Back in the wild, wild west, people had to deal with wagon thieves and sneaky neighbors out to steal cattle or horses. These days, the modern felon has evolved to barbecue pit theft.
On Sunday around 4 p.m., a surveillance camera outside Melange Catering caught what appears to be a man in a blue or green suburban cutting the lock on the gate around the barbecue pit, hitching the pit to the back of the SUV, then driving off, pit in tow.
This barbecue pit theft comes less than a month after the theft of Ronnie Killen's pit in Pearland. That pit was recovered after an anonymous tip. Killen's also had 15 pounds of brisket stolen June.
It seems that in the Texas badlands (aka Houston) where bandits once made off with 15 cattle, they're now settling for the already cooked meat or the means by which to cook it themselves. Because really, a whole cow is way too much trouble. Melange's huge pit is about covered wagon-sized though, so maybe things haven't changed too much.
Harold Kelly, director of sales and marketing for Melange Catering, told us that as soon as he arrived Monday morning, he knew something was wrong.
He saw that the gate had been propped open, which he notes is unusual, and then he noticed the $10,000 custom pit was missing. He immediately checked the surveillance footage, which confused him even more. He saw his 20-foot-long (highly conspicuous) pit being towed out the gate.
"I was like, where the hell are you going to take this thing?" Kelly says. "You can't just pull up at your friend's house and say, 'Hey, I brought it the pit!'"
Kelly and his coworkers surmise that the thieves might be intending to break the pit down for scrap metal, but Kelly says doing so would be incredibly difficult due to all of the custom add-ons to the pit.
Fortunately, the next official event where the pit is scheduled to be used is Beat the Hell Out of Melanoma in November, so if the pit isn't recovered, Melange will have time to make other plans. Still, Kelly notes that Melange often lends out the pit for other cancer fundraisers or brings it to Texans tailgates. It's primarily used for local charity events and fundraisers, such as the one for the first responders of the explosion in West Texas. In fact, the police officer who responded to the initial call about the theft realized he had been at the first responders event with the pit and increased his efforts to aid in its recovery.
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"We've had a lot of people call and say that we can use their pit or offer to give us meat," Kelly says. "There's been a lot of goodwill. But really, we need the pit. We could cook meat here and take it somewhere, but part of the whole appeal of a barbecue is you go out there and it's cooked in front of you. That's why we invested so much money in it."
Kelly is hoping the media attention will help bring the pit back, even if the people who stole it aren't brought to justice.
"Right now, we're really hoping that we're going to get some miracle...that it'll just be here. We're like, hey, just bring it back!"
If you happen to see a 20-foot barbecue pit in your neighbor's driveway that wasn't there a few days ago, email Harold Kelly at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 713-869-0066 and ask for him.