Bob Miller was cooking pork ribs last Saturday in what practically used to be his backyard. The former Wadena resident grew up on the northwest side of town.
As Miller operated his cooker in the third annual Pig and Wing Challenge at Elks Lodge, he reminisced about his younger days.
"This area was part of a big yard for Merickel Lumber Mill," Miller said as he looked around the Elks Lodge parking lot.
Miller graduated from Wadena High School in 1961 and went on to become a teacher, then a principal in the St. Paul school district. He also worked for the state of Minnesota, setting up "Magnet" Schools, which were public schools with specialized courses aimed at remedying racial segregation.
After retiring, Miller took a digital photography class and began making travel books. He lives on Marion Lake in Otter Tail County with his wife, Mary Jo, during the summer. The Millers spend their winters in Alabama.
In addition to photography, Miller operates Big Bob's Smoky Bones and makes
Miller does not get to Wadena much anymore, but he has cooked the meal for the Class of 1961's annual reunions for the past seven years. He will do so again in September at Barb and Gary Kane's home, north of Wadena on Highway 71.
Miller is very proud of his cooker, which was designed by two technical college instructors from Georgia. It has helped him operate his business for 10 years and allowed him to cook for groups of 400-500.
Additionally, Miller can cook two dozen 7-9 pound pork shoulders in his Lang cooker. These he turns into pulled pork sandwiches.
Pork ribs are another story.
"You've got to cook them slow and low," Miller said. "Slow means you have to cook them for about six hours and low means your temperature is at 210 to 225 (degrees)."
Miller enjoys his work.
"The hardest part is to try and get the people to do what they do in the south," Miller laughed. "They come four to five hours early to talk. In Minnesota they want to know when you are going to serve and then they come."