Doug Cooper has repeatedly practiced several different tasks during his six-year tenure in the Texas Army National Guard. Those tasks have included first aid, weapons proficiency, hand-to-hand combat and convoy operations.

The Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran has developed a new practice which requires a high metabolism and the ability to chew and swallow food at a rapid rate. Cooper took part in a hot dog eating contest Friday at the Fourth Street Food Plaza location.

PF&E Oil has been hosting “customer appreciation days” at its local stores to celebrate its 47th anniversary. Each event has been highlighted by free hot dogs, giveaways and a hot dog eating contest.

Entering the contest “because my wife made me,” Cooper unseated Carl Gruben, who had won the prior three events at other Food Plaza locations. “Ironically, Carl and I are good friends,” Cooper said. “I didn’t think I was going to be able to beat him.”

Although it was close, Cooper defeated Gruben, devouring five extra-large, bun length hot dogs in 3:02. “It wasn’t easy,” Cooper said. “I am glad I had that bottle of water.”

    To prepare for the contest, Cooper altered his diet for one evening, and set a timer. “I wanted to see how much I could do in a certain amount of time, so I ate two spicy Italian bratwursts and two bun-length Ball Park hot dogs in 3:15,” Cooper said.

    Practice and a “jackrabbit” metabolism contributed to winning the contest, Cooper said. “I work at Diamond P (Enterprises). I cut fiber optic cable and I am constantly on the move and always hungry. That definitely helps.”

    As the winner of the contest, Cooper walked away with a full stomach, $50 Exxon gift card and a yearning to defend his new unofficial title at the next customer appreciation event July 26 at the Hwy 377 Food Plaza location. “Oh yeah. I am definitely going to be there.”