo his wife Sandra snapped in 2009 at a Hooters restaurant in Independence, Mo., an informal get-together of some of the biggest names in barbecue.
“There is over 250 years of experience in that photo,” Lyon said.
In the ’80s and ’90s, Lyon was the leader of the competition barbecuing team the Beaver Casters. The team was voted the road team of the ’90s by National Barbecue News for all the titles it won.
Pictured with Lyon are renowned pit masters Gary Wells, founder of the Kansas City Barbecue Society, and his wife Carolyn; Paul Kirk, the baron of barbecue himself with more than 475 cooking and barbecuing awards, including seven world barbecue championships, and his wife Jessica; Steve Holbrook, whose recipes regularly turn up in the pages of barbecuing cookbooks, and his wife Cheryl; and competition barbecue circuit veteran Ardie Davis.
Lyon said the irony of the photo is the group of master barbecuers was in a joint not renowned for barbecue, and they were talking about everything but barbecuing. The quilt also depicts images of fellow grilling legends Mike Mills (with his daughter Amy), Jim Tabb, Billy Bones and Joe and Carlene Phelps.
The 7 ½-by-6-foot quilt was a gift from Linda Orrison, NBBQA Trade Show chairwoman, whose family runs the Shed Barbecue near Ocean Springs, Miss. The family’s antics have been chronicled in the Food Network reality show, “The Shed.”
In the tight-knit community of competition barbecuing, Lyon knows the Orrisons well.
“Their son Brad was a ne’er-do-well in his youth,” Lyon recalled. “He went off to college, got a degree in business.”
Brad and his sister Brooke wanted to continue in their family’s barbecue tradition and open a joint of their own, Lyon said, hoping they’d get to open it on a piece of the family land.
“Their parents warned them, ‘And don’t you dare ask your grandparents for a cent,’” he said, adding that the two opened The Shed by maxing out their grandmother’s credit card.
“Today, the whole family works for them at the restaurant,” Lyon concluded.
The quilt from Linda Orrison came as a surprise on his doorstep. Lyon said he had to call her to make sure she wasn’t the one who spent $800 on the original and sent it to him, thinking he wasn’t worthy of such extravagance.
“Heck, one of my old hats with a lot of pins from various competitions went for $175 at that auction,” he added.
Now 88, Lyon is no longer a regular on the competition circuit, although he has been known to fire up the community grill for residents at the Timber Ridge at Talus retirement community, where he and Sandra live. After back surgery sidelined him for a couple of years, Lyon has returned, however, to conventions, staying atop the latest trends in barbecuing, including the latest in San Marcos, Texas, earlier this month.
The quilt proved too big to hang on any wall in their small apartment, so the Lyons proudly display it on their bed. Sandra said she was amazed its creators were able to take her photo and others’ and enlarge them to such a size and keep everyone identifiable. But that’s not the thing she likes most about it.
“The most fun I have,” she said, “is when I put my shoes on, I get to sit on Bob’s face.”