By Randall Hill
Sweat pours down the face of Scott’s BBQ pit worker Willie Johnson as he uses a large mop to apply sauce on a rack of chickens cooking in the pit house. The smoke pouring from the sides and tops of the 10 pits in use that day hover over him like a white translucent blanket. The early morning light pierces through the blanket and forms contrasting shades of light that seem to bounce around the ceiling looking for a way to escape to the outside.
Johnson has been at the pit house all night, like he has done many times before, watching over the process of the 12-plus hours it takes to cook the BBQ at Scott’s. It’s very hard work to cook BBQ the traditional way they do at the Hemingway, South Carolina restaurant and pit house.
Workers, mostly family members of owner Rodney Scott, have to gather and cut the large amount of hardwood needed for the process. The rear of the pit house contains a large supply of oak, hickory and pecan cut in large sections to be later split and burned.
A large fire is built in what is called a burn barrel. The fire is started at the top of the barrel and the wood is held in place by metal rods inserted in the middle. As the fire burns hot, the coals drop to the bottom and an opening allows the workers to scoop them up in a long handled shovel.
The pigs are placed on racks and put into the concrete block pits. Large stainless steel sheets are then positioned over the top. Cooker Terry Blow then takes the hot coals from the burn barrel and distributes them into the pits under the pigs to cook.