Albany Herald Guest Columnist Loran Smith
NORTH AUGUSTA, S. C. - The spacious home of Tim and Natalie Nixon overlooks the Savannah River. Out on the water, where once there were barges that floated cotton down to Savannah, there are now recreational and fishing boats.
River transportation was prominent in the early development of Georgia, with the two most important cities being Savannah and Augusta. Tim grew up in Savannah, but business caused him to settle in the Augusta area.
When you show up at the Nixon spread, you notice a restored yellow 1957 Chevy in mint condition. The first thing Tim wants to know, other than what your drink order is, has to do with food. Want a snack? He has a varied selection within instant reach. If you were to order something that needs grilling, he would go to his freezer, fetch something tasty, walk out past the pool to the grill, and your supper will be ready before you know it.
Tim runs a substantial business, All-Safe, an industrial maintenance company, but he has the most enduring affection for cooking and catering. Mainly he cooks for churches and friends. He cooks turkeys for the poor at Christmas. “I just have this feeling that we can do more for people who need it,” Tim says. “I can’t stand the thought of a kid not having a nice Christmas dinner.”
To begin with, he has the equipment for a mass cookout at his place of business. At his place in nearby Beech Island, he has a truck-cooker which can cook 24 hogs at one time. “That, Daddy-O,” he says with a grin, “will put a lot of barbecue on the table.” That is why he can cook for a thousand people-and often does. “We just like to cook for a crowd of people and have fun. We want them to go home feeling like they have had a special time.”
As he watches the waters of the Savannah flow lazily downstream, he begins to reflect on the good life he enjoys. “Success in life is helping your fellow man, not how much money you make. If you don’t find a way to help somebody who needs it, you have the wrong focus in life,” Tim smiled.
At Christmas and Thanksgiving, he will cook 600 turkeys and 600 Boston butts on his collective and portable grills and donate it all to churches in his neighborhood. The churches sell the food at a reduced price and then use the money to take care of families in need during holidays.
If he cooks for you, you will benefit from a bonus item: the best ice cream you ever tasted, which is made by a vintage 1927 John Deere ice cream maker. At a recent party for the University of Georgia Hall of Fame in Athens, Tim cooked wild Georgia shrimp, then cranked up the John Deere ice cream maker and made peach ice cream.Very appropriate, wouldn’t you say?
The John Deere ice cream maker is fueled by a three-horsepower, hit-and-miss engine. Watching the ice cream maker was as much fun as anything. It chugged away, skipping a beat here and there in between loud putt-putting sounds which fascinated all the guests. The engine was manufactured by the Waterloo Gasoline Engine Company in Waterloo, Iowa, and drew countless, inquisitive onlookers.
“For years,” Tim said, “I wanted one of these things and finally found one three or four years ago. It takes about three-quarters of an hour to churn up a batch of ice cream and we have a lot of fun with it. You should see the smile on kids’ faces when they see it operate.”
With tables set in a driveway, shrimp steaming, and homemade peach ice cream waiting, Tim and his friend Baxley Smys presided over a cookout that gave them and guests the greatest of enjoyment. The guests smiled and toasted the meal, returned for seconds, and eagerly awaited the output of the strange-looking machine, made before they were born-an unforgettable dessert.
Next time you have a party, you’ll get rave reviews if you find a way to accent the evening with a 1927 John Deere ice cream maker. Especially if Tim Nixon is your caterer.
Loran Smith is affiliated with the University of Georgia and can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com.