William ‘Billy Bones’ Wall: A REAL BARBECUE Man
By Carlene Phelps, NBN Editor
As we get older, there become more opportunities to reflect back on the memories of those we love who have passed on into eternity. Since our family has been hanging out with some of the best people on earth — that would be barbecuers — many of them fall into this category. The two that I have the fondest of barbecue memories is, of course, Joe Phelps, then followed by Donald Gillis. My husband and one of his best friends, Doc Gillis, were both avid “BARBECUE Men”. They loved cooking barbecue, and it was a joy for them to watch expectantly as a sample was given to someone else to enjoy — when the first bite hit their taste buds and a smile crossed their lips — for them, it was “hog heaven”! They were also experts in the field of public relations — spreading the gospel of barbecue wherever they traveled. My friend “Billy Bones” Wall was one of these REAL BARBECUE MEN.
There are quite a few others gathered around the heavenly pits welcoming their friends who have completed their trip to earth — too numerous for me to mention here, but readers, feel free to stop and take a few minutes to reflect on yours. (I did this and was overwhelmed when remembering so many with tears of joy and sadness.)
Now back to Billy Bones! It’s difficult to remember the first time I met him, but he was the very first Program Chairman of the National Barbecue Association at the first conference in Las Vegas. He was full of barbecue stories — from the tip of his toes to the longest hair on his head (or beard)! His eyes would light up and a sneaky smile would slowly cross his face, as he would tell you one of the best stories you ever heard. We were fortunate that he chose the National Barbecue News to share many of his life’s stories.
Billy was a RIBBER. A RIBBER is a barbecuer who cooks ribs so good they get invited to Ribfest events to cook for the public and for the judges. They cook practically 24/7 for a week before and during an event. He and his wife, Sharon, had this technique down to a fine art but were the first to tell you it was WORK. They loved it and jumped in with every ounce of energy — with trophies and dollars to show for their success. And he did not keep EVERYTHING a secret. When someone asked for his advice, he shared it openly on everything. Well, almost. I don’t recall him ever sharing his sauce and rub secrets — he just gave them a sample, and they kept ordering it! Smart man, that Billy Bones.
Billy Bones was a lover of people! His robust body gave some of the best hugs in the barbecue world. Who knew someone from Michigan could give such good hugs AND cook barbecue — this ole gal thought that was a secret move of southern gentlemen! A visit with Billy, either in person, by telephone, or email, put you in a religiousbarbecue setting. When the email came in, written in ALL CAPS, including the story for that month’s issue, you knew it was from Billy. I always volunteered to edit his articles — not because I wanted the job — but because I could not wait to hear his story for the month!
This is actually a story of thanksgiving — one where I can thank the REAL BARBECUE MEN, like Billy Bones, for being a part of my life here on God’s earth. They are quick to share their beliefs, their opinions, and their love for the art of barbecue. While I remember those like Billy who have left with tears — this smile on my face remembers those who are still here. You know who you are, and I hope to see you again on the BARBECUE ROAD before we have to say goodbye. Yep, I love me some REAL BARBECUE MEN!