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Do you want to know a secret? Here’s the rub on Smokey Rumps

By Jessica Farrish

The Register-Herald of Beckley

OAK HILL, W.Va. — There aren’t many secrets in a small town. A spicy tale is apt to smolder like hickory along Main Street, smoke its way through a church choir and burn like wildfire through the local teachers’ lounge – all by lunchtime.

In Oak Hill, Smokey Rumps owner Bret Floyd has the spiciest, juiciest secret in town.

Since June, Floyd – an Oak Hill High School teacher who is also the youth director at Oak Hill Baptist Church – has been serving up barbecue from the red caboose, now home to Smokey Rumps, on the Rails to Trails.

It’s no cloak-and-dagger that Floyd knows how to barbecue meat. Any Smokey Rumps customer can tell that story.

The secret is the “rub” and vice versa.

Floyd uses a top-secret, special mix of spices to flavor his brisket, pork butt, baby back ribs and chicken into mouth-watering barbecue that has gained a following in his hometown.

“Everything’s a secret,” he said recently. “Nobody knows what I put in it.

“I always have (employees) to ask, ‘If you teach me how to do it, it will help you out more,’” said Floyd. “I say, ‘No, that’s OK.’

“They can sell it, but they don’t get to make it.

“The only thing I ever let them do? One time my mom had emergency surgery,” he said. “I had to Facetime one of my employees how to do the chicken.

“But the smoked pork butt and brisket and stuff like that, nobody knows how to do it. It’s a secret.

“I do let them do the sides sometimes,” he added.

Served alongside Coke and Pepsi drinks, root beer and sweet iced tea, the sides at Smokey Rumps are just what a barbecue lover would want on a menu: creamy macaroni and cheese, crisp cole slaw, flavorful green beans and homemade potato salad. Sometimes, there are fries. (Floyd says a barbecue platter doesn’t necessarily need fries, but Smokey Rumps can serve them.)

The main course, though, is the meat. At Smokey Rumps, it is served with a sweet barbecue sauce on request. Make no mistake, though. The secret to Smokey Rumps’ success is not in the sauce.

“When I make my pork butt, most of the people I know don’t even want sauce, because, believe it or not, you don’t even need sauce on it,” he said. “A lot of times, especially my buddies, they’re like, ‘We don’t want sauce because it’s good enough without it.’”

The confidential spice rub is vital, but the smoking process is where it all starts. Floyd keeps his smoke operations from every other soul in town.

“The brisket and the pork are usually smoked well over 10 hours, slow and low,” he said. “Ribs are smoked for a good, long while, too, but not that long.

“There’s a mixture of wood I use, too,” Floyd said. “I’ll list on the restaurant what I smoke with, but I might actually have a mixture of wood.”

Wood types flavor the meat in unique ways, he explained. Mesquite gives the meat a bold, Texas-style flavor. It’s good for brisket, while hickory or a slightly bolder wood like apple or cherry works better for smoking flavor into chicken, fish and pork. Pecan wood is good for nearly any meat, he said.

“Sometimes I may mix three types of wood in one batch when I smoke it,” Floyd reported. “Usually, you can tell what the overall, main wood is, but I don’t care to share that stuff.”

At Smokey Rumps, Floyd can smoke it all, including turkey, ham and kielbasa at Thanksgiving.

“Basically, any kind of meat there is, I smoke it,” Floyd said Tuesday. “I even smoke prime rib.

“The best way to do prime rib is to smoke it,” he added. “When you smoke it, it puts that smoke flavoring in it. I won’t eat it any other way now.”

His appreciation of food and cooking started when he was younger.

Floyd reported that his mother had owned a pizza restaurant in town when he was growing up, and she taught him to cook. As he got older and visited towns in the southern United States, he was drawn to the locally-owned BBQ pits, preferring the family-run operations to the chain restaurants.

Around 15 years ago, he began working on his personal BBQ recipe. As he “practiced the craft” and fed family and friends, garnering positive feedback at gatherings, he decided to open a BBQ pit similar to the ones he’d seen while on vacation. The empty Whistle Stop location on the Rails to Trails caught his eye, and the owner gave permission for Floyd to move Smokey Rumps into the red caboose.

While “Smokey Rumps” has caught on nicely, the business name wasn’t his first choice. Floyd settled on “Smokey Rumps” after his wife told him that his first suggestion –– “Rubbin’ Butts BBQ” –– wasn’t the most appropriate designation for a youth minister’s place.

He said public response to Smokey Rumps has been positive, and business has exceeded his expectations. He is happy with the pit-style service he currently offers but said he would consider going to a sit-down restaurant if the right opportunity comes.

“I still teach and have a family of four kids,” Floyd explained. “So there’s a fine line between getting too big and not big enough.”

Floyd supports local businesses at home and when he travels. He encouraged fellow Oak Hill consumers to buy locally when possible.

“I love my hometown, and I believe in small, local business,” Floyd explained. “What if we all went a whole week or two and just went to local businesses and ate or shopped local, instead of hitting all the big chains? (Consider the) difference that would make in your town, the money that goes into your town, the taxes that go back into the city.”

Smokey Rumps is open Monday through Saturday from 3:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

Once school starts, open hours will be 3:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. on the weekend.

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