By Frances Lowery Garner
Hog Killings on the farm in the old days was contingent upon the weather and neighbors available if the family did not have enough grown men in the house.
The temperature had to be real cold or else the fresh pork might ruin so the farmers would take no chances.
In those days there was no refrigeration. Hopefully a cold North wind would not be blowing but just a cold day with some sunshine.
Up before the first crack of dawn, the man of the house would see that a good fire got started around the family wash pot.
The fire served two purposes, to warm the workers and the other for the cooking out of the lard and cracklins.
Another huge kettle or drum would have to have a fire and the water had to be boiling for the cleaning of the animals.
The hog or hogs would already be shut up and well fed for the days leading up to the slaughter.
They were corn fed usually or else been in the peanut field grazing on a peanut field that had been used for cheap hog feed but the meat from these tended to be flabby while the corn fed would make for a much firmer meat.
A place would also have been prepared in advance to hang the hogs after the initial kill where the insides could be easily removed.
Butcher knives would have also been sharpened well in advance for the lard meat as well as the other parts which would require a lot of cutting, slicing and boning.
The animal rights groups of today would certainly not approve of the method of slaughter.
The animals would be hit in the head with an ax and when he hit the ground it would be stabbed in the throat with a long butcher knife between the forelegs usually hitting the heart.
After the animal had bled real good, it was ready for the next step, which was the cleaning.
Much preparation would have gone into a hog killing in advance.
A hole would have been dug, approximately 16 inches wide and 5-foot long to fit a large kettle.
A fire would have to be ready underneath the kettle or drum so the water would be real hot but not boiling.
If the water was too hot it would set the hair and it would not come off good but if just right the hair would pull off easily.
The animal had to be dipped into the kettle of water probably three times for best results.
Then the animal was removed from the kettle and placed on boards where the men would pull the hair or scrape with knives until all the hair would be removed.
The hog would then be ready to be hung on a pole with a “gambling stick” a name given for this procedure.
Huckleberry would be chosen because of its toughness for the stick and then it was sharpened on both ends.
The hogs legs would be split, a leader pulled out and the stick pole would be run through the leaders to hang on the “gambling” pole.
This would require the strength of 2-3 men to lift the heavy animal as the best size to butcher was a 200-250 pound animal.
Once on the pole, more hot water would be dashed on the meat and it would be scraped with knives until white and shiny.
Following the scraping, the meat would be allowed to chill before the gutting would take place.
A sharp knife would begin downward as the hog would be upside down.
Before uncovering the stomach, a tub would be placed underneath the hog’s forelegs to catch the intestines as nothing was to be wasted and these also served multiple purposes as well as the liver and lights.
After the hog was washed good with cold water, a stick would be placed inside the hog’s chest cavity keeping it pulled apart and allowing it to chill before taking it down to be butchered. (to be cont.)