Bad service is ugly and sad. Yet sometimes in the midst of unfortunate circumstance shines a moment of human hope and beauty. This is one of those stories.
Herd’s Hamburgers, family owned for three generations, has drawn the likes of NFL players and politicians alike. I was hungry and had heard about this hidden hamburger hamlet famed through-out North Texas in a side-of-the-road town of Jacksboro, Texas, roughly 65 miles northwest of Fort Worth. With no major plans one Saturday afternoon I burned a couple of CD mixes for the car and headed northwest under testy skies.
Along with the first 4-H Club Jacksboro offers the historic Fort Richardson, preserved just south of town. It anchored the middle of a line of frontier posts forming part of the historic Texas Forts Trail. At stake was western expansion into fiercely protected Comanche and Kiowa territory thru central and northern Texas and in to southern Oklahoma.
It is possible to drive right past Herd's on the north end of town. The sign out front is faded from age and a dirt parking lot pitted with water holes from a recent rain preceded a two-story building set back from the road with three weather beaten picnic tables out front. It was completely unassuming and filled with equally unaffected regulars who barely glanced up from their meal as I headed for the door and the sweetest Texas plains accent ever heard.
Inside two young fathers corralled four tow-headed boys to some of the seats to await their food while one thick-accented man ahead of me ordered a “Dubba-meet chaise-burger with evah-thang own it” from the handsome matriarch taking orders at the register.
“Hi, how’re yew today? Can I take yer order, please?”
“Hi, I’m doing fine thank you. I’d like a single cheeseburger with everything, please, no pickle.”
“With chips and a drank that’ll be fahve-twenny. Will you be eatin’ here?”
“Yes, I’ll eat outside. Thank you.”
“And 80 makes six, seven, ayte, nyne and tin is twenny dollars, thenk yew. I NEED ONE!”
Flo from "Alice" couldn't have done it any better; I truly love the sounds of Texas!
The order for the fathers and sons came out carried three to a bare hand and wrapped in straining white waxed paper. Right behind theirs came mine. I squeezed out of the schoolchair and headed outside to an empty picnic table where I opened my prize to find...
Nothing. There was no burger. Slack-jawed from hunger and amazement I gazed at loose crumblings of meat barely covering the bottom bun. Where was the ginormous monstrosity like the two fathers got? I couldn’t be staring at the “ONE!” shouted back to the kitchen when I placed my order? No, this broken down crumble struck me as either way over-hyped or the kind of snake-oil product one gives to unwelcome strangers.
Sadly, Herd's has heard the last of me. People will drive to the edge of civilization in search of the world's best hamburger; in that light there should be no question about a product 90 years in the making. I finished up and made to leave but not before the bravest of the four boys from inside came up to me as they were leaving and insisted on telling me about how “th’uther day mu’ deddy shot a skunk!”
“Good thing he didn’t spray you or you’d be three-days in th’ tub.” He pondered my words thoughtfully, nodded in their wisdom, smiled at me and then ran to join the rest of his troupe piling in to their Hummer. Smile fading, I followed them out and headed south towards home, disappointed in my experience and still hungry.
On the way out of town I saw again a sign I noticed in passing while heading for Herd's. It said Dairyland BBQ. "Self?" I said to myself, "Ya might wanna try that place one day!"
401 N. Main Street
Jacksboro, TX 76548