Woodshed Wisdom

By Freeman Martin

I noted with more than just a little interest the results of the Fourth of July Hot Dog Eatin’ Contest on Coney Island. I enjoy an occasional ‘tube’ steak myself, especially if the chili is done right. And, of course, down South, our hot dogs have ‘accessories’ like ketchup, mayonnaise, mustard, and maybe topped off with some sweet pickle relish.

In my younger days, before the ol’ digestive system slowed down, I’ve even been known to turn a good hot dog into a slaw dog with a heapin’ helpin’ of good sweet slaw. I’d better stop right here ‘cause I’m already droolin’ on my keyboard. And it’s not time yet for my daily dose of fiber-loaded, spoon-size, mini-wheats.

Back to the main road. Before ESPN came along to televise this important national sporting event to the rest of the world, it always amazed me that the winner up there in New York was some skinny little guy that probably wouldn’t push the scales past 140 pounds if he was soakin’ wet.

As Daddy used to say back home on the farm, the little guy would have to put rocks in his pockets on a windy day to keep from being blown away. I always wondered how in the world could those little guys pack 60, 70, sometimes 80 hot dogs into their stomachs in such a short time. Personally, my limit is two. Sometimes three if I haven’t had my daily allotment of the afore-mentioned fiber.

It was enough to stagger my cornbread-eatin’ imagination to think that some little guy who was so skinny he’d have to walk twice to make a shadow, could pack away that many hot dogs. Why, even this year’s winner said he was disappointed that he could only stuff down 54 hot dogs in 10 minutes. Only 54!!!

But thanks to ESPN, I now realize that a hot dog on Coney Island is not the same as a hot dog at Route 4, Seneca, South Carolina. I was shocked to see the visual evidence. Up there, their hot dogs are nothing more than a weenie-in-a-bun. And, to top it all off, in the contest, they’re allowed to dip the bun in a glass of water before they start chewin’.

Well, any farm boy worth his cathead biscuit knows what happens when you put bread in water. So actually, what you have is a bunch of guys about the size of a weenie, stuffin’ their faces with watered-down bread and chewin’ on weenies.

If they really wanted to be called a Hot Dog Eatin’ Champion, let ‘em chow down on some foot-long  delicacies load with good chili and topped with all the trimmings that we love. Without soakin’ their buns in water.

This is just me talkin’ now, but I think they ought to change the name of their contest. With truth in advertising and all that, the FDA or some other alphabet government agency should make those Coney Island folks call their little deal a weenie-eatin’ contest.

Still, all things considered, I can imagine a volcanic gastric eruption just from wolfin’ down four or five dozen weenies in ten minutes. You have to give those guys a little credit. If you don’t think so, the next time you’re in the grocery store, swing by the meat counter and pick up a pack of weenies. By the way, I’ve never understood why weenies come in packs of ten and buns come in packs of twelve. But just wrap your hands around five or six packs of weenies and see yourself swallowin’ every one of ‘em before you get to the checkout counter.

I could never win that contest on Coney Island anyway. For one simple reason. Before I finished the very first one, I would be able to hear Mother’s words of caution ringin’ in my ears – “Slow down, son, are you goin’ to a fire? Where are your manners? How many times have I told you to chew every bite 20 times before you swallow?”

But the story of this year’s contest on Coney Island had an interesting sidelight. It seems that a former champion wanted to be in the contest so badly that he crashed the party. By all accounts, he is said to have run up on stage as the crowd chanted, “Let him eat, let him eat!”

He just couldn’t stand to be on the outside lookin’ in once he had ‘tasted’ glory. But he didn’t have the proper credentials. He had not taken the necessary steps to have his name entered in the contest. Nobody’s fault but his own. He had the invitation. He could have been in the party with everybody else. If he had only signed up before the entry deadline. But he didn’t, so he was unceremoniously thrown into the meat wagon, pardon the pun, and hauled off to jail by New York’s finest.

Which brings me to this point. We’ve all been invited to a great feast. In fact, every single person in the world is invited. The Great Banquet Table is being prepared as we speak. The invitation reads, “Whosoever will may come!” In fact the One who has issued the invitation is so very patient because it’s not His will that any should perish (Matthew 18:14).

But be very sure of this – the day will come when it will be too late to enter. If our name isn’t on the list when the Lamb’s Book of Life is closed, we’ll be on the outside lookin’ in – wishin’ we could have been there, too (2 Peter 3: 9-10), as we’re hauled away to a ‘jail’ of eternal fire from which there will be no one to go our bail. How about you? Have you responded to the Invitation? Is your name on the list and in the Book?

If so, you’ll know what He means when He says, ‘HOT DOG!! WE HAVE A WINNER!”