Traditions may come and go at the Pope County Deer Festival, but one aspect of the festival’s past 52 years has been the smoked pork shoulder cooked on site by the Crim family of Brownfield in rural Pope County.
The family providing the barbecue are three brothers, the eldest being James “Jim” Jr., Ricky and Rodney. A fourth brother, Printess, helps when he is available from his truck driving route.
“Dad started barbecuing in 1952,” Jim said.
James Sr. cooked at the first Deer Festival and the brothers began helping out.
Word of James Sr.’s barbecuing style and sauce — an aunt’s recipe — got around and he was barbecuing for the Du Quoin State Fair, the Beef Association at Dixon Springs, Cattle and Sheep Association at Cypress and for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
The Crim brothers maintain a fire of coals that is especially popular during the chilly night’s during the festival. They construct a pit of concrete blocks and sheet metal and smoke the meat for 12 to 14 hours, day and night.
“We like to use hickory and then use any hardwood,” Jim said.
The secret to good barbecue?
“Don’t burn it,” he said.
Patience is key.
“You can cook beans on an electric stove and they will cook quicker than on a wood stove on low and you know which ones cook the best,” he said.
Jim said the first year at the deer festival his father cooked venison and sold sandwiches for $.10 until he learned it against the law to sell wild game.
The brothers cook only for the Deer Festival and once a year — on a Saturday in July — at Macedonia Freewill Baptist Church in Brownfield.
“It’s a lot of work and takes a lot of time. People expect you to have it perfect every time and that’s almost impossible to do,” Jim said.
Because the Crim barbecue is not always available, the crowd during the first shotgun season at Golconda eats it up.
When the shoulders are done members of the Golconda Rotary chop them into sandwiches, but their method was a bit different this year. Ordinarily they use an electric blade to cut the meat, but the blade broke and there was no replacement. So this year they prepared the meat the old-fashioned way, pulling it by hand and cutting it with knives.