Then, it happened, it started raining flapjacks! Yes sir, that old cyclone had whirled around those forest fires, wheat, milk and egg and now it all came falling out of the sky!
From Charlotte Armstrong’s “The Legend of Cowboy Tom.”
Charlotte Armstrong had writer’s block. For two years.
The Declo resident wanted a story to accompany her newly-envisioned Cowboy Tom’s Flapjacks gift pack, which included wheat, a dry ingredients package and maple syrup. The
ingredients came from a much-loved, decades-old family recipe.
“It’s something that when you make it, it leaves you with a warm comfy feel,” she says.
It also leaves you wanting more. Food for thought – like a tall tale.
Charlotte brainstormed. In the meantime, she tested 50 varieties of wheat hoping to find the perfect grain for her flapjacks.
“What’s so interesting is that there are different varieties of wheat – just like there are different varieties of apples. While I was testing the wheat, I started working on the story,” she says.
A nursing major in college with little background in writing, Charlotte toiled over her tall tale. “It wouldn’t come together,” she says.
After two years of working on her story, Charlotte’s writer’s block finally lifted and “The Legend of Cowboy Tom” materialized.
“One day I just sat down and wrote it in half an hour,” she says. “It’s funny how it just came together.”
Accompanied by pictures drawn by cowboy artists, the story tells the tale of a hungry cyclone lasoed by Cowboy Tom. His efforts cause flapjacks to rain down on southern Idaho.
Charlotte’s husband Tom was the inspiration for the tall tale. He was also the unintentional motivation for developing Cowboy Tom’s Flapjacks.
It all began while Tom managed a ranch in Mackay. There he regularly chatted with the ranch’s long-time 80-year-old office manager who worked from an office in California. The two developed such a close bond that Tom suggested Charlotte send the elderly woman a Christmas gift.
Good thing cooking comes easier to Charlotte than writing. “It’s relaxing, therapeutic and fun,” she says.
Using the family’s old flapjack recipe, Charlotte created a Christmas package for the woman.
“I don’t know where the recipe came from. My mother-in-law gave it to me.”
Tom’s friend in California loved it.
“She said, ‘This stuff is so good. Why aren’t you selling it?’” Charlotte recalls.
Until the flapjacks idea, becoming an entrepreneur was the last thing on Charlotte’s mind. “I didn’t ever think I would do something like this,” she says. “Tom said, ‘Oh, no.’ I said, ‘Oh, yeah.’ You might say the proverbial seed was planted.”
And in 2005, the legend of Cowboy Tom’s Flapjacks was born.
The Armstrongs took business classes at the College of Southern Idaho’s Mini-Cassia Center. Meanwhile, the couple searched for the perfect wheat for their flapjacks. Eventually it was narrowed down to five different types of wheat. They taste-tested their flapjacks on everyone from doctors to teachers. All agreed on the recipe with grain originating from a dry farm in southern Cassia County.
The maple syrup included in the gift box – dubbed “Lip Lickin’ Syrup” – comes from beets processed at Amalgamated Sugar Company in Paul. The University of Idaho and Technology Incubator in Caldwell packages the gift box.
Cowboy Tom’s Flapjacks are now sold in several states across the country. Locally, it is available at the Twin Falls locations of Rudy’s, Everybody’s Business, Just My Style (inside Magic Valley Mall) and Valley Co-op. You can also find it at the Mini-Cassia Chamber of Commerce and during the holidays at Golden Goose in Burley. The product can also be purchased online at www.cowboytoms.com or by calling 208-654-2582. The Gift Pack sells for $15; extra syrup and wheat packages are also available.
As for the Legend of Cowboy Tom, the townspeople celebrated his victory over the cyclone.
They grabbed their forks and brought maple syrup and ate and ate until they almost popped.
By Lisa Dayley
“It’s something that when you make it, it leaves you with a warm comfy feel.”