“Stinger’s Country Kitchen” was a diner in Ashford Hollow, 10 minutes south of Springville. It is one of many mom-and-pop businesses closed now, as we as a nation have become chain-restaurant oriented.
Stinger managed the restaurant for two decades, until poor health made him give it up. His given name was Richard, but when he opened the restaurant, he gladly laid claim to the nickname “Stinger”. ‘Stinger’ is slang for the electrode holder used while arc welding, Dick’s previous occupation.
Early on, trucks plied the route past the diner, Dick installed a Citizens Band radio, and his CB handle became “Stinger”. This further solidified the name he was widely known by, for the rest of his life. Truckers called their orders in from the road, via CB radio and breakfast would be waiting for them when they walked in the door.
The restaurant was Dick’s long-sought vision. He bought a fancy high output rotary oven with shelves that moved like a Ferris wheel. He served homemade bread and pies and sold baked goods for “take out” as well. Several restaurants used his products on a daily basis.
Stinger’s breakfasts were known for their abundance and quality and he had many ‘regulars’.
On busy mornings, Stinger would work the huge flat iron grill behind the counter. Often, from six until ten AM he wouldn’t have an open chair or table. A dozen or more orders and a mountain of home fries would be on the grill at the same time.
Stinger liked working the grill; it put him in close proximity to the patrons. He cracked eggs and jokes and scrambled insults in with morning small talk, never missing a beat while he flipped pancakes and sausage.
His business was lucrative, people returned to listen or join in with their own good-natured insults and bawdy retorts.
The subject would often turn to Stinger’s lack of hair; he had a litany of comebacks, many implying that his brain was so active, his hair couldn’t sprout, often saying, “Grass doesn’t grow on a busy street.”
Stinger was my brother; he passed away in early April.
Dick and I worked at a welding fabrication shop before he opened the diner. He was an artist in his own right and created toy tractors, windmills and conceptual pieces of art from heavy chunks of scrap metal. He made toys for my two young boys. I use “toys” loosely, no one wants to see a four-year-old play with a fifty-pound toy tractor, made from heavy steel square tubing and expanded metal.
Throughout, we were both competitive and cynically agreeable. We wheedled each other for the past thirty years over who was the better welder, he or I, that and who had more hair. He was bald but accused me of “combing over.”
I never did tell him he was the better welder, but he knew it. He never admitted I had more hair.
Joni Mitchell wrote, “…Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you got till’ it’s gone...”
That’s true about the mom-and-pop restaurants and it’s true about Stinger.
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