Rex Nelson 

Rex Nelson Little Rock Communications director for Gov. Mike Huckabee It’s just too dang hot as this is being written to think of anywhere but an air-conditioned room. My favorite such place is the back room of Gene’s Barbeque in Brinkley. Gene’s Barbeque has become a popular gathering spot for hunters, farmers and those traveling between Little Rock and Memphis. Since the discovery of the ivory-billed woodpecker in the nearby Cache River bottoms, owner Gene DePriest has evolved into somewhat of a media celebrity as he visits with journalists from around the world. He even hosted Ed Bradley and a crew from “60 Minutes” for every meal during a period of several days. If there’s a chief spokesman for the people of the Big Woods, it might just be Gene. His restaurant is open every day of the year, Christmas included. During duck season, people are gathering there by 5 a.m. And it’s open late into the evening. You need a special invitation to get into the back room. If you make it into the back-room fraternity, you really experience the best of Gene’s. Granted, it’s a male-dominated world where one must be able to stand some good-natured ribbing and be able to tell an off-color joke. But every Sunday night, some interesting people gather there for a special dinner. The bill of fare basically is whatever was shot, caught or run over the previous week. It might be rabbit one week and crappie the next. The following week, it might be venison. Fried squirrel is usually one of the offerings during the fall and winter. In the summer, there is fresh produce from Gene’s garden, especially tomatoes. Gene cultivates about 100 tomato plants. If he’s your friend, he will send you home with a sack of tomatoes that would put the folks down in Bradley County to shame. The television in the back room is always tuned to sports, and patrons have been known to sneak in something a bit stronger than the iced tea. During duck season, the party isn’t only on Sunday nights. While Sunday night is for the home folks from Arkansas, a Saturday night during duck season sees Gene play host to doctors, lawyers and even millionaire businessmen from as far away as South Carolina. Governors and senators occasionally make an appearance in the back room. No matter how rich or famous they are, they’re likely to have Gene and the regulars have some fun at their expense. In the back room, that’s the price of admission.

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