Call this just a weird coincidence, but I happened upon an article in the Houston Chronicle that listed the best 10 burger joints in the US. And coming in at 10 was “Feltner’s Whatta-burger” in Russellville, Ark. I followed it to a local link.
I went to school there (Arkansas Tech University) and I worked for Bob Feltner in what was then known only as “The Whatta-burger” (methinks somewhere later on there must have been some sort of legal thing with big burger chain named Whattaburger that caused Bob to stick his last name in front of it).
The honor of being among the best 10 doesn’t surprise me, nor could it go to a more deserving person/family. Here’s the story:
Feltner’s Whatta-Burger in Russellville rounded out the Houston Chronicle’s top ten list of legendary burger joints this year.
"Well, it doesn’t surprise me. They do have great burgers," said Tim Macks, a customer from Fayetteville.
The restaurant opened its doors for the first time back in 1967. It started with a dream. "This used to be a dirt road out here. He sat in a lawn chair, counted cars, came home and said I’m going to open up a burger place and we thought he was crazy," said Missy Ellis, an owner.
Ellis now owns the restaurant her father started when she was just a child. She said, "To be chosen as one of the top 10, that is just unbelievable and I know he’s looking down from Heaven saying way to go."
If it is not fresh, it is not served. Food is not frozen at Whatta-Burger.
Even the pickiest eaters can find something they like and in big portions. "Our large fry is a good pound of fries, so you have to be starving to eat one of those by yourself," said Mandy Simons, general manager.
Eaters from Fayetteville, Fort Smith, and even Tulsa make their way to Russellville for a bite of the Whatta-Burger. "We always make it a point to stop here anytime we’re close," said Alan Young, of Tulsa, "We’ve been looking forward to it for two or three weeks."
A better person or a finer boss than Bob Feltner can’t be found (and I’m far from the only one who would say that). We were a college town and he located his place right on the border of the campus. You could walk there, and most did. Bob supported the college and the kids who went there.
And he hired as many as he could to work there, usually over staffing the place. His way of helping those of us who usually didn’t have two pennies to rub against each other. He also extended credit. Seriously. His system was to write it on a wooden ice cream spoon and keep the spoons in the cash drawer. I used to work behind the counter and it wasn’t at all uncommon to hear a student say “put it on my spoon”. I’d sort through, find their spoon (there were a bunch) and put the amount on there.
What was funny about it is rarely, if ever, did Bob have to collect. And when he did, he’s ask someone who was a friend of the person who owed more than he should to mention it to him. That was it. That was the sum of his collection effort. What he did was appreciated and students showed up constantly to pay on or pay off their “spoon”. I don’t think he was stiffed very often.
There was one thing Bob wouldn’t do – he wouldn’t put anything out that wasn’t fresh. None of the hamburger was frozen – it was all fresh. The vegies were cut up the night before (a friend used to do it and said he seemed to always smell like onions). The fries and the like were frozen, but none of the meat. It was the primary rule of the house – if it isn’t fresh or doesn’t look fresh it doesn’t go on a burger. And if you weren’t sure, it didn’t go on a burger.
I could sing this man’s praises forever. He was just a great person. He remembered everyone’s name, greeted them like an old lost friend and made you want to come back. The fact that his food was great was a bonus. When I first worked there (not long after he opened) it was a walk-in or walk up place. No seating for dining. Strictly to go. Over the years, Bob has added on and now it has a pretty good sized dining area.
Of course all of this reminds me of a story where my roommate and I got caught up in a Cool Hand Luke moment and bet someone we could eat 20 regular hamburgers at Whattaburger. I think alcohol was involved. The bet was if we did so, the other guys would pay for them but if we didn’t we had to pay for them. Well, neither of us could afford 20 hamburgers, but we figured we could eat them.
Over we went and Bob got into the fun of it and got the burgers ready. Well, I’m ashamed to say, I made it through 6 or maybe 7. I figured we were doomed. But my roomie scarfed down his 10 and the rest of mine. We won the bet, barely, in the time allotted. Me? I became a footnote in Whattaburger history, but my roomie, Denny, became “champ”. Every time Denny went in the place, Bob would yell out, “what it’ll be, Champ?”
Loved the place, loved the man, loved the whole family.
If you are ever anywhere near Russellville, Arkansas, do yourself a favor and hunt down Feltner’s Whattaburger. Missy Ellis, mentioned in the article, is Bob’s daughter (and worked at the Whattaburger with us). Tell her I said “hi” and enjoy a great burger in Bob’s memory.
Welcome to 2011.
For those of you who never thought you’d make it this far, I know the feeling – but here we are.
A quick note of thanks to the loyal QandO readers. We rolled past 7,000,000 visitors this last year (that’s a little over a million for each year we’ve been online) and we’re about roll past 11,000,000 page views according to Sitemeter. Our server stats give us much higher numbers, but since Sitemeter is a common to many sites we’ll just mention the numbers it gives.
Although writing for QandO is a lot of fun, I really enjoy the comments and I especially enjoy our loyal band of commenters. It is an excellent community and part of what makes the blog popular. You make my day many times and I appreciate both the fact that you comment frequently and, for the most part, leave well reasoned and many times humorous takes on the posts/topics of the day.
2011 promises to be an interesting year both politically and personally. New opportunities on both horizons make the year promising, at least on the first day. We’ll see how it pans out.
So, here’s hoping you, your family and other loved ones have a great and prosperous New Year in 2011. And again, thanks for reading QandO.
Light blogging for the next few days. This time of the year is very light in blog readership anyway, as everyone turns to family during the Christmas season. And frankly, I need a break from the clowns in DC.
Speaking of family though, two of my nieces have been busy this year. A little bragging is called for.
One, Delanna Studi, finished up a nationwide tour with the Broadway show, “August in Osage County”.
And another, Amy Weaver, is featured in a Sears commercial and, as you’ll see, does an outstanding job. Remember: cranberries:
I’ll be out for a few days. Going in to get my shoulder “scoped” today. It’s an old injury from my “jumping out of perfectly good airplanes and landing in trees” days that has finally gotten so bad (and painful) that I’ve got to do something about it. I can actually say I’m looking forward to this surgery with some modicum of truth.
Been through it before (the other shoulder about 12 years ago) so I know the routine. The surgery isn’t such a big deal but the therapy is a b*tch.
Anyway I’ll be off of here for a few days and hopefully back on Monday (sooner if possible).
Unless they give me some really good drugs.
(UPDATE) Not so bad. Good drugs, but typing with one hand is a b*tch.
I arrived at Ft. Stewart’s Cottrell Field a few hours early – it was a long drive from Atlanta and I wanted to make sure I got there with plenty of time to spare. I was the only one in the parking lot as I pulled in, grateful for the opportunity to rest a bit before the ceremony. My son’s unit was coming home from Afghanistan and in a few short hours I’d actually get to see him, put my hands on him and rest assured that he was home and well.
As I sat there thinking about the upcoming event, my eyes wandered to two rows of small trees lining Cottrell Field at either end and what appeared to be markers at their base. Curious, and needing to stretch after the long ride, I walked toward them. It was a beautiful hot August Georgia day with a slight breeze, enough to keep the heat from being oppressive and the gnats at bay.
Walking toward the trees I noticed a walkway with two brick pillars. On the pillars were brass plaques, one announcing this was “Warrior’s Walk” and the other explaining it was a memorial to the soldiers lost in Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom. My heart caught in my throat as I looked down the long double row of trees and I thought, “there but by the grace of God …”.
Understanding the joy I would soon experience with my son’s homecoming, I felt an obligation to at least share some of the pain the families of the fallen must have endured when they found out that their loved one would never walk across Cottrell Field and back into their lives. I walked “Warrior’s Walk”.
