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Why one Texas city is renaming itself Bacon City this weekend

cyclonebill via Flickr
(CC BY-SA 2.0)

I love comedian Jim Gaffigan’s take on Bacon – he calls it “the most beautiful thing on earth.” He says: “You want to know how good bacon is? To improve other foods, they wrap it in bacon. And those bits of bacon! Bits of bacon are like the fairy dust of the food community. You don’t like this baked potato? (Sprinkles bacon bits). Now it’s your favorite part of the meal.”

Gaffigan’s love for bacon would make him an ideal candidate for mayor of Bacon City, a real Texas city that will exist for only two days this month when Vernon, Texas, renames itself for the weekend of Sept. 16-17. They will appoint a mayor of Bacon City, and the honor includes $600 in spending money. Jim could really bring home the bacon with that kind of cash.

And he’d be in just the right town, because Vernon is the birthplace of a great old Texas brand, Wright Bacon. It’s also the birthplace of Roy Orbison, 1936. But the bacon was born much earlier than Roy. In fact, this month is the bacon’s 100th anniversary – and that’s why Vernon is saying thank you to the brand that has helped the community thrive this past century. They’re having a Bacon Festival that weekend, where you can even purchase some bacon cologne. What’s not to love?

Wright Bacon was launched in 1922 by Egbert Eggleston, his son Fay and his son-in-law Roy Wright. Like a lot of entrepreneurs, they saw opportunity in what they already knew and owned. They had a small grocery store and realized there was a big market for bacon. They knew how to trim bacon from pork bellies and knew how to smoke it with good hickory wood.

So they launched their brand of bacon in a unique form. They trimmed it well, smoked it good and sliced it thick – very thick, especially compared with what was common on the market then. And that is still a primary attribute of Wright Bacon these days – it’s still sliced thick in an age when thin bacon seems to be the customary style. They call it “Bacon – the Wright Way.” These days, in addition to hickory smoked bacon, they also have applewood, maple, brown sugar, and peppered varieties.

The Wright Bacon company grew dramatically and steadily over the years, with more than 225 employees in the 1960s and 650 in 1998. Today, Wright Brand Foods – which was purchased by Tyson Foods in 2001 – has 750 employees and is still operating right there in Vernon.

Wright Brand Foods is the largest operation of its kind in the Southwest and distributes Wright Bacon to 30 states. The old grocery store is no longer there, but the foundation is, covered by a steel warehouse at the corner of Wright and Main Street.

I like that on their packaging, under the name Wright, they have the Texas star, which was the right thing to do. As their bacon travels all over the country, it’s great that they’re doing what all good Texans do, telling everyone where they’re from.

Early Texas was built in a sense on bacon power. Cowboys herding cattle to market lived on beef jerky, hard tack biscuits, bacon and sowbelly, often sliced thick, and beans. These were foods that could last a good while on the range. Vernon was in the middle of these drives, right there on the Great Western Trail. In that way, Wright Bacon is carrying on that cowboy tradition of preserving thick bacon all these years later.

I also like that cowboys and bacon together gave us some fine expressions, like “You really saved my bacon when turned the herd, Jasper,” and my favorite, “Dwayne’s generally a quiet soul, but when he gets riled up, his cussin’ could fry bacon.”

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