Many years ago, when the weather turned extremely cold, as it did recently, it would signal “hog-killing” time in Butler County.
Nowadays, folks don’t do much hog killing, although I’m sure a few still butcher their meat the old fashioned way; one thing for sure, it was an exciting item for us “country young’uns.”
Dad would always kill several (one time he butchered seven) hogs, so there was plenty of fresh pork to go around to friends and neighbors.
Dad and brother would start the fire in the pit, so the water in the big traugh would get hot. Several neighbors would come and help scald, scrape and cut up the meat.
The women folks, gathering in Mama’s kitchen, would begin to prepare dinner, which probably would include fresh fried pork tenderloins and maybe pork liver smothered in onions with lots of homemade buttermilk biscuits.
Dad always sent for Mr. Oscar Belcher, our neighbor down the road. He had a steady hand and a keen knife. He could do the job quickly and cleanly.
I can still see Mr. Oscar in my memory; in his faded coveralls, walking up toward our house, hands clasped behind him, sporting that silver handlebar mustache of his…
He was a kind, gentle soul, always willing to help and Dad took “great store” in Mr. Oscar’s ability as the neighborhood butcher.
There were some tall tales told by the men folk as they sat around the fire, or worked cutting meat on the old farm wagon.
I can remember several of them sitting there, spitting tobacco juice in the fire and arguing about the “meanest” coonhound and laughing at us kids as we scurried around; trying to stay out of the way.
Sausage would be ground and side meat - hog jaw, hams and shoulders - would be “salted down” in the old wooden meat box inside the smoke house.
The pig’s feet would be pickles and the head made into the best souse you could imagine.
Nothing was wasted; for in those days, the meat was needed to get the family through a long, cold winter.
Mama would render the fat from the hogs, making lard, in an old black kettle out back. Later, she would make lye soap from the cracklins. I still remember the clean, fresh smell of lye soap. Mama washed our clothes in it and we took many a bath in the stuff - nothing like it!
Late in the evening, when the work was done, folks would wave goodbye and start for home with a generous portion of fresh pork under their arms - and memories of a wonderful home-cooked country dinner fresh on their minds.
It was a happy time filled with good neighbors; good fellowship, sharing their bounty with each other.
And I sure do miss the likes of Mr. Oscar and others who were out neighbors back then.
I admire their spirit; their ability to unite together, hand in hand, to accomplish the task of “old time hog killing” and honestly, while convenience is on par; there is no cut of pork on the market today that can compare to the taste of that wonderful fresh pork, hickory smoked hams and hog jaw of yesteryear.
If you’ve never tasted “fresh home-butchered tenderloins,” real home cured country ham or taken a bath in an old washtub with a big bar of lye soap, you don’t know what you’ve missed!
Till next time.