Saturday, December 29, 2007

New Year is a Comin' - Time to Kill Hogs

New Year is a comin' down on the farm!

It is time to watch the weather prognostications to see if the weather is going to be cold enough to kill hogs. It takes a few days of very cold days to kill, process and start the curing of the meat.

The last time we had a "Hog Killin'" was on a New Year's Day. We had eight hogs in the pens and we killed them all. Daddy would take the .22 rifle and carefully aim right between the eyes of a hog and fire. The hog would immediately drop dead. He always had a good butcher knife sharpened on both edges to "Stick" the hog with. "Sticking" means to stick the sharp knife into each jugular vein in the hog's neck to allow it to bleed good.

The next step was to drag the carcass over to the processing area with a mule or the tractor. There was a sort of platform of boards in front of a barrel that was laid at about a 45 degree angle and filled with hot water. The water couldn't be too hot or it would "set" the hair on the hog and make it hard to get the hair off. Also, it couldn't be too cool or it wouldn't release the hair. Experience from many years of hog and cow killings gave Daddy and Mother the knowledge of how hot the water must be.

After the water was put in the barrel, the carcass was slid down into the barrel, rolled over, then, after a set time, it was pulled out on the platform and the "picking and scraping" began. If the water was just right, it was pretty easy to just pull the hair off, then it would require a little "scraping" to get the remainder of hair off. It would take several "dips" in the water to get it all off. Then the carcass would be turned around and put in head first to get that end de-haired.

A slit was cut in the hind legs between the leg bone and the ham string. Then, from the platform, the carcass would be "toted" over to be hanged on the "Gambling Pole," a pole that rested on two high, forked posts. The bar that held the carcass up was called the "Gambling Stick." It would be placed through the slits on each leg and would support the carcass for the next step.

The next step was to "Gut it." The throat would be cut from side to side, then a slit was made from the neck to the rear end of the carcass. Then the ribs would be cut to allow all the intestines to be dropped into a wash tub for further processing. Then the inside of the carcass would be washed thoroughly and carried over to a big table that was mounted on the outside of the smoke house's side window to be cut up into all the various pieces to be cured.

Things such as the feet for "pickling;" brains to be cooked with scrambled eggs for the next morning's breakfast; shoulders for roasts; ribs for baking, back strap for pork chops; sow belly to be cut up for lard; bacon; hams; and other pieces to be ground into sausage. After the carcass was cut up, it was moved into the smoke house and placed in the "salt boxes" and be "salted down" for the initial curing process. The fat sow belly and other fat pieces would be cut into cubes of about one to one and half inches to be cooked to remove the lard. Other odd, more lean pieces would be cut up and ground into sausage, seasoned and either made into patties or "stuffed."

The intestines were separated from the liver, "lights" (lungs), heart, kidneys, etc. for processing. The small intestines were washed, and washed, and washed, and washed and used for stuffing sausage and some used for chitterlings. The large intestines were washed as many times as above and cut into strips of chitterlings. No use to say what was washed from them! The lights were cleaned and cured for cooking. The heart was cleaned and sliced for frying. The kidneys were boiled, and boiled to get the "impurities" out of them. We didn't do it, but some folks would take the bladder, blow it up, tie it off to hold the air in and make a football out of it. You had to carefully remove the gall bladder from the liver so as not to contaminate it.

After a period of time, all the cubed pieces of fat were put into the wash pot that had been scrubbed to remove soap out of. A fire was built around the pot and the lard was cooked out of the fat. After cooking the lard out of the pieces they became "cracklins." The cracklins were added to cornbread mix to make some great "cracklin bread." The cooked out lard was dipped up, strained and put in 50 pound lard cans and stored in the smoke house. The cracklins were also stored in a lard can.

Also, after a certain period of time, one of the farm hands would go out and find some "bear grass" (a form of palmetto) and bring in up, put it in a pot of boiling water to make it pliable and very strong. These tines were threaded into a slot cut into the meat and tied to form a loop. Then the meat was strung up on poles and placed across the roof joists of the smoke house. Mother would build a fire in the middle of the dirt floor, let it make some good coals, and closed up the door and windows. After the green oak wood got hot, it would hardly blaze up due to the lack of oxygen in the smoke house. It would just kinda simmer. The meat would be smoke cured. I don't know how long it had to be smoked to be cured. The cured meat would last for quite a long time.

