William Burley has long been known for his ribs and his kindness.
Now the owner of Burley's Bar-B-Q has substantially added to his reputation. Yesterday neighbors and motorists were calling him a hero for saving a Howard County woman during an attempted rape Tuesday afternoon and detaining the suspect until police arrived.
"Mr. Burley is a hero, to come into my house without knowing whether this guy had a gun," the victim's husband said. "He probably saved my wife's life. We definitely want to meet the man."
But Bill, as everyone calls him, says he's just a simple guy who did the right thing.
"It was a split second, and I did what I had to do," he said. "If you're a man, you have to take them as they come."
His salt-and-pepper mustache is as old as his business, which he has operated throughout Howard County from the back of his pickup truck for more than 25 years.
No diet sodas. Half a rack of ribs, $9. A simple business, a simple guy.
Yesterday drivers beeped their car horns and waved at Mr. Burley, who nodded or waved back. He said strangers stopped by his beef stand just to shake his hand. One neighbor sent Mr. Burley two yellow roses in a vase. The attached note read, "Thank you for being there."
Police said Mr. Burley's quick recognition of Thurman Alexander Moore, a convicted rapist Mr. Burley knew slightly but had only seen a couple dozen times since 1960, was the key to saving the 30-year-old mother of two from a more brutal attack.
"God's my weapon," he said. "I guess he gave me the foresight."
Of course, a sharp eye is essential for Mr. Burley's line of work, which caters to many different people every day. "In this business, I judge a lot of characters," he said.
The 60-year-old "Bar-B-Q Master," who had warned neighbors and a school crossing guard about a man he saw carefully watching women taking their children to nearby Guilford Elementary School. He saw what was happening as the man followed a woman to her town house and forced his way in.
Running toward the town home and hearing the woman's screams through her door, Mr. Burley entered armed only with a 4-foot stick and a strict warning to the man, who police said told the victim he had a handgun.
Mr. Burley ordered the man out of the house and face down onto the curb outside, where he placed his foot on the man's back and the stick to his neck until police arrived.
Moore is being held without bond at the Howard County Detention Center, charged with assault with intent to rape, a first-degree sex offense, assault and breaking and entering.
Moore, 47, has been convicted three times since 1960, when he was just 14 years old. He was released on July 14 from a 25-year sentence for a 1974 kidnapping and rape conviction.
Mr. Burley said Moore -- known as "Dobbs" to some people -- was one of several children in the Moore family, which moved from Clarksville to the Guilford area of Howard County after the 1974 conviction.
"I didn't know him too well," Mr. Burley said. "He was in prison so often. I just know he was a guy I wouldn't trust. . . . He acted weird, like he was in his own world at times."
Howard County police Detective Joseph Geibler was one of the well-wishers who stopped by Mr. Burley's barbecue stand yesterday. "People are proud of him, and he should be proud."
William Matthews, 62, Mr. Burley's cousin, said he wasn't surprised. "He's been helping people his whole life. Three guys jumped me one time, and Bill came and took all of them."
Resting his solid frame against his weather-beaten stand in the 7300 block of Oakland Mills Road yesterday, Mr. Burley tugged at his worn Desert Storm Cap.
After completing his seventh or eighth television interview, Mr. Burley said the media attention had cost him business because some patrons are turned off by the news cameras.
While Mr. Burley was talking with two news stations yesterday afternoon, a pan of beef he was heating burned and filled the stand with smoke.
Tired and talked out, Mr. Burley said he just wants to go on with his life, selling the food that's made his name popular throughout Howard County.
K? "I just want to sell my meat, like I do every day" he said.