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WV Proud

Butcherin' Day

by Liz LaMac

It was a cold windy dreary day and I came bouncing out of the old house we called home on the back-roads of Wood County. "EEEEhhh!" My bare feet hit the cold ground, I turned and went right back in and put on a pair of shoes. I ran back out as I knew something was different about this day and I was determined to find out what was going on. There was a group of men down by our chinnin' pole and a fire was burning under a big ole' black pot full of scalding water.

We had two posts that stood several feet apart and a pole that was fastened high up between them. The older kids would jump up, grab the pole and try to pull their chin up over the pole. It was on a small hill and they would run down the hill, jump in the air and grab the pole. That's how my sister, Della, broke her arm.

Now, two of our hogs were hanging naked on that pole. Hanging by their hind legs. There was nothing inside them. It was quite scary. I tried not to look. What were they doing hanging on our chinnin' pole, at least I always thought that was a chinnin' pole.  As I ran toward the men who were standing around talking, Oliver Stienspring came up the road. "Hey, Free, I ken cut 'em up fur ya." My Daddy was named Freeman, but his friends called him Free.

"Ya ken help, Oliver. Come on up."

Everyone knew Oliver wouldn't want money for helping. He wanted a hog's head to make Hog's head cheese. Oliver was a good man. Daddy said, even when he was soused he was better than most.

Daddy had to keep one of the heads for my Mother.  She made the best mince meat ever. She would cook the cleaned head until all the meat fell off and then shred the meat with her hands, making sure no bones were in it. She added both plain raisins and golden raisins. Next, she would go to the cellar and get jars of blackberries, peaches, pears, applesauce, jams, and jellies. She added all this plus sugar and spices and some secret ingredients to taste. She cooked it until she was satisfied with the taste and then "cold-packed" it. It took a lot of tasting to make sure a trip to the cellar would mean a great mince meat pie.

Oliver wasn't walking too straight and I was trying to get close enough to him to smell his breath, but I was getting too close to the fire and scalding pot.  Daddy said in his rich soft voice, "Little *** Pot, get in the house fore ya get hurt." 

I ran back to the Kitchen and soon the table was piled up with tubs of meat. The woman folk were busy doing all kinds of stuff, cutting meat, getting dinner and who knows what else. Once Daddy got the sausage ground, the women would fry and can all night making the whole house smell like sage and other spices.  As usual, I soon  got  under foot in the kitchen and mother sent me back outside.

Now, Daddy's hogs were gone and a third hog was hanging on the pole. It belonged to Carl Aulfholder. I heard old Oliver say Carl was so tight he squeaked when he walked. So, I followed Carl around for a while but I didn't hear anything. Daddy made me stop bothering him.

After all the hogs were cut up, Daddy put one of his hog's heads in a big box for Oliver. Daddy was always generous and it had plenty of good meat on it.  Carl, on the other hand was an ole tight wad, he had cut his hog's head off up so high that when Oliver saw it, he said, "Mr. Aulfholder, I 'wirn't butcherin' for the ears."