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Register for the 1st Annual NWI & I-65 Interstate Chili Cook-off Here.

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Their Story

Work Hard. Play Hard. Make Great Chili.

You’ll love the taste of our chili as much as you will enjoy some of the stories on how these mens-men lived their lives. To put a moral to their stories, do the very best you can for your family, friends and others and simply enjoy life.
The Main Chili Players
Uncle Ralph - Man's Man Chili™
Uncle Ralph

A kind man with no family of his own, Uncle Ralph was unofficially adopted by some of the guys into their households. Too old to help with any physical labor during the construction Uncle Ralph was designated as the lodge’s first cook and he maintained a campsite kitchen for the builders. His outdoor kitchen consisted of a few kerosene lamps, coolers, a grill and a campfire for cooking on, and a galvanized steel trash can for washing dishes and doing some laundry in. As the story goes, one weekend the guys who showed up to work on the Lodge found that someone from the prior weekend had taken all the pots and cooking utensils home for cleaning. As Murphy’s Law would have it, the cooking supplies didn’t make it back with the guys and Uncle Ralph had to use whatever he could find to cook with. Having lived through the Great Depression ol’ Uncle Ralph used his life experience and ingenuity to find a simple solution suitable for a bunch of roughnecks. He washed out the trash can lid and turned it upside down and used it as a skillet. Thanks to Uncle Ralph the work crew were fed hot meals all weekend. From bacon, eggs and fried potatoes to hamburgers and steaks, everything was cooked on that upside down metal lid with Uncle Ralph using a mason’s trowel as a spatula. Out of respect to the old timer all the guys told Ralph that they never ate so good.

Big Butch - Man's Man Chili™
Big Butch

They didn’t call him Big Butch for nothing! A Union Electrician by trade, Big Butch was also an experienced pipe fitter and well-man. Large in stature, Big Butch was a true gentle giant. That is until you got him mad. In the little town of Lowell perched next to a steep creek with flowing water was one of the guy’s regular stops, the Sidetrack Saloon. As the story goes, sometime back in the late 60’s Big Butch was playing pool when a large Ironworker looking for trouble intentionally bumped Big Butch’s cue stick when he was taking his shot. Butch politely asked the guy not to mess with him while he was shooting and the Ironworker immediately did it a second time. Getting aggravated, Big Butch told the man, “Hey, don’t be messing around with me when I’m shooting.” The Ironworker tapped the back of the cue a third time and Big Butch warned, “Listen, I asked you nicely and I’m not going to tell you again. Don’t mess with me when I’m playing pool!” The Ironworker didn’t listen and tapped the cue stick for the fourth and final time and that’s when you could say the big electrician “blew a fuse”. Directing his anger at what was in front of him, Big Butch slammed (some said threw) the pool table through the cinder block wall, creating a huge opening to the outside. Big Butch then threw the Ironworker out of the hole and into the creek below. When the big Ironworker landed in the creek he was semi unconscious and patrons said they had to run down and pull the guy out of the water to keep him from drowning. Big Butch had to pay for the pool table and repairs to the wall and needless to say that after that no one ever messed with Big Butch down at the ol’ Side Track ever again.

Pug - Man's Man Chili™
Pug

During WWII he lied about his age to join the US Navy at 16 and fought against the Imperial Japanese Navy in the South Pacific. He served aboard the USS John C. Butler DE 339 and his ship earned a Presidential Unit Citation during the battle of Samar (Leyte Gulf). After naval battles the young sailor helped retrieve desperate survivors from the sea whose ships had been abandoned or sunk in battle. After the war, Pug spent the rest of his life as a Union Carpenter and was always willing to help anyone he could and he was known for his laughter and lightheartedness. In the late 1950’s, just after a heavy snow, Pug and a carpenter buddy used spike nails and burlap to fashion makeshift animal feet to the bottom of 2X4’s. Walking out of a back door of a new house they were building, Pug’s buddy laid in the fetal position to pack the snow on the back porch. Then, using their makeshift animal tracks, they walked along in the snow punching down the foot prints and occasionally scratching up a fence post until they came to a plowed road and the tracks “disappeared”. Imaginations ran wild in the town and local’s speculated that a circus lion must have escaped from a passing train, had slept on the back porch, and was now running wild. Pug was known for his sense of humor and a lifetime of practical jokes that seemed like only he could pull off without getting his butt kicked.   

Big Doe - Man's Man Chili™
Big Doe

A machine gunner with the 101st Airborne during the time of the  Korean Conflict, Big Doe was a Union Bricklayer.  While being known for exceptional masonry skills the same could not be said about his cooking at the Lodge during its construction. As the story goes, during one of the weekends Big Doe tried his hand at making pancakes for the crew. Having borrowed a friends truck bed camper for the weekend (see below) Big Doe discovered that there wasn’t any mixing bowls in it. Adopting and overcoming to obstacles, as he learned in the Army, he simply used the small sink in the camper as the mixing bowl and he made the pancake batter directly in the sink. The pancake batter turned out to be (and taste) more like masonry cement than food. After the first bite no one finished eating the pancakes and to make matters worse, the left-over batter in the sink clogged the drain. To add insult to injury, one of the guys nailed one of the pancakes to a tree as a joke and legend has it that the pancake stayed nailed to the tree for several weeks before finally succumbing to the elements. 

First trailers and camp site as 'the hell-raisers' were building the hunting lodge in southern Indiana.
November 1965: Some of the guys break for chili at their 1st annual weekend of deer hunting, poker and shenanigans.