Summer heat and humidity in Kansas City is giving way to the aromas of fresh pecan pies, meat fires and kettles of cinnamon/brown sugar-laced applesauce. Pumpkins, ornamental squash, mums, aster and sunflowers signal a transition to red, orange and yellow fall foliage.
Beerfests, Renaissance Festival, chili suppers, hayrides, hoedowns, throwdowns, barktoberfests, World Series baseball, high school, college and Chiefs football, political campaigns, Halloween and the American Royal World Series of Barbecue round out the month.
This year a new goblin entered the Chow Town Halloween scene: a mutant teenage Tennessee Wyooter (pronounced “Wooter”). Facts about the Tennessee Wyooter are scarce. Wyooter stories, myths and legends are entertaining, but not credible.
Some believe the Wyooter claimed Lynchburg as home base after finding and liking the cave spring water on property owned by Jack Daniel. They say that when Jack Daniel started making Tennessee whiskey with that cave spring water, the Wyooter sneaked a midnight sip and liked it so much that it let out a “Hoot!” loud enough to startle everyone in a 50-mile radius.
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Since the “Wyooter Vibe,” as some call it, was allegedly first felt in Lynchburg on May 9, 1865, at the end of the Civil War, some believe that the Wyooter is a mutant spirit of Union dead on a mission to scare and harass Confederate loyalists.
A popular story features Lem Hopkins and his hound dog, Lightnin’. They were possum hunting one night near Lynchburg. Lightnin’ started barking at the silhouette of a large hairy beast. Its yellow eyes glowed in the dark. When its hairy claw missed scooping up Lightnin,’ the beast gave out an angry roar.
Lem remembered a trick his Aunt Betty Mae taught him about Wyooters. He ran between the beast’s legs, stood behind it, and whistled for Lightnin’ to do the same. Aunt Betty Mae had told Lem that a Wyooter can’t harm you if you are behind it. The beast couldn’t turn around. “Must be a Wyooter, and I’ll bet there’s some General Sherman blood in the old hoot!” Lem remarked, alluding to General Sherman’s scorched earth march from Atlanta to Savannah.
Until now, Wyooter sightings have been limited to south central Tennessee. Kansas City barbecue may have changed that. Competition barbecue teams from Kansas City have competed every year since 1989 in the Jack Daniel’s World Championship Invitational Barbecue.
Due to a recent sighting of a teenage mutant Wyooter in metro KC, there’s a new chapter to the Wyooter legend. Speculation has it the KC Wyooter is a stowaway from one of the Jack Daniel’s Grand Champion Kansas City teams — Flower of the Flames, Smokin’ Guns, or Team Kansas City. Apparently the Kansas City Wyooter developed a hearty appetite for a steady diet of Kansas City barbecue.
Whether there’s a Wyooter in town that likes Jack Daniel’s and Kansas City barbecue, you can celebrate this tale with a traditional Wyooter Hooter cocktail and barbecue at B.B.’s Lawnside, Blind Box, RJ’s Bob-Be-Que Shack, C. Frog, Q39 and Berbiglia’s Roost. Since Doug Brobeck is a Tennessee native full of Halloween stories from the hills and hollows of East Tennessee, Brobeck’s offers a non-alcohol version of the Wyooter Hooter.
After a sip or two you may be inspired to make up your own Wyooter stories. Happy Halloween!
1 part Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey
4 parts lemon-lime soda
Splash of Grenadine
Start with an old fashioned glass. Combine and serve
Ardie A. Davis is a charter member of the Kansas City Barbeque Society and an inductee into the KCBS Hall of Flame.