Jennings Osborne and the eye of the needle 

His worldly possessions went under the hammer last week. The collection of a lifetime, scattered to the winds.

Page 7 of 8

The eye of the needle

As the auctioneers worked through the personal items in the warehouse near Prothro Junction on Friday and Saturday, Bryant "Bear" Morris and his wife, Shretta, set up a table and sold auction-goers the famous barbecue that Osborne gave away by the ton: pulled pork, hot dogs and soda — $3 for an enormous, smoked pork sandwich, wrapped in aluminum foil.

Bear started working for Osborne 17 years ago, doing what he calls "The Cookout." A friend who worked for Osborne told him he needed some extra help on a cook in the southern part of the state, so Bear tagged along. That's where he met Jennings Osborne, and where his life changed.

"We did a cookout in Warren, Ark.," Bear said. "That's where I met him. I picked up a big ol' case of water, and he said: 'You're strong! I'll call you Bear.' From that day forward I've been right there with him. It's been a life."

Bear and Shretta had only been married a year then. Though Bear worked for Osborne full time from then on, both he and his wife eventually wound up working the Osborne cookouts, tending the big smokers through the night and dishing up the 12-pound plate that everybody who came through the line got whether they needed that much or not. Bear, who spent over a decade as Osborne's head barbecue cook, doing dozens of Osborne's no-limits barbecues all over, can still reel off the contents of those plates from memory: whole chicken, turkey leg, pulled pork sandwich, beef brisket, sausage, beef ribs, plus sides. He's walked up the stairs of Air Force One twice to deliver barbecue to two presidents, and once fell 27 feet from Jimmy Carter's roof to hard ground while putting up Christmas lights on the former president's house in Plains, Ga. Carter, Bear said, visited him every day he was in the hospital. A life, indeed.

The Osbornes, Bear and Shretta Morris said, were very good to them. On Thursday, before the Prothro auction, Bear said he'd gone to Osborne's grave and had "a breakdown moment." It clearly hurts them to see Mitzi and Breezy going through the pain of the auction. Bear calls Breezy his sister. Not "like a sister," not "loved as a sister," just "my sister."

"His wife and daughter," Shretta said, "they're heroes of mine. Some people can't take public embarrassment, but to be able to take it on this level and still smile and still be encouraging to others is something."

Though Bear said Osborne didn't come across to the average person who met him as a cheerful man ("There was probably only 10 people in the whole world who ever saw his teeth," he offered), he said that Osborne did have a legendary sense of humor to go along with his bottomless well of generosity once you were accepted into his circle of trust. Standing outside the auction in an Osborne Family apron and yellow kitchen gloves, dishing up pulled pork sandwiches, Bear told the following story:


Comments (10)

Showing 1-10 of 10

Add a comment

Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-10 of 10

Add a comment

More by David Koon

  • City board discusses LGBT protection ordinance, Webb says votes there for passage

    At their weekly meeting tonight, the Little Rock Board of Directors discussed next week's vote on an ordinance that would protect LGBT city workers from discrimination and require contractors with the city to abide by non-discrimination rules that include sexual orientation and gender identity. Asked about a potential conflict with the state's Act 137, the recently passed law which forbids municipalities from extending protections to gays and lesbians, city attorney Tom Carpenter told the board he hadn't consider the state law because he believes a federal supremacy argument will prevail.
    • Apr 14, 2015
  • Staff Picks: 'It Follows,' slow-motion cowboys, a guide to songbirds in Arkansas and more

    A hearty recommendation for the very smart scare-flick "It Follows," in theaters now. Low budget, high concept, and simply the best American horror film I've seen since "The Blair Witch Project." I won't say too much, lest I give away the film's genuinely creepy premise, but I will say that it's a through-the-looking-glass story that owes more than a bit to films like "Ju-On" and other topsy-turvy-terrifying horror flicks of Asia. Thinly-veiled teenage sex angst and worries about venereal disease have never been so scary. Seriously: see it now.
    • Apr 10, 2015
  • More »

People who saved…

Readers also liked…

  • Vets on Main

    City of Little Rock tries to block new clinic.
    • Mar 21, 2012
  • Night and the Bard

    The Observer, that grand old insomniac of Maple Street, was kicking around The Observatory the other night at 2 a.m. when we happened across our old copy of the Riverside Shakespeare in the bookshelves.
    • Jul 18, 2012

Most Shared

Latest in Cover Stories

Event Calendar

« »


  1 2 3 4
5 6 7 8 9 10 11
12 13 14 15 16 17 18
19 20 21 22 23 24 25
26 27 28 29 30  

Most Viewed

  • A killing in Pocahontas

    A witness murdered, a drug ring exposed, a snake in a box.
  • Ringing the bell

    Denise Ennett rings the bell in Mount Holly Cemetery on Tuesday, April 14, commemorating the 150th anniversary of Arkansas's ratification of the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution outlawing slavery.
  • Mindless cattle

    Why only two choices at the polls in this country? I'll tell you why. Because the real power structures within the Republicans and Democrats are engaged in an operation designed to keep us mindless cattle at each other's throats while they rob us blind.
  • Future shock

    A Deputy Observer sent along the following tale of technology, an all-too-familiar song in this day and age, when tech that's supposed to be bringing us together and making our lives easier so often does the opposite.
  • New anti-choice laws in Arkansas pose danger to women

    Thanks to junk science, risky prescriptions.

Most Recent Comments


© 2015 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation