At one point in my life, I lived in Texas for several years; first Dallas, then San Antonio, then Austin, and then Garland. I grew to love that state, and even though I missed the Northeast and its four beautiful seasons, I found a lot to love in Texas.
When my first husband and I first lived in Dallas, we took a trip to Scottsdale, AZ. He spent the days playing golf, and I took several little trips of my own. One of those trips was a desert tour, which turned out to be amazing.
I had always thought that deserts were dry and uninteresting, but our guide was quick to point out the subtle beauty of it. He showed us various treasures; a tiny elf owl, peering out of a small hole in a huge saguaro cactus, a vibrant red flower on a small cactus, a silver-blue snake of river in the middle of all that dry earth, and more.
I thoroughly enjoyed my day in the desert, and, on the way back to the hotel, I treated myself to dinner at a local Mexican restaurant. I don’t think I have ever had such wonderful food as I did at that little hole-in-the-wall place. Their salsa alone was a masterpiece.
Later on, I got talking with the manager. He and his family had emigrated from Mexico, and had started their restaurant with his wife and four sons. When he found out that I wasn’t a Texan, he told me some stories about some of his Texas customers, especially the one he called “Hot Pepper Man.”
“The Texans, they brag about how hot they like their food,” he chuckled. He told me about a man from San Antonio who bragged at the bar that no one could make chili hot enough for him; he loved hot, spicy food.
So the manager, who at the time was serving him drinks, asked him if he would like to try some of his home-grown chili peppers. The Texan slapped the bar, and said, ‘son, there isn’t a pepper hot enough for me. I’ve eaten them all!’
The manager reached into his pocket and pulled out two small peppers, one red, one green. He passed them to the Texan saying, “you want hot; try these–I grow them myself.”
The Texan grinned, and popped both of them into his mouth. As he crunched them up, his eyes began to water. The manager asked if he was all right, and he nodded his head. By this time the man was sweating profusely. He tried to speak, bur couldn’t.
He turned to walk out of the bar, tripped and fell. He pulled himself up, got through the door, then fell again. As he stumbled out into the parking lot, he fell again. Picking himself up once more, he headed to his motorcycle, sat on the seat and fell over, motorcycle and all.
The manager took pity on him (after he finished laughing), and brought the man a slice of bread (to cut the heat of the peppers) and a bottle of water.
“Amigo,” he said, “bread first to stop the burn; then water.”
An hour later the man was recovered enough to drive himself home, but the manager said he never returned for more hot peppers or chili. As we both laughed, he said “Guess he finally found a pepper tougher than he was.”
That was sort of a peak experience for me during my first-ever trip to the beautiful state of Arizona. I have told this story many times, and it always makes me laugh. If I am ever tempted to brag about anything I’ve said or done or eaten, I remember the Hot Pepper Man.