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What goes Around - Comes Around!

It was almost 40 years ago when Allan Detrich walked through the door of the Advertiser-Tribune. We were both barely out of our teens. He was a hot shot photographer and I was a feature writer. It didn’t take long for us to become fast friends, and because of our age, we were sometimes referred to as “The Babies” by the older staff members.

We were more like free spirits. Allan and I had a rare professional chemistry from the get-go. One generally knew what the other was thinking, which worked well for collaborating on even the most difficult story. When a story was serious, or even tragic, we were all business, presenting the facts from all angles.

But when it came to those “puff” pieces, turning the two of us loose on an assignment was a brave decision by our editor.

Allan and I had a tendency to make each other laugh at the most inopportune times, kind of like Harvey Korman and Tim Conway on The Carol Burnett Show. There were those interviews when we knew we couldn’t make eye contact or the entire exchange stood the chance of going off the rails. Take, for example, the time we decided to get up close and personal with the star of a county fair sideshow act. As I began to have a perfectly serious conversation with the man about the science involved in pounding a spike up his nose, I caught a glimpse of Allan standing behind the guy. He was bent over laughing.

At that moment I felt tears begin to well up in my eyes as I tried to stifle a guffaw. Oh, it would have been a big one. If memory serves, in an effort to escape total humiliation for everyone involved, I faked a coughing jag until I could regain some semblance of composure.

Before long, Allan moved on. We both got married (to other people, of course), had kids, got divorced, and eventually Allan got married again. His wife of 25 years is an awesome human being. Through the decades our paths would cross sporadically. I wrote a couple pieces for his magazine in the ‘90s. More recently, he did the entire layout for my book about the demolition of the Seneca County Courthouse.

We always talked about wanting to work together again. We thought it would be in the journalistic realm. But we got busy with other projects. Allan is a serious storm chaser (he took the TIME Magazine cover photo of the Tiffin tornado in 2002). He also earned esteem as a two-time runner up for the Pulitzer Prize in photojournalism. I became an author of 10 local history books.

A few years ago, I was honored to get the nod to edit Allan’s book BBQ Culture in America, after he traveled the country learning the art of BBQ from the best pitmasters in the world. He learned well, very well.

In the meantime, I was back home researching and refining the Haunted Tiffin Ghost Walks with our team of paranormal experts and psychics.

Did I mention something about the free spirit thing?

Several years ago, my son proposed turning the family farm into a ranch. Grant knew there was one requirement: I had to do the food. Having a food trailer was always my dream. I love to cook great food and I love to feed the masses.

Enter Allan, who, by the way, harbored the exact same passion.

From that day, Rocket Donkey Diner featuring Meatwagon BBQ became a venture that brought two longtime friends full circle. Allan’s exclusive BBQ, exceptional one-of-a-kind sauces and his unparalleled coleslaw make the perfect complement to my homemade burgers, my mom’s mac n cheese and our other mouth-watering cuisine.

The best part? We may be older now, but we continue to do things our way – still laughing like two unsupervised 5-year-olds running amok. That’s what life is all about.

- Lisa Swickard, Owner of Rocket Donkey Diner

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