On a barbecue tour, there is no such thing as down time. Even the long drives bring surprises.

Last year, returning to Dallas from East Texas, we decided that someone should call out Texas Monthly for including joints that use gas-fired pits in its Top 50 BBQ rankings.

We did just that, eventually engaging TM food editor Pat Sharpe in a constructive discussion about the magazine's selection criteria.

Sometimes, we just learn interesting things about our fellow Posse members.

On the first leg of our recent 35-hour, 700-mile dash to the Gulf Coast and back, Posse co-founder Chris Wilkins talked about his family's pet iguana, Ozzy, who recently died.

Acquired when he was not much more than a fingerling, Ozzy, named for, yes, Ozzy Osbourne, eventually grew to more than five feet in length, counting his tail. And, in his golden years, he refused to eat anything but cat food.

"Ozzy thought he was a cat," Wilkins said.

That may be because of all the feline company he kept.  The Wilkins' family still has eight cats and a dog.

Tales of Ozzy led to tales of Azeem, the nearly five-foot-long ball python owned by Posse member Phil Lamb, who was the wheelman on this trip.

"Snakes have no personality," said Lamb, who acquired Azeem two decades ago.

Lamb said he named Azeem after Kevin Costner's sidekick, played by Morgan Freeman, in the movie Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. Still in college when he bought the snake, Lamb initially tried to feed him mice, but Azeem refused.

Worried Azeem would starve, Lamb asked the previous owner for advice. The owner said he fed the snake rats, and once a snake tasted rat he never went back to mouse.

So, for 20 years, Azeem has had a steady diet of -- yes, live -- rats.

"Don't ever feed a snake a gerbil," Lamb advised. "They're expensive, and the snake will never go back to rats."

Photo of Azeem by Phil Lamb (bottom), photo of Ozzy by Chris Wilkins/Texas BBQ Posse


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