If anyone can manage to do so with a dry eye, they’re a better person than I am. Each tree has a marble marker with the soldier’s name and rank. Each includes a metal flag representing the unit with which he served. But the most poignant items were those which families and fellow soldiers had placed under each tree. Lovingly left and carefully preserved, these mementoes tear at your heart and remind you of the lost love they represent. Many families had put wind chimes in the trees. Walking alone along the walk with the breeze gently stirring these chimes gave the walk an eerie almost otherworldly effect, strangely welcoming and embracing a visitor.
I finished my walk, sobered by the sacrifice of so many young lives. It was almost time for the ceremony and my son’s wife and my 4 grandsons, who had traveled earlier that morning to attend some classes at Ft. Stewart, had arrived. We all moved into the stands and waited for my son’s unit to arrive. The excitement was palpable. It continued to build as the time neared and more and more families arrived.
We were given updates – “they’ve just landed; they’re loading the busses; they’re enroute; they’re 10 minutes out” – and each update drove the anticipation up another notch.
Finally the busses were spotted and the gathered crowd went wild in a frenzy of cheering and clapping. Looking around it was a sea of smiles.
The unit unloaded behind a screen of trees at the far end of the field, shielding them from our view and then, dramatically, emerged from the tree line and marched in formation toward the stands. The gathered families cheered as they approached, some with tears streaming down their cheeks. Young children waved flags and signs they had lovingly made, all the while looking for their daddy.
The Colonel assigned the unenviable task of officially welcoming them home knew his duty and limited his remarks to about 2 minutes. At the conclusion, the PA announcer barely got, “and this concludes the formal portion of our ceremony”, out of his mouth before the crowd in the stands broke toward the formation. If the scene was pure pandemonium, it was the happiest example I’ve ever witnessed.
As our family pushed into the throng, we searched for my son. Finally, the crowd parted and there he was. He looked hale, hearty and happy. He looked good. We all tried to get to him at once, but everyone enjoyed a great big hug before it was over. My youngest grandson, age 6, had tears streaming down his cheeks and dripping off his chin as he wrapped his dad up in an embrace that he seemed not to want let go. More hugs, more smiles, more looking him up and down to ensure he was okay – that he was really here.
Finally, we began to walk off the field, and as I walked behind him and his son’s I smiled at the picture they made – the soldier holding the hands of two of his sons as we headed toward the cars. It was then that I heard that ghostly sound on the wind, the faint sound of wind chimes. A chill went down my back as I glanced back toward the double row of trees. It was as if those along Warrior’s Walk were welcoming him home too.
I have a full ride report of my test ride of the Ducati Multistrada 1200 S at the other place, for those of you who are interested in that sort of thing. Key take-away: This bike is wicked fast, and is about one of the best all-rounders I’ve ever ridden.
It is the annual Hiroshima remembrance in Japan and the usual cries of "outrage" and demands for an “apology” fill the air.
My father fought against the Japanese in WWII on Saipan, Leyte and Okinawa. I have studied the war in detail. I’ve been particularly interested in the planned invasion of Japan.
Okinawa was the first indicator of what that would have been like – it was and is considered a Japanese “home island”. My father was slated to be with the first wave of divisons landing on Kyushu. The technical description of their anticipated condition after a day or so was “combat ineffective”. That means those initial divisions would have been destroyed and unable to continue to fight.
The assumed number of casualties for that first big fight – and it wasn’t even on the main island – was about a million men on both sides. Don’t forget that they had a regular army home defense force of well over a million men and a home defense militia of 14 million. They had with held thousands of kamakazi aircraft and boats back for the expected invasion. And they planned to make a last stand and take as many invaders as possible with them.
Remember also how the territories the Japanese conquered were treated. Korean women forced into prostitution as “comfort women”. The rape of Nanking. Babies tossed around on bayonets.
So when I read things like this –
Moments before the atomic bomb was dropped, my mother’s friend happened to seek shelter from the bright summer sunlight in the shadow of a sturdy brick wall, and she watched from there as two children who had been playing out in the open were vaporized in the blink of an eye. “I just felt outraged,” she told my mother, weeping.
– I had difficulty summoning any outrage myself. The Japanese people supported the war, cheered the victories and reveled in the spoils it brought. They were brutal and murderous conquerers. And they refused to surrender.
