As Neil Diamond blared from the jukebox, I held Teaser Cup’s drink while she slithered into the crowd, navigating toward the action on the pool table. From my vantage, all I could see were some partially leather-clad legs flailing above a throng of inspectors, and a woman’s head hovering over the nexus of those legs, feasting on what appeared to be cream of mucus membrane. Teaser Cup was front row center, maneuvering for the money shot. The crowd was very expressive in its verbal support, murmuring and roaring in accordance with the proceedings. A man next to me pulled a disposable camera away from his face and marveled, “What a thing to listen to Neil Diamond to.”
Even if you never go to the Rock Creek Testicle Festival, you are aware of its presence. You know that, beneath the Sapphire Mountains upstream from Missoula, people have gathered from all over to eat bull balls—and do many other things we don’t often do in public, or even private, parts.
Food and perversion: sounds like a job for Chef Boy Ari. Notebook in hand, I followed a guy with a wide-gaited stumble and no pants toward the kitchen. He wore a sweatshirt that said “free mammograms.”
That’s when I met Teaser Cup, a freelance writer and photographer working the event. She was talking to an innocent-looking woman named Mary, who fondled the Mardi Gras beads around Teaser Cup’s neck.
“Nice beads,” said Mary.
“Thanks,” said Teaser Cup. “I didn’t earn them. I just think you’re cute. I’m with Hustler magazine. If you decide to get crazy, come find me.”
With her blunt, deadpan delivery and crowd-squirming skills, Teaser Cup has a talent for getting to the heart of the action. Word of “the Hustler reporter” preceded her like a bow wave, and there was no shortage of performers for her camera. Chef Boy Ari took some pictures, too, like the one of an amply bosomed woman in a fishnet top applying silver lipstick to Teaser Cup’s lips. Then we all downed a round of shots, purchased by Ample Bosom. Teaser Cup tugged my sleeve. “Let’s go find more debauchery,” she said.
As we cruised the frenzy looking for scoop, I wrote down everything that happened, and people assumed I was from Hustler, too. I tried to rise to the occasion.
Soon I had amassed a collection of quotes that made Teaser Cup openly covetous. She had some good ones, too. Later on, during a game of strip pool, I managed to trade my “I drove a Yamaha rice-burner down here from Anchorage…Harley Davidson can kiss my ass…” for her “Aunt Debbie just touched me in my yucky spot and it actually didn’t freak me out.”
While Teaser Cup showed her photo spread around on the digital camera—deleting the shots subjects objected to—I grilled Kathy Newman, kitchen manager and Nut Queen of the Testicle Festival, on her technique. Nut Queen explained, “First we take off the membrane, then we marinate whole balls in PBR [Pabst Blue Ribbon] for 25 hours. Then we slice ’em thin and bread ’em, but I won’t tell you my breading recipe.”
A good-natured guy in a cowboy hat joined us, introducing himself as Dick. “He’s a fire crew boss,” explained Nut Queen. “He eats my nuts. Don’t you, Dick?” Dick nodded. Then he pointed to Firebox, posing again for Teaser Cup outside the door. “That’s my engine boss,” he said with paternal pride, “posing for Hustler.”
Nut Queen’s mom, Jean, brought me a glass of ice water from the kitchen, where baskets of bull balls sizzled in vats of hot oil. They emerge as semi-shriveled discs that look like extra-thick potato chips. A dip in cocktail sauce provides spicy and acidic counterbalance to the deep-fried breading. The testicle meat has the texture and flavor of veal, with mild undertones of an internal organ-esque fullness of character. I fuggin’ like ’em.
Nut Queen’s mom looks like the sweetest Midwestern mom you’ve ever met, one to whom you could tell your life story over a bowl of Jello salad. She cups her hands when she says the word “testicles.”
Nut Queen sneered as her fingers mimed holding a superball. “The local ranchers bring me their balls after de-balling season,” she said, “but they’re like this big. I won’t serve dinky balls. We get our balls from big, deceased bulls from a slaughterhouse in Colorado.”
I asked her if her balls came from stud bulls, a rare breed whose lives are dedicated to the production and donation of semen, which will impregnate thousands of cows they will never meet. All the stud-bull ever meets is a specially fabricated apparatus called a teaser cup, the shape and smell of which makes the bull insatiably horny, at which point he mounts the doohickey and deposits his load into a strategically placed receptacle.
Nut Queen took a long drag off her cigarette. “I don’t inquire about the bull,” she said. “All I care about is the balls.”
E-mail Chef Boy Ari: firstname.lastname@example.org