Pa skinned the deer carefully and salted and stretched the hides (skins), for he would make soft leather of them. Then he cut up the meat, and sprinkled salt over the pieces as he laid them on a board.
Standing on end in the yard was a tall length cut from the trunk of a big