Do you remember as a kid watching your dad pour black, lightweight charcoal that “tinkled” as it piled up on the BBQ grill? Did you recognize the charcoal even had growth rings, cells and bark?

The charcoal could even be snapped in two easily then used to draw on the concrete hopscotch or tick-tack-toe games.

Is that REAL CHARCOAL a thing of the past? NOPE! It is made right here in Missouri (Timber Missouri), Timber Charcoal!

Where is Timber? Well, if you have been to Eminence or our newest state park, Echo Bluff, and were going south on Highway 19, you passed it.

Yep, there are at least two structures visible from Highway 19 in Timber and usually a few tractors and trailers parked off the road to the entrance to Timber Charcoal on the east.

Being a member of a trailer club — (WBCCI) Wally Byam Caravan Club International — we were having a trailer rally at Echo Bluff. Wherever we go we try to have entertainment and/or tours of interesting places.

Echo Bluff was certainly beautiful, the “Crown Jewel” if you are looking for up-to-date lodging, roads, camping, programs, hiking trails and facilities, all very nice.

I only found a few negative items. One of which was the campground sanitary dump station. The dump station had a raised or elevated receptacle for releasing waste, and we all know what (flows downhill) from a waste tank. Special considerations should be taken unless you have a fifth wheel or super-high trailer dump tank. I will say no more.

Echo Bluff is located on Sinking Creek north of Eminence and south of Salem with Shannondale Mission Church and camp between, just north of Timber.

The location is perfect with the Ozark Mountains surrounding the camps and the presence of nature all around including one of the two or three herds of wild horses roaming the National Forest.

These horses roam at will, wild in front of the lodge, around the campsites and cabins crossing Sinking Creek, contented and looking healthy and happy.

As some people know, Eminence seems to be a mecca for horse riding, floating on the Current River and riding all-terrain vehicles.

Getting back to charcoal, Todd Hamilton is one of the family-owned, owner-operators that gave our group a tour. While standing in the storage lot between thousands of board feet of wood slabs and “trash” wood, Todd explained how the plant worked.

He said that anyone could make charcoal by an easy process of setting fire to a covered pile of wood and allowing it to burn for a prescribed time, then shut off all oxygen, then let it cool.

The hardest parts of making charcoal is controlling the oxygen and air pollution regulations set by the government. When setting fire to a stack of lumber 20 feet high, 30 foot wide and 55 feet long, regulating the burn and burning the wood with air quality clean air emissions of 99.5 percent is the kicker.

Todd explained their immense emissions control system which sat above the kilns and was likened to a catalytic device that is on our car emission system.

Everyone at Timber Charcoal was friendly, courteous, knowledgeable, hardworking and BLACK AS CHARCOAL, of course, because it was a charcoal plant. It was raining that day and this is the only time I had ever walked in a black charcoal paste puddle.

Todd explained that charcoal made at Timber Charcoal was shipped around the Midwest under other names, and used for different things, like briquettes, medicines, gunpowder, cosmetics, and even BBQing.

Many of the high-end smokers and pits recommend “natural hardwood charcoal” to enhance the flavors of the foods that are cooked in them. One thing Todd reiterated was that their product was 100 percent all natural, no binders, no additives and burned clean.

We used Timber Charcoal on our outdoor cooking while at camp and were very happy with the startup of the charcoal and the end results. All of us who went on the tour of Timber Charcoal were surprised with the immensity of the operation and found all aspects of the charcoal making process very interesting.

I can’t wait to try Todd’s suggestion to lay steaks directly on hot coals and cook the meat quickly at 1,100 degrees, sounds great!

(Bob Brennecke lives in Ballwin, Mo., and can be reached at robertbrennecke@hotmail.com.)