Need To Know

“Come on you two birds, you need to know how to do this.” Dad was walking through the basement heading outside. We had been cutting firewood in the basement using an old two man handsaw on a homemade (Dad made) sawbuck. We finished cutting the log and headed outside with the curiosity quickening our steps. Dad was out in the garage getting an ax. We’d already learned how to chop through a tree using an ax. What was Dad talking about? I was maybe nine or ten, my older brother was two years older. We already knew everything, didn’t we? Dad headed out to the runway through the corn crib and gated up the north end. We were sent to get more gates.

Dad sent us down to lock up some first litter gilts in the huge chicken coop down the hill that Dad was using for a hog house. Then he came down and let them all out but one. We herded the one sow up into the alleyway of the crib and gated the south end. It was a lot easier than I thought, when Dad started us up the hill I thought he was crazy letting the critter out of the “hog house”. Once corralled in the crib Dad grabbed the ax and started walking the gilt around the alley. The ax was one of the single bladed type with a “hammer head” on the other side of the blade. Gradually the gilt excepted the new shadow and started to relax and eat some corn on the floor.

Dad stood there a minute letting it eat and then the hammer came down. Hard! He caught the critter clean between the eyes and down that hog went, it’s knees buckling. Before my brother and I could finish exchanging wide eyed glances he yanked the knife out of his pocket. After grabbing it’s snout and holding it’s head up, throat taut Dad’s face contorted into some kind of mad, maniacal expression as he plunged it into the stunned animals left side neck right below the ear. Then with a kind of grinding wiggling motion that knife went clean across to the other ear. The blood gushed. Dad released the snout and stood back straightening up. My brother and I exchanged another glance that relayed the thought, “You don’t fuck around with Dad!” We hung it up to bleed out and Dad started skinning off the hide.

By evening the hog had been gutted, sawed in half down the spine using a neighbor’s bone saw and carted into the basement for further processing. The fat was taken into town to be rendered into lard and the meat was cut up into the common cuts of pork on a long table we’d moved to the basement specifically for the project. Some was ground into sausage using a hand cranked grinder clamped to the edge of the table. We ate pork quite a lot after that. We learned some valuable lessons that winter, the most valuable being; Stay out of Dad’s reach. My older brother, who still to this day works in a pork processing plant, I claim was ruined for life.


Just in case you need to know.