I was never much of a normal child growing up. Rather than playing football with my cousins, I spent most of my time reading or sitting by myself.

There was always one exception - barbecue. Around the age of 11 or 12, I began to take a vested interest in becoming a master of the grill. That was what I thought each of my uncles was as I watched them, in their own way, wrangle a full pit of fajitas, chicken or brisket.

In all honesty, I would go so far as to say I may have been a little bit of a nuisance as I tried to learn to barbecue by observation. I stood by the barbecue pit with water or a towel in case the cook needed it, rather enjoying the smell of charcoal and meat, while my brother and cousins played.

My Uncle Sam was probably the coolest in teaching me the nuances of the barbecue grill. I never got the impression that I was in the way and he even used to let me watch the fire from time to time, a big responsibility in my inexperienced eyes.

Over the weekend, I found myself thinking about those barbecue lessons as I lugged a brand-new barbecue pit into my apartment. Nothing fancy, but better than the tiny tabletop pit, referred to as "The Ladybug" by myself due to its red lid and black body, I had been using for the past year or so.

Rainy weather made an appearance during the Fourth of July weekend and put a damper on a number of festivities, but I had already set my sights on firing up the grill. It had been months since I had been able to send the smell of charcoal and mesquite wafting through the air and I was looking forward to bringing my spices out of the closet.

But as I looked out at the sky while walking into my apartment, my heart kind of dropped. If it began to pour, there was no way I would be able to keep a fire going long enough to cook the food I had been marinating since that morning.

After getting the box opened, I started to put the new barbecue pit together, which took about an hour to do. While I was struggling with attaching the body of the pit with the legs, I began to think back to something my Uncle Sam had told me when rain made an appearance during a family gathering years ago.

"A little rain doesn't mean you stop barbecuing," Sam had said while he held a towel over his head and was checking meat on the grill at the same time.

About a year ago, I barbecued a meal for my girlfriend and I during a light rain. It was nowhere near a downpour, but it was enough to put the fire in danger of going out. That time, I got my girlfriend's umbrella and stood outside our apartment for nearly 45 minutes to finish cooking.

As my cousin arrived for the barbecue Sunday and questions began about whether the grill was going to be fired up, I listened to my Uncle Sam's advice, loaded up the pit with charcoal and lit a fire to break in my brand new barbecue pit.

Rain or no rain, I cannot think of a better way to spend an afternoon with family than around a grill, using the lessons taught to me years ago by grillers who have come before me.

Tim Olmeda is the news editor for the Nueces County Record Star. Readers may contact him via e-mail at news@recordstar.com.