The very few unusable from the hog killin' would be taken out and buried to keep the animals from getting into it.

A large amount of time was spent during and after "Hog Killin' Day" but there was lots of good eating afterwards. Seldom was anyone paid in cash for help on these times, they were paid in meat! But, it made for some good eating. Just think: Go out and slice off some cured ham for supper along with biscuits and "red eye" gravy: Cut off a piece of a side of bacon, bring it in and slice in into thick slices for breakfast along with fresh, fertilized eggs and biscuits with home made cane syrup: or having a big pork roast for Sunday dinner with friends coming home with us after church. Yum, Yum!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Christmas Time in the Forties

When I grew up, there were four of us children at home. Claire Louise (Clyese), Sylvia Aliece (Sivvy), Joseph Samuel (Joe), Jr. and James Andrew (Jim) (Me).

Several days before Christmas, we would all go out to find a good shaped, thick foliage cedar tree for the Christmas tree. Sometimes, cedars were a little scarce that had a good shape and someone would have to climb a tall cedar and cut the top out. Mother would take some limbs of cedar and tie them into open spots on the tree. Of course, the tree would always be just a little too tall to allow some trimming to make it fit into the base that supported the tree.

We had a 32 volt Delco generator that kept 16 2-volt storage batteries charged up for out lights and radio that we also used for the Christmas tree lights. The base had slots around it to put 12 lights in it, then we had two or three strings on the tree. Also, we usually put cedar bought around the front porch windows and door and a string of lights on around each one. We had some kinda star shaped reflectors that we'd insert around the base of the lights on the porch.

Daddy would do the wiring of the lights, then the rest of us would decorate the tree with all the ornaments, tensile and ice cycles that were stored in the attic. A few years, Daddy would, very evenly, place "roping," a rope composed of two strings with colored paper that looked like different colored ropes. We had some red, green and red roping. Daddy strung them about two feet apart across the living room in both directions, then very carefully place icicles about every two inches apart across each rope. Once, Joe and I found an old burned out light bulb and took red fingernail polish and painted a face on each side of it. He painted one and I the other. That old bulb was on each tree over a long time before it finally disappeared. That could have been "disappeared" by Mother as she never liked that old thing anyway! Of course, there were the very old, "special" ornaments that we used great pains to keep them from falling and breaking.

Before I came along, Daddy made 3 stocking hangers that he'd nail to the wall at the back edge of the living room mantle. Then, when I came along, Joe went out and used the hatchet to hack out and shape a hanger for my stocking. Most of the time we would use an old stocking of Mother's that had runs in them. Later, Joe and I used his Boy Scout stockings.

On Christmas Eve night, we'd all try to get to sleep early so the time would pass faster. But, it was extremely hard for us to get to sleep as we were so excited to see what Santa had left. The next morning, we had to get all our clothes, shoes and socks on and line up by the wood box in "The Room" (Mother and Daddy's bedroom) and the first in line got to go into the living room first. Joe and I finally learned that Claire and Sylvia cheated on us as they'd leave their dresses on and put their gowns on over them so all they'd have to do was to take their gown off and they'd be dressed!
We'd wake Daddy up around 5 a.m. and get him to go build a fire in the living room. We'd already have a fire going in the fireplace int The Room. He'd start the fire and come back, get back in the bed saying that he didn't see Santa Claus anywhere, so we may as well go back to bed. He'd carry this on long enough for the living room to warm up, then say to us, "Well, go in and see if you can find him." It was only about 4 or 5 steps from the wood box in The Room to the living room door, but it seemed like a mile!

There would always be some big present from Santa and a stocking full of stuff on each of our hangers. The stockings would each have an apple, an orange, English walnuts, Brazil nuts, penny candy, peppermint sticks and a small toy or two. (All these things were only available during Christmas time in the stores in Millry, so that made it really special to get them in our stockings.) I remember one year that Claire and Sylvia got one bicycle for them and Joe and I got a wagon.

