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Super Senior: Curtis Tuff - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Super Senior: Curtis Tuff

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PUTNEY, Vt. -

Where's there's smoke, there's fire. And just off Interstate 91 in Putney, Curtis Tuff is getting ready to cook some ribs. Curtis has been doing this for 41 years and to say Curtis' All-American Bar-B-Q is unique would be selling it short.

"No place like this in the state of Vermont," said Curtis. 

To understand who Curtis is, you have to know where he came from.

"I used to be a fruit picker. My home was down in Georgia," said Curtis. 

Curtis first came to Vermont in 1951 to pick apples. He was a good worker and was hired full time to work at an orchard up the road. His grandfather taught him to cook at a young age.

"He always tell me, you watch what I'm doing, you may want to do this one of these days," said Curtis.  

But it was the Hippie Invasion of the 1960s when Curtis started making money with his cooking. 

"Eight-hundred hippies was here, all hippies all around," said Curtis. 

They were mostly at Windham College, then a liberal arts school in town.

"Never cooked anything, they said, well... if you burn it up we can't eat it, but if you don't burn it up we eat it, that's fine with me," said Curtis.

Curtis worked at the orchard during the week and took his grill on the road for the weekend.

Reporter Joe Carroll: Did you consider yourself a hippie? 

Curtis: Well, of course I did. 

Carrol: You did?  

Curtis: Yeah.

Needless to say, as an African-American, Curtis stood out in Vermont in the '60s.

Carroll: Was there any discrimination toward you? 

Curtis: Oh, no, no. 

Carroll: No?  

Curtis: No.

Curtis has a creed.

"Always be nice to people you know, you never walk around the world owes you something and think you're more than anybody else. You don't do that," said Curtis. 

The hippies faded away and the buses have stopped. The business, though, is still in motion. His daughter Sarah and grandson Addison help out.

Sarah: How you doing?  

Curtis: I'm doing pretty good, baby, yourself? 

It's high noon and a group of New Hampshire firefighters rumble in. Suddenly there is a line and it's showtime for Sarah. The bikers come hungry.

Reporter Joe Carroll: It was a destination for you?  

Bill LaPan, customer: Oh, absolutely.

Carroll: How did you describe it to these guys before you got here?  

Lapan: I didn't, I just told them it's a great barbecue place. 

"And people wonder how he can look so young for his age and I said it's the smoke that preserves him," said Sarah. 

At 78, Curtis has heart issues and is slowing down. Sarah hopes to eventually take over the business. Right now, though, Curtis is giving me a grilling. 

Carroll: So you're teaching me how do to it. The pay isn't so good, hunh?  

Curtis: The pay isn't that good, but I feed you good, though. 

Curtis has been feeding thousands with a side of Southern hospitality.

"That's the way I live my life, being nice to people," said Curtis.

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