Wow, what a really long and exciting day. In the end, I would say my first attempt at smoking went very well. If this was like my first at bat in the big leagues, I'd call it a double into the gap.
With a house full of hungry people, I only had the chance to snap one pic, but here it is:
The bark was so tasty and the point (sliced off on the right) was truly melt-in-your mouth wonderful. I had 12 guests, and so I diced up the burnt end into 12 little pieces and gave every one a morsel (I should have stuck with plan B- hide it for later so I could it eat all by myself). The brisket was moist and tender and had a great smoke flavor/rub flavor mix. I especially loved the smoke ring (I did that!).
My only beef with the brisket was that the middle of the flat was not pull-apart tender. Considering how the day started, though, this was a small issue.
The chicken thighs were also a huge hit. Sorry no pics, I had 12 hungry mouths to feed. Several people commented that the difference between smoked pulled chicken and crock pot pulled chicken was tremendous.
So, in review, I feel very proud of what 'we' were able to accomplish. I learned that smoking is A LOT of work and that it is worth it (it seemed to genuinely make people happy).
I need to focus now on a more detailed approach to temp. control and when to add wood chips. I was very heavy handed with the Hickory today, but it seemed to work out.
Thanks again for all of the great advice- I can't believe I started by using Match Light- what a noob I was!