After we'd played with our toys and gone through our stockings, Mother would have coffee heated for her and Daddy a cup and we'd begin to open our presents from under the tree. One of us would be "Santa" and give out the presents. Only one present was opened at a time. The present was opened, oohed and aahed over and put in a safe place before the next gift was handed out and opened. We took our time and made the gift opening last as long as possible. Then we'd go back through our Santa Claus gifts and the ones opened from under the tree.

Many of the Christmas traditions that we had growing up have been carried on through each of our families over the years. Even our children have kept some of those traditions.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Old Red

I can say Old Red as he was eleven days older than I. He was born on September 11, 1937 and I was born on September 16, 1937. So, I guess you could say that we grew up together.

Red got his name simply due to his color. He had just a few white hairs in the middle of his face and his right hoof was white. He was a Kentucky Saddle Horse. This breed is now called American saddle horse.

Red was very gentle when he was in the lot or if he had a bridle on. But, when he was out in the open pasture, he just didn't want to be caught, especially if there was another horse or mule in the pasture with him. If you hemmed him into a corner and if you ever got your hands on him, he was totally gentle. Daddy, as would I, have a hard time chasing him down, but Mother would put a couple of teaspoons of sugar on an old plate, go to the pasture fence and start baby talking, such as, "Come on then!" He'd walk right up to her until she had her hands on him. Then he'd go to his gentle side.

After Daddy got him from Uncle Jim Granade, he tried to break him into being a plow horse. This was a mistake as his gait was just too fast to pull a plow. Daddy tried to work him down to a slow gait by tiring him out. Unfortunately, this "broke his wind," meaning that he had a similar condition to a person with emphazema. But he could go for a pretty long run when I wanted him to, but I knew not to go so far so as to getting him "winded." Once an old man living near us told me that there was one way to give him longer wind. He said that if you put some clay in a tub of water, stir it up just before he drank it, his wind would be longer. I never could try that, but at times when the pond would be muddy after a big rain, it did seem to help some. This could be some of my imagination but I really thought it helped.

Red had a good smooth "running walk" gait along with several gaits. Mother used to saddle him up and ride him to visit neighbors up to a couple of miles away. She'd take me along when I was very small.

During summertime when the cows wouldn't come up to the lot to be milked, Joe or I would hem Red up and catch him, lead him to a fence or stump and get on him bareback and with no bridle. Sometimes we would put our belt around his neck. We'd hold on to his mane, put pressure on the opposite side to the one we wanted him to go and we'd bring the cows up for milking. We'd always give him a couple of ears of corn for our ride.

Once, there was Fox Hunters' Bench Show and Field Trials that was held here on the farm. During the bench show, I filled a small wash pot with water, built a fire around it and dumped a big batch of coffee in a flour sack into the boiling water. I sold coffee for a nickel a cup. One old man slept in my grandfather's old medical office building that night. Before he turned in, he said to me, "Sonny boy, I paid you a nickel for coffee tonight, I'll give you a quarter for one tomorrow morning." Needless to say, I got my quarter! I made pretty good money on the sale of coffee!

One of the three day field trials, one of the judges had to be out, so they asked me if I'd fill in as a judge. I did so on Old Red's back. That day, there was a big, heavy frost that looked so beautiful, especially down across the pasture and pecan orchard. Red carried me all over the woods and pastures of our neighbors. Since I didn't have to run him, he had no problems with his wind. Incidentally, I missed four unexcused days of school and got a total of 24 zeros on my daily classwork!

For a couple of years, I dated a girl that lived about eleven miles away via roadways. I didn't have a car as most high school kids today, so I couldn't just get in the car and ride over to see her. Through the woods, it was only about 2 1/2 miles. So Old Red was my transportation to see her. There were eleven gates or barbed wire gaps to go through along the way to her house. On a couple of occasions, it would be so black dark that I could hardly see the sky. On those occasions, when Red would stop, I'd get off, feel around and get the gate or gap open. Red would walk through and stop. I'd feel around again and get the gate or gap closed and remount on Red and go to the next one.

Old Red could tell many tales if he'd been able to talk!!!

Old Red died, in the lot after we were 21-years-old,