It was the spring of 1985 — way back in the previous century. My lovely wife, Lisa, and I were expecting our first child. The thing to do back in those days was to take a Lamaze method childbirth class. (Think Bill Cosby blowing and whistling, back when you could still reference Bill Cosby.)
We had the most delightful group of couples in the history of breathing, and we all became fast friends. In fact, we were so close, as a group, that we continued to have reunions about every six months until the babies were old enough to decide not to go any more.
Lisa and I really liked all the folks, but with one couple, Mark and Diane Howington — well, things really took. Their daughter, Marcie, became our daughter, Jamie Leigh’s, first playmate. They are still close. When Marcie got married, I got to perform the wedding ceremony. When Marcie and her husband, Nate, had a child, I got to baptize him. See. We are that kind of close.
Diane Howington is Old Conyers. Her granddaddy was Gailey Summers, who owned Gailey’s, which was the preeminent clothing store in Olde Town back before chains ruled the world. Her mother, Mary Nell, was the sweetest person I’ve ever known and married another of my favorite people in the world, Benson Plunkett, Heritage High School’s first principal. He had been principal at J.P. Carr when I started my coaching career at R.L. Cousins. We all go back, in other words.
A few years after Marcie and Jamie were born Diane gave birth to a son, John. A few months later our son, Jackson, was born. You see a pattern. We are all friends for life. We had a third child. Diane and Mark held serve, but Diane has always been a surrogate mother for our Jenna — especially during the week of camp meeting at Salem.
John Howington grew up to become a gentle free-spirited giant. He graduated from Newton County High School and matriculated at Valdosta State University, which happens to be where I met my wife, but that’s another story for another day.
John majored in film at Valdosta and after graduation took advantage of our area having become “Hollywood South” and did some work on various projects. I think “Walking Dead” was one of them. He was good at what he did. I know. He shot a screen test for me once and it turned into an offer. It took a lot of talent to make me look good. I declined the gig, though, because they wanted me to work in New York City.
But what John really liked to do was cook. He had spent a lot of time working at a very popular restaurant in Macon during and after college, eventually becoming the head chef. Not a bad “part-time” job. A few years back when the film crew on one of his television projects needed a caterer, John stepped up and said he could do it. Boy could he ever.
He became so good that he gave up the production part of the television business and quickly became the caterer to the stars. For the past three years he has fed the cast and crew of the mega-hit “Ozark,” and Justin Bateman liked John’s food so much that if you look real close in one of the series’ first episodes, you can see Big John Howington in the background, cooking a whole hog for the Langmore clan.
Now I told you all of that to tell you this.
A year or so ago John teamed up with another Conyers boy, Josh Swaney, and the two started their own catering business and invested in a food truck. Josh’s mama, Paige Doster Farley, was Rockdale County High School valedictorian, back in the day. His dad, Don Swaney, still teaches at Rockdale. Like I said, we are talking OLD Conyers, now. The good news is that their business has gone well.
The great news is that starting this Friday they will be serving food—to go—to the general public. When I say food, we aren’t talking a bland meat and three in a Styrofoam box. We are talking whole Boston butts, pulled pork, spicy jalapeno pimento cheese, Blue Mountain Oyster Mushrooms, Parmesan Cheddar Mac-N-Cheese, Sweet-N-Smokey chicken salad . . . Is your mouth watering yet? If not, they do killer baked beans and their collards will make you beg for more.
You can buy this stuff by the meal, the pound or by the pint or the quart, along with John’s homemade rubs and sauces. You can order on their website and it will be ready for pickup starting this Friday afternoon at the Salem Campground Hotel. Or you can pay a few bucks extra and they will bring it to you. Yes. They deliver — in Newton and Rockdale counties and beyond.
It does my heart good to see two young men willing to take a risk and start a business in one of the most troubling times our nation has experienced since Bill Sherman came through this way. Especially two local guys, when so many have given up and lit out for greener pastures.
Those who know me know that my opinion cannot be coerced or bought, and while many might agree with my view of the world and many might disagree, everyone knows that I have never steered anybody wrong when it comes to what is fit to eat.
The food is so good it will make you cry, so just go online and look for DryYourEyesInc.com and see for yourself what Big John and Josh have to offer.
You can thank me when you see me, once I’m allowed to leave the house.