After the first bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, the Japanese war cabinet of 6 split in their vote, refusing to surrender. After Nagasaki, they still refused to surrender until, in an unprecedented move, the Emperor intervened and essentially ordered them to do so.
If those who survived the atomic bombings at Hiroshima feel “outrage”, they should look in the mirror. They enabled and supported a regime that “outraged” the world. They cheered and shared in the spoils of a war they started which devastated much of Asia. They supported a brutal, murderous and criminal militaristic war machine that raped and murdered at will. If anyone should be “outraged”, it is those who suffered under the horrific but thankfully short Japanese rule of that time. If anyone should be apologizing yearly, it is the Japanese.
UPDATE: Richard Fernandez also discusses the subject.
One of the reasons I’m highlighting this is I’ve been invited to write for the site and will be doing so.
It’s Andrew Breitbart’s latest website in his “Big” genre. Big Government, Big Hollywood, Big Journalism and now Big Peace. The focus will be on national security topics and it has an impressive collection of editors to include Peter Schweizer of the Hoover Institute, Frank Gaffney, founder and president of the Center for Security Policy and Jim Hanson of BlackFive.
It should be an interesting experience. And the 4th of July seemed to be an appropriate launch date – wouldn’t you say?
I’ve also started contributing to the Washington Examiner (as has MichaelW) as a paid blogger (hey, the best kind, no) with opinion pieces and QandO blog reposts.
Anyway, that’s the story – give Big Peace a chance.
Sorry, couldn’t resist it.
Happy Independence Day – relatively speaking.
I’m proud to be able to say my dad was my hero. I was fortunate enough to have him around for 46 years. He died at age 78.
He was a good, decent, honorable man who did his best to teach his 3 sons what they needed to know to be men of honor. He was that. His word was his bond and a handshake was all you ever needed from him to know you had an irrevocable contract with him.
He was a 36 year career Army man. He joined as a private, worked his way up to the highest Non-commissioned officer rank and then went to Officer Candidate School. He rose to the rank of Colonel. He used to joke that he’d held every rank but warrant officer and general officer.
He was a cavalry officer – recon in those days. He always ragged me about being a grunt and loved the ground his only grandson walked on because he too had become a cavalryman.
There are things you remember about your dad. His sense of humor. He loved a good joke. His self-discipline. He always suffered bad health – he’d lost a lung in WWII, had emphysema and asthma. But he never let it stop him. Never. And when the doctors would tell him he had to do something, he did it, without fail and consistently.
He did everything else in his life the same way. Having to deal with those sorts of health problems and still try to maintain a career in the Army in combat arms wasn’t easy. But he did it.
He used to tell us, “you live between your ears”. We knew what he meant, and I can’t tell you how many times those 5 words have come back to me as I face some difficulty or daunting problem. Once you realize where you “live” life isn’t at all as tough as it could be.
He also used to tell us that honor could be summed up by “doing the right thing, even when no one is looking”. He said, that’s what honorable men always do. He was right.
He wanted what was best for his boys. He was a disciplinarian of the first degree and none of the 3 of us are worse for wear because of it. In fact, with a good moral grounding and him as an example, I think we all were given the basics in life which gave us a chance to be what our dad was – a good man.
Of course my mom was involved in all of this as well, but this is Father’s Day, and I wanted to honor him. I’m 62, a grandfather and I still miss my dad. I’d give anything for a couple of hours just to show him his grandson and his 4 great-gransons (he never got to see any of them). He’d love that.
So give your dad a hug today and tell him how much he means to you. Some day you’ll be glad you did.
Happy Father’s Day.
I keep this photo as probably the most powerful reminder for me of what the real price of freedom looks like. Those that give their all as well as those they leave behind. We should remember both as we celebrate the freedom they’ve blessed us with and assured for us on this Memorial Day.
Dedicated to Stuart Lee Barnett, SP4, KIA, RVN, 8/26/1970. Thank you Barney – rest in peace, my friend.