A showdown cometh in the RoadKill Cook-off arena

Suzanne Stewart
Staff Writer

With the loss of his rival, Ed Blackford’s Coal Hollow Brothers, PCB [Pendleton Community Bank] Buckbusters leader Kendall Beverage was on the hunt for a new sparring partner to heat up things next Saturday at the West Virginia RoadKill Cook-off.

Beverage didn’t have to look far. He’s been trying to get Hillsboro resident Joe Walker in the ring for several years, even offering to let him join the Buckbusters. Walker is finally ready to take the challenge and formed his own team – “Who Dat New Gang?”

While Beverage has the experience – this is his third year leading the Buckbusters – Walker said he’s ready for anything.
“He’s never won, so we’re still even,” Walker said.

Sitting in the same room with the team captains as they talk trash the week before the event, it’s easy to see the respect both men have for each other. The words are all flash, and the rivalry is all for fun.

As a seasoned participant and winner, Beverage said his team has perfected its recipe, which was agreed upon after a taste testing.

“We’ve done a couple of test runs,” Beverage said. “We did ten different kinds of meat and marinades, and we had a big tasting with everybody at the bank. We narrowed it down to one recipe, and now we’re just trying to get a list and get our food order put in for next week.

“We got with one of the local farmers here, and we have some permits; we will be doing venison,” Beverage continued.

The newbie – who is usually seen making pork tenderloin sandwiches for the football team during the Autumn Harvest Featival/RoadKill Cook-off – has planned something a little more wild.

“The biggest thing is – it’s wildlife – to come up with enough true wildlife to do it was always the biggest challenge,” Walker said. “Bear meat’s easy to get. Deer meat is easy to get. But we wanted to do something a little bit different, so this is when the opportunity came to do something different.

“We’ve got wild hog from Louisiana,” he continued. “Spencer McCoy and I went down and we went hog hunting with some friends of mine. We came back with about four coolers full of wild hog, and we got it ready then, and it’s ready now.”

Both teams are promoting the sportsmanship involved with cooking wild game – hunting it themselves while helping with over- population issues at the same time.

They also pride themselves on having nearly 100 percent wild game in their dishes. The rules only require that 25 percent of the meat used be wild game, but Beverage and Walker both said they are focused on having a higher percentage of venison and hog, respectively.

“One of the things I’ve said over the years is what we’re going to do and what we’re going to stick by – we are always going to do one hundred percent wild game,” Beverage said. “I think that sets us apart from some of the other teams that cut it down – whether it’s ground beef or yard bird or whatever.”

“Ours isn’t one hundred percent because the wild hog is entirely too lean,” Walker admitted. “So, it’s probably going to be ten percent of domestic hog, but otherwise, the base will be wild hog.”

Beverage said he made sure Walker understood the rules, and he’s trying to lead him on the right path.

“He’s not quite as avid a hunter as I am,” Beverage said. “I can be sitting here throwing jabs at him, but I’ve tried to guide him. I’ll be his mentor in this. So, anything he does good, I can take a little credit for.”

“That’s one way of winning,” Walker said, laughing.

Walker added that you can’t forget the sides.

“Of course, there’s other parts to it, too, you know,” he said. “It’s not just a matter of throwing out a piece of deer meat or throwing out a hunk of sausage. It’s a matter of everything else that goes with it. You’re putting out a whole deal and without the sides, it’s kind of irrelevant.”

“We’re doing a Side Ditch Doe with a Puss Scab Fritter, that’s the recipe name we’re doing this year,” Beverage said. “We’re going to make 2,500 puss scab fritters on site.

“Ours is going to be a little bit different,” Walker said. “We’ll have the andouille sausage, and we’ll probably fry it. Then we’ll roll that up with spiced fried cabbage and onions and we’ll make a stuffing. For the judges – you can’t do this for 2,000, – but…

“We are,” Beverage interjected.

“We can’t cut that many peppers, but we’ll have stuffed poblano peppers,” Walker continued. “As long as they last, we’ll be grilling some peppers, too, to go with the sausage and cabbage. We’ll have some form of a sauce to put over it. It will be all right.”

Beverage will be joined by co-workers from Pendleton Community Bank and family members, while Walker will be joined by his son, Jesse, and several co-workers from S.J. Neathawk’s.

Beverage and Walker’s son, Jesse, have a history – they played football together at Pocahontas County High School – but Beverage insists it isn’t hard for him to see a former teammate as a rival now.

“We’ll have a blast going at each other, and it will be a lot of fun,” Beverage said. “I’m sure there’ll be some harsh words and things exchanged back and forth throughout the day.”

For the competition, teams will be scored on their meal and first, second and third place will be given to the top three best entries. The Best of Show award goes to the team with the best food, theme and display. People’s Choice is just as its name implies, the team with the most votes from the crowd will win this coveted award.

“We’re going for a sweep this year,” Beverage said. “We’ve got second. We’ve got third. We’ve got Best in Show and we’ve won People’s Choice, but we want all three this year – first, People’s Choice and Best in Show.”

“And I say you can’t have all three,” Walker countered. “I will share some of them as long as we win. All of it. Shoot for the moon, even if you miss, you’ll be among the stars. That’s where we’re headed. We want it all.”

