Wednesday, October 28, 2015
Red lights all the way into town when you’re late for work. Rain just after washing your car. Losing something you’ve put in a “very safe place”.
These are a few of the things you can count on in life.
You can also count on the average pizza delivery being fairly routine.
But this was not an average pizza, this was not the average pizza delivery, and October was not an average month. It just so happened to be National Pizza Month.
Smoky Mountain Pizza’s back room was filled with two dairy farmers, (Clint Jackson and John Wind), and their families, United Dairymen of Idaho friends, and a handful of media people. The tables were laden with brie kisses, garlic cheese bread, and fried mozzarella, a cheese-centric heaven.
Excitement hummed from every corner, since we were all in on little secret: that night’s deliveries would be made by farmers Jackson or Wind, accompanied by “Bossie”, a young Holstein attracting fans out in the parking lot while waiting patiently for her first gig.
“She’s a good cow,” said owner Tea Harrison, who’d raised Bossie since she was a few weeks old. “Most of the cows I’ve raised end up at my grandpa’s farm, but I think we’re going to keep her around. She’s pretty calm.”
With more than 25 miles of travel already logged that night, Bossie endured multiple compliments, flash photos, and pettings before becoming a Smoky Mountain delivery employee. Thoughtfully chewing her cud, she took it all in without comment, although later that evening she would perhaps make it known that the frequent loadings and unloadings were considered pointless.
The question was bound to be asked. We were in Eagle, and would be delivering to residential areas.
“What if…” several of us queried.
“That’s why we’ve got the shovel,” assured Bossie’s caretakers, “We’re prepared.”
When the signal was given, everyone jumped into the closest car to get to witness Smoky Mountain customers’ reactions. It was all very “Candid Camera”, but with a cow.
I rode with Smoky Mountain Vice President of Operations manager, John Ryan, who took his managerial role seriously.
“Let’s see,” he said, scanning past his windshield, “Where’s the photographer? Hmmm. Oh, there he is. Good. Now, where is the delivery vehicle…?”
“…and the cow. Where has the cow gone?”
The absurdity of that question made me laugh.
“Oh, there she is, there’s Bossie. Good. Follow that cow!” John declared, creating a phrase to be repeated for the next two hours.
In Idaho, a truck towing a trailer with a cow isn’t exactly a spectacle. But a truck pulling a cow trailer in an upscale neighborhood being followed by two more farm trucks, a delivery van, and another five or six private vehicles isn’t something that’s seen every evening.
As the convoy circled a neighborhood park, two residents stood at an intersection, looking more than a little confused.
“Watch this,” laughed John, as he pulled over and rolled down his window.
“Excuse me,” he said, in a polite, business-like tone, “we are looking for a cow. Have you perhaps seen a cow?”
Without a word, both women pointed to their left.
“Oh, thank you,” John replied, without further explanation, “Have a good day, ladies.”
“Follow that cow!” he said again, enjoying the situation, adding, "Can you imagine the stories circulating through the neighborhood tomorrow morning?"
The cow trailer was pulled up directly in front of the residence, closely followed by the delivery van. As Bossie contemplated unloading, delivery person Bryce stood at the ready, holding the fresh, hot food, and grinning widely.
“This isn’t your typical day at Smoky Mountain,” he quipped, which made United Dairymen of Idaho’s Karianne Fallow want to get that on video. Bryce got to say the phrase three times over, with feeling.
Bossie’s handlers led her to the unsuspecting homeowners’ entrance, joined by Clint Jackson, who carried the pizza, Smoky Mountain’s VP of Operations, Bryce the Delivery Person, a handful of dairy farm family members, United Dairymen of Idaho friends, and multiple media, all with cameras aimed and ready.
“I’m afraid I might lose some customers over this,” John confided. I didn’t know if I should offer words of comfort or not; it could have gone either way.
When customer Kirk opened his door, his face would tell it all. First the bland look of the necessary chore of paying for an anticipated meal after a long day, and then the slow grin of realization that, hey, there are a bunch of strangers at my door, and, hey, there’s a cow on my sidewalk.
Kirk quickly turned to call his wife, Tillie.
“Honey, you need to come and take a look at this.”
Forewarned, Tillie’s grin topped Kirk’s in bemusement.
Clint Jackson stepped up with Kirk and Tillie’s order, and gave a short speech on behalf of the United Dairymen of Idaho, thanking Kirk and Tillie for their support of Idaho dairy products, and, more personally, for the support of farmers and farm families such as theirs.
Standing there with the Jacksons and about twenty other co-conspirators, I felt proud to be a small part of that.
John Ryan also stepped up to the door, thanking Kirk and Tillie for their patronage, and let them know that their dinner that night would be on Smoky Mountain Pizzeria Grill. The two grinned from ear to ear, as we all beamed back. Bossie remained expressionless.
With the first run a success, we piled into random vehicles for the next encounter, just a few miles away. This one, we were told, was a big BSU game party.
While unloading Bossie, pizzas, and our motley crew, a few party-goers beat us to the door, eyes glued to the approaching cow and crowd.
“Don’t tell!” Karianne admonished them firmly, although an impending visit from a cow would be a hard secret to keep.
“Eleanor”, the party hostess, loved the special delivery. So did the dozens of guests who joined her at the door, with as many phone cameras aimed at us as we had aimed at them.
One little boy seemed initially alarmed by Bossie’s arrival, but on our departure, didn’t want to stop petting her. The crowed followed us out to the edge of the lawn, and partway down the sidewalk.
“Hey, man,” one of the party guests said to Bryce, “thanks, man,” he offered, handing Bryce a twenty.
Bryce gave him his typical winning smile.
“How did you choose your delivery person for today?” I asked John, “Bryce seems ideal for this particular event.”
“To tell you the truth,” John answered, “our people are so good, we could’ve used anyone. I told the management to use the first person arriving for their shift, and it just happened to be Bryce.”
Bryce’s words rang through my mind, “It’s not your typical day at Smoky Mountain…”
He could say that again (so long as Karianne gets it on video).
Walking back to our cars, the distinct sound of a lawn being mowed was heard from Eleanor’s neighbor’s yard across the street.
“Someone’s sure working hard!” Karianne Fallow said, “I think they need bread sticks!”
An unplanned stop ensued, as dairy farmer John Wind, Bossie and her handler, Bryce, and John Ryan all lined up to do their thing. A gentleman came to the door and quietly stood through the presentation, virtually deplete of expression. There may have been a slight smile when being handed free breadsticks, but from where I stood, it was hard to detect.
As some of us walked away thinking, “You can’t win ‘em all,” and with my smart remark of, “Eh. I have cows on the front lawn every day…”, we suddenly got the reaction we’d been looking for when the guy helping the gentleman with his lawn came through the back gate, flushed from labor, and broke out into one of the biggest smiles we’d seen all night.
“Breadsticks! Cool!” he gushed.
He thought the cow was hilarious, too.
*Watch for the Jackson, Wind, and other United Dairymen of Idaho families' friendly greetings on Smoky Mountain Pizza delivery boxes and ads. Delicious Idaho cheese tastes even better when you know where it comes from.