CORNING, Ark. — When Linden Massey (aka “The Crazy Pitmaster”), owner of Harold’s Bar-B-Que, put out a request on Facebook on March 25, asking the community to supply a few hamburger buns to help keep his business afloat during the COVID-19 crisis, he never expected the response he received.
“I received a mountain of hamburger buns,” Massey said.
He said once he received the buns, he decided to return the favor by giving out sandwiches to passing truck drivers. On the first day, he and his staff started by making 10 sandwiches at a time to give away. As news spread of the restaurant’s free lunch for trucker’s they soon broke the 100 mark, and by April 22 the crew had given out more than 1,100 lunches.
“I probably give out 120 sandwiches a day, weather permitting. If I had the means, I would give out 500,” Massey said. “It is a community effort. I have to thank the community as much as I can. It is one of those things where I had to do something, and the community is behind me. I’m just the delivery boy.”
Massey said he has received several donations since his plea for help. The local Wonder Bread bakery sent sandwich buns, and Frito Lay provided 18 boxes of snack-size bags of chips. He said he also received cupcakes from another donor, along with packages of snack cakes from Little Debbie.
“I am just overwhelmed. It has been absolutely mind-boggling,” Massey said. “I have many people pick up buns and help me if I can. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would get the response I would. They have come out of the woodwork.”
He said one elderly woman and her daughter pulled into the drive-thru and dropped off a package of hamburger buns, and another young customer handed him $3 to donate to the restaurant’s effort.
“That just gets you in the heart,” Massey said. “That’s just what America is all about. It has been amazing, this small town of 3,000 people, helping each other.”
Massey is a retired truck driver himself, having driven for Associated Wholesale Grocers. He said whenever he delivered supplies to a town that had been hit by a tornado or a snowstorm, he noticed the residents had nowhere to go for basic necessities.
“To be able to hand out something, it is not much, but we want these truckers to remember this little town,” Massey said. “We have received thank-you notes and text messages, and (drivers have been) telling other truck-driving buddies that there is some guy standing in the middle of the highway handing out BBQ sandwiches and apple pies.”
When handing out meals to truck drivers, Massey said he stands by the road, holding several bags in his arms and holding one bag up in the air. The restaurant is located at the intersection of U.S. 62 and U.S. 67. Massey said because there is a stop light at the intersection, passing traffic is not going very fast.
“A lot of times, if I see the driver’s window go down, I will go up and hand it to them,” he said. “I usually try to look for trucks with sleeper cabs or someone from out of town, because usually they are working the hardest.
“Nothing against any local drivers, but these out-of-state drivers are trying to find places to park and sleep, get a good meal or get a shower,” he continued. “A local guy can get in his bed and be with his family.”
Massey, who has owned the restaurant for three years, said he has been able to keep the business open due to his drive-thru window and walk-in orders.
“I think one of the most warming things that happened has been the words of encouragement I have received. It just builds me up,” Massey said.
Sam Pierce has been a journalist for more than a decade and has written for several publications including The Trucker, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, and Living Our Faith magazine. He enjoys spending time with his family including his two daughters. They like to watch movies, read books and build LEGO sets.