I currently live in Rockwall, Texas just east of Dallas, but I grew up in West Texas south of Amarillo. I was very fortunate growing up because we cooked out all the time.
My first experience in BBQ was when my father was going to slow cook a goat for a bachelor party. I was 7 years old and he sent me out to the migrant camp at the potato shed he ran with a 72 year old man from Mexico. I was not told what I was going to do. He had a goat in the yard and had me sit there and pet it. He went into the house and got a big bowl and a couple of knives. We proceeded to bleed the goat out and dress and quarter it. I have never looked back since.
I was fortunate that most of my early experiences were cooking goat and lamb. Two meats which are not very forgiving like beef and pork. And to this day I prefer goat over any other type of meat. And the older the goat the better. They have so much flavor if dressed out and cooked properly. My father also had a sheep feed lot back in the day so we ate a lot of mutton. When a ewe was past fertility she would end up in our freezer.
We always cooked over a "real pit" style cooker back then. It was a 8x4x4 angle iron frame outfitted with corrugated metal and a door in the middle to feed in the coals. We would use a heavy tarp to cover it to hold in the heat and moisture. There was a large fire built with mesquite wood, we would use long handled shovels to feed the pit with coals. A very labor intensive process when compared to an offset cooker. And fairly wasteful of wood. But fun for us kids because we were in charge of keeping the tarp moist.
I was in my late twenties when I built my first large bbq cooker. I used 16' of .500 wall 22" casing.
It has a smoke box which feeds into a long grill then a stand up smoker on the end. My family had to eat a lot of really bad brisket until I finally learned how to use it properly. Cooking over a real pit style is not that difficult compared to an offset. But the difference in taste makes using an offset really worth it. You cannot get a smoke ring from a real pit, the meat is just dull gray. The offset can put a beautiful red smoke ring in almost anything you cook. And in Texas that is almost as important as the sauce.
I have also started smoking and curing salmon, bacon, and sausage. I really enjoy making sausage and then semi-dry smoking it. Though I have done some fermented sopressato type sausage as well.
I catered for years for different events cooking for from 30 people to 300. And several times I cooked for a 4th of July celebration where we fed 1200. We cooked 1800 lbs of gooseneck round over a real pit style cookers. It was a 36 hour process and a lot of fun and beer.
Like I said, I have been very fortunate in my BBQ life. I was a long time lurker on this board and a few others. I find smokingmeatforums to be the most informative and professional, so I took the leap and joined. I look forward to sharing ideas with all of you.