The rules state that first, second and third cannot have a tie, so if there is a tie, the judges must break it. Both Best in Show and People’s Choice can end with a tie.

“If there’s a tie, the judges reconvene and discuss,” Beverage explained. “They have to come to a decision on who’s the best – which would be the PCB Buckbusters, I’m sure, in this case.”

“I just don’t see us losing the theme thing,” Walker said. “I think we’re just going to be so different and so new that I think we’ll win. This may be the only year we do it. I don’t know.”

“Well, if I lost, I probably wouldn’t do it again, either,” Beverage jabbed.

“But once you’ve won, what’s the point of coming back?” Walker retorted. “Leave as a champion. The trophy doesn’t mean much to me. The money doesn’t mean anything to me. It’s just all for the bragging rights. That’s all there is to it.”

Along with receiving trophies, the winning teams get a monetary award. Beverage said in the past, the PCB Buckbusters have always pledged the award money to a local cause and Beverage challenged Walker to do the same, if the Who Dat New Gang team wins anything.

Walker said he would have to discuss that with his team, but would consider it.

At the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about, Beverage said. Yes, the cook-off is a competition and an opportunity for him to talk trash, but, more so, its a chance to promote the tourism industry of Pocahontas County and to give back to the community.

“Either way, I think Joe and myself, and both teams just want to get out and help the community and help the event because this is a huge event for Marlinton and Pocahontas County, in general,” Beverage said. “It brings in so many people for tourism. I think a lot of the folks that come to the event, come back at other times to enjoy the different things that Pocahontas County has to offer, so if it could help the community and the town, then that’s what we’re here to do.”

“The main thing is to participate and have a good time with it,” Walker agreed. “Enjoy it. We’ve incorporated a lot of community members that are going to be supplying stuff for our display. There will be four or five different people involved with that.

“That’s kind of the climate of the whole deal in the RoadKill Cook-off – to involve our people and what they have to offer and to get other people to come back and promote it,” he added.

Keeping with the good naturedness of the competition, Walker said he has promised that if Beverage’s team comes out on top, he will cook a meal for the two teams to celebrate the win.

In fact, he said he will probably do that no matter the outcome.

Drawing from the fun they have had in preparing for the cook-off, both Beverage and Walker have light-hearted challenges to offer to other businesses in the community who do not, at this time, have a cook-off team.

“I’d like to see the other banks get beat,” Beverage joked. 

“I think, seriously, I know Appalachian Aggregates would be one that I would challenge because I know that they can compete,” Walker said. “I know they’ve got everything they need to compete. Obviously, from a professional standpoint, like he said about the banks, I would challenge Glades.”

“I approached them a couple of times,” Beverage said. “Mitchell Chevrolet could put a team in. They do a lot of community events.”

“Southern States,” Walker added. “That’s another one that could do it. They’ve got the resources up there. They could even promote their own business some. I think those are the ones I would challenge. Here’s an open challenge for them to do it. Get in the game.”

Now, with the teams together, the wild game collected and the challenges placed for next year, there’s only room for one more thing – final words between the rivals before the big day on Saturday.

“The first year we decided to enter, we were coming in like Joe, scared and everything,” Beverage said. “We actually asked him to help cook on our team,” That’s how this started. He had a commitment to the Pocahontas County Football League and couldn’t do it. So then we got in there and realized we didn’t need his help. That we’re professionals, and he’s an amateur.”

“There’s two sides to that story,” Walker interjected. “The same year he won, that year, we weren’t even in it. We were ‘People’s Choice’ up at the other end of the festival – the football team. We won without even competing. We’re the ones that had the line plumb down to the red light.”

“I know Joe’s big in the community, and he’s wanting to do this, but our slogan this year has been ‘Beat Joe,’” Beverage said. “He just better bring his A-game.”

While Beverage went for the jugular, Walker went for congeniality points with his final words before the big day.

“I have to speak more for myself than the team, but I know I’ve got a great amount of respect for Pendleton Community Bank,” he said. “They’re always involved. When something comes up, somebody at this place always steps up to the plate. They’re there – whether it be with 4-H or with football. Whatever the deal is that’sgoing on, they’re always there.

“It couldn’t be a better rivalry,” he continued. “If by chance we lose, I can’t think of anyone we’d rather lose to than them. But that’s certainly not where we’re headed. I don’t worry about it at all. At the end of the day, we’re going to walk away as good a friends as we are now. Probably some of the people on our teams will get to know each other, too. It’ll be fun. After it’s over, we can kind of kick back, and we’ll have some fun then.”

“I’m just glad we get to go first so his bad food doesn’t taint the judges,” Beverage quipped.

“We will leave an impression,” Walker assured him. “Good, bad or indifferent, it will be impressionable. We’re talking trash here, but there are six other people [teams] that might sneak up and slap us. I wish everybody luck.”

The cards are on the table. Come Saturday, the deer and wild hog will be sizzlin’ and the teams will be sweating, waiting to hear who has bragging rights.

Will it be the veterans, PCB Buckbusters with their venison and fritters? Or will it be the newcomers, Who Dat New Gang? with their cajun wild hog and stuffed poblano peppers. It could even be Youth Health Services, last year’s first place winners.

It will all be decided Saturday, beginning at 9 a.m. at the mini park in Marlinton.

Bring your appetite.

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