The Meat Seller and His Dog
I send my four children a letter each month which includes a personal story from my days in the military. This is one of those stories.
Army Story for October 2016
Once when I was training in Panama, my unit got a weekend off. A couple of my buddies and I went to downtown Panama City, Panama on a hot Friday night. While we were wandering around doing nothing in particular, I noticed a street vendor cooking over an open flame on a cart with his faithful dog lying on the sidewalk by his side. The setup sort of reminded me of some hot dog vendors I’d seen on American streets. The only difference was that this vendor’s cart had some type of grill on it where he was cooking meat skewered on small sticks. The sticks and meat reminded me of steak kabobs I’d seen cooked back home.
It had been a while since my buddies and I had eaten, and the aroma from the vendor’s cart smelled really good, so we moseyed over to have a looksee. Now at the tender-young age of nineteen, I was naive in the ways of the world. I was already fumbling in my pocket for some money to buy something to quell my rumbling stomach before we got halfway to the vendor.
Fortunately, one of my buddies was more experienced than I, and before I got a chance to order anything, he asked the vendor, “What kind of meat is it?” Sounding a little suspicious, he added, “Is it dog?”
I think my buddy probably meant it as a joke, but the street vendor apparently took it as an insult, because he got a little red-faced and shouted for all to hear in broken English, “No! No is dog. Is goat. Is goat.”
Well, hungry like we were, my buddies and I ordered a kabob each and paid the vendor as he handed us a stick with steaming barbequed meat on it. Now, I’d never had goat before, but you know what? It was absolutely delicious. As I remember it, we all pretty much devoured our kabobs and were licking the sticks clean before we got out of sight of the street vendor and his old dog.
The rest of the night was uneventful, and we returned to our training barracks none the worse for the wear.
Well, the next day was Saturday, and we had no training scheduled. With nothing else to do, we went back to downtown Panama City that very evening. After bumming around the streets for a couple of hours, I saw our old street vendor from the night before cooking his kabobs across the street on his cart. Remembering how good the kabobs were from the previous night, I started to take a step in the vendor’s direction. One of my buddies, the experienced one, immediately put his hand on my shoulder and stopped me.
“Ah, Rodney,” he said. “I don’t think you want another kabob tonight. Trust me.”
Confused, I asked, “Why not? It was delicious.”
My buddy gave a wise smile and said, “Take a closer look at that guy. What’s missing?”
I looked closer, and then it came to me. The street vendor’s dog was missing. Hmm? Now I’m not making any accusations or anything, but since one plus one sometimes equals two, I decided I wasn’t quite as hungry as I thought I was after all. Needless to say, I didn’t buy another meat kabob that night or any other the rest of my time in Panama.
Moral of the Story – When you’re getting ready to make a decision, it’s usually best to gather all the pertinent information and to seek out the wisdom of more experienced people before you commit to your decision. Once the kabob’s in your stomach (or whatever your decision entails), it’s too late for buyer’s remorse. You’re stuck with the consequences. The best time to get out of trouble is before you get into it in the first place.
Now for all I know, even after forty years that old street vendor or one of his heirs is still there selling meat kabobs on the same street corner to this day. And…, it could well be that the kabob he’s trying to sell you is well-marinated goat meat. But before you let the fragrant aroma of the barbequed meat overcome your better judgment, do yourself a favor. Make sure the street vendor’s dog is still there by his side. Bon appetite.