WAXAHACHIE — According to the Internet and a Gallup poll, there was a shift in attitudes in 1971, as Americans’ “ideal” family switched from four kids (19 percent) to two kids (38 percent), which meant that 2.9 kids were ideal.

Such was not the “norm” for the John E. and JoAnn Reeves family of Lancaster.

FAMILY LIVING

Their family moved into a typical, well-established neighborhood of three-bedroom houses in the northern part of Lancaster in 1961. By 1971, when their final child, Christopher, was born, the Reeves family total was complete. Over the years from 1961 to 1971, the family was forced to keep adding rooms onto their small, standard house because of the growth of their expanding tribe.

Their family totaled 12, which included father, mother, and ten siblings. The two daughters were born first and were followed by eight boys. Interestingly enough, Mrs. Reeves also gave birth to two different sets of twins. Sadly, one of the second sets of twins died at birth. Their final family unit size then became 11, ranging 21 years from oldest to youngest.

Not only was the Reeves family an oddity because of its size, but even the parents’ jobs and past-times were quite unusual. In the sixties, Mr. Reeves was a traveling salesman, while his wife was a breeder of large poodle dogs who also spent some of her weekends driving a jalopy car at local racetracks as an exciting hobby.

To say that the Reeves family was “different” was truly an understatement.

They were the proud owners of a multi-seater surrey bike, complete with the fringe on top, and their family pet was none other than a temperamental Shetland pony which they kept in their backyard. This little worn-out horse was constantly ridden by the Reeves children, as well as other neighborhood kids. As a much-needed self-defense mechanism, the pony learned to buck some of the children off his back and would sometimes bite at the kids — even with the bit in his mouth.

You couldn’t blame the poor, tired pony. He was just overworked by the Reeves clan.

When the youngest son, Chris Reeves, was eleven years old, his mother suddenly passed away. His older sisters had already married and moved out of the home, so, all of a sudden, the dad and the brothers were left on their own to learn how to fend for themselves.

THE BEGINNING OF A PASSION

Chris admits that he slowly started to enjoy cooking as he watched them prepare meals and learned his own way around in the busy family kitchen.

As a growing youngster, Chris enjoyed baseball from the time he was in little league and even into his Lancaster High School years. He finally traded-in his baseball cleats, to give more time to his local chapter of his school’s Future Farmers of America Club. He thoroughly enjoyed raising pigs and cows, but he would say “more pigs than cows.” So, as a result of his experiences with his FFA animals, he became very adept of the ins and outs of understanding pork and beef. During his summers, he would make money hauling hay or working at feed stores or landscape nurseries.

Since Chris leaned toward agriculture, he decided to attend Tarleton State University in Stephenville in the early 1990s where he majored in landscaping.

Chris is now 45 years old, single, and has lived in Waxahachie (on and off) for the past decade. He works from an Irving office at Gentry Mills Capital in Irving, an investment company that buys and sells hotels all over the U.S.

When asked what it was like growing up in such a large family, Chris laughingly responded, “I sometimes remember having to stand to eat meals because we didn’t have enough chairs.”

Chris also reiterated that he had to help out in the kitchen as a necessity. He quickly added, “Yes, I peeled many spuds and split many beans during my childhood!”

But over the years, he has fallen crazy love with his favorite food, any kind of barbecue.

When his father changed job in the 1970s, he worked for Dallas Man Power Skills Center as a welding and small engine teacher. Chris lovingly remembers, “That is where my dad built the first barbecue smoker that I ever used, and it is still operational today. It has to be at least 35 years old, and I am so happy that I still have it as a special memento from my late father.”

GRILLING AND RIBBONS

Chris officially started competing in barbecue cookoffs in 2007, and he averages about 10 contests a year. He mainly participates in Texas but has traveled to Kansas and Oklahoma in the past. When asked what his favorite food is, he grinned and replied, “barbecue is by far my favorite, and bacon is my hobby!”

He thinks his very “best win” was a recent reserve grand champion placing in Mesquite, where bested all but one of the 70 different competitors.

Chris confides that his barbecue specialty changes from time to time. Right now, his favorites are ribs and brisket. He has placed in the top seven in every competition the last two years in those two categories.

His next cook-offs are set for a few weeks down the road at the Bedford Blues Fest in Bedford, and then he looks forward to the State Fair of Texas at the end of September. In addition, he does a little catering on the side some weekends.

These days, Chris admits that God is his first passion, and he states that cooking the best BBQ for every competition and catering event that he does, is definitely number two. He confesses that doing his weekend catering doesn’t bring in a lot of money, but he has fun doing it and feels his catering helps him hone-in on his competition skills.

Every summer Chris hosts a river-rafting weekend on the Guadalupe River. He basically cooks every meal for about 25 people the entire weekend. He says he does it because he loves to share his love for cooking with his close friends and family members. He simply says he enjoys watching other people enjoy his food.

REMAINING HUMBLE

Chris is not only kind when it comes to sharing his cooking, but he is also kind in other ways.

Reeves recalled an incident that happened to him about a year and a half ago on a cold and bitter winter day. He had stopped and run into a little convenience store to buy a Power Ball lottery ticket. He admits that he generally doesn’t play the lotto, but he remembers that the winning pay out at that time was over a billion dollars. Thus, he stopped to get his chance at winning.

Chris happened upon a homeless man sitting outside the store. He immediately noticed the guy because he was totally without any sort of shirt on, and the man had to be freezing. The down-on-his-luck gentleman acknowledged Chris when he was going into the store, and he mentioned to him a couple of times how much he liked his shirt. Out of the blue, and once inside the store, he explained how he suddenly realized that he needed to give the man his shirt. He also decided to buy the fella a lottery ticket, too. He obviously needed some luck to come his way.

So Chris walked out of the store, handed the man the lotto ticket, and had him put the expensive shirt on immediately. The two then sat outside and talked for about an hour in the cold. (Chris willingly admits that he can hold a conversation with a CEO making millions, just as well as talking to a homeless man for hours.)

Chris relayed the rest of the story like this…… “I was cold and shirtless, but it really didn't seem to matter. The guy was so happy to have my shirt! We talked about my family, his family, my goals, his goals, the different homeless shelters he goes to, I already knew most of them, and what he was doing to better himself.”

“As we continued to get to know each other, two young ladies pulled up in the parking lot, and they could tell that I had just literally given the man the shirt off my back. They were so touched, that they dug into their trunk and gave him some shoes that one of their sons had outgrown. We all four talked for a while and the girls went inside the store. The homeless man had me write my cell phone number down so that he could give it to one of the women. He said that he felt one of them wanted my number. As luck (or fate) would have it, the ladies came back outside, and one had already written her phone number down to give to me.”

He continued, “Since I gave the homeless guy the lotto ticket, he had me write the numbers down on my hand, so I'd know if he won. And if he turned out to be the lucky one, then he would take care of me. He didn't know it at the time, but he had already taken care of me. He even got me a date, and that was something that I hadn’t been able to do in a while.”

Chris just laughed while telling his story and said, “Why did I have to be wearing my $120 Polo button-down shirt that day?”

In his spare time, Chris also loves to shoot pool in area leagues, and he has won many individual tournaments as well as team trophies. He is currently enrolled in Liberty University and pursuing an Accounting degree.