As we, here in the US, move into late fall and toward the holidays, thoughts of home filled with guests become more frequent—inciting both joy and fear. Yet there’s a part in many of us, when we can look past the cleaning enough, having enough, offering enough, that feels most content with a full home. Doug is certainly one of those people, and that might have something to do with his roots. Since the early 1800’s, and for four generations, Doug’s family has lived in Pinebush, NY. He grew up hunting, fishing and surrounded by family, so it makes sense that he would carry the tradition of a full house forth.
Back in 1991, many of Doug’s friends were laid off from their construction jobs. Doug was the only one with a house of his own, so his single friends began stopping by everyday. Doug would grill for his buddies, and they’d kick back and drink beers. After a while, Doug noticed the guys would hang out just until the beer was gone, and then they’d head home and leave Doug with an empty fridge and taxed wallet. Finally, in 2001, a friend asked Doug for some help and paid him with what’s now known as the “happy locker.” Over 55,000 cans of beer later, the old soda machine has taken care of Doug’s troubles; everyone pays $1 per beer, and when it’s empty, Doug refills it. His friend stick around longer these days as well.
Today, the happy locker sits in the garage Doug and his friends built after Doug’s old barn burnt down. Because he’d cultivated such a strong community and knew how to engage it, he offered a steak and lobster home cooked meal to anyone who helped with the rebuild. They finished the job in two days.
Aside from the happy locker and his willingness to help a friend in need, theres’s another piece that makes Doug the community hub: he’s a master of meat. Back in the 70’s, after their annual deer hunts, his uncle taught him to butcher deer. If you’re in the know, you realize the leverage a skill like butchering can bring. Instead of paying $120 per deer, Doug butchers his friends’ deer for free. Doug’s uncle also taught him how to make sausage from the butchered deer. These days, he doesn’t just make sausage, Doug smokes and brines like a pro. He learned both from trial and error and has created rituals along the way. He sprays each smoker rack with nonstick spray in order to keep it clean. He also insists guests take a swig of wine as he lays meat inside the smoker; if they don’t he insists the meat won’t come out right.
As fall days shorten into winter, you can find Doug and his buddies hanging out for their evening happy hour; gobbling up sausage, corned beef or ribs at their weekly feast; or taking it to the limit at their annual game party where guests bring the game they’ve hunted and the fish they’ve caught over the last year. Then, then they grind, brine or smoke it. You can be sure the happy locker works overtime; you can also be sure Doug and his guests settle into well-worn chairs and share stories they’ve told many times before. Roots run deep in this community, and Doug anchors it with his open door and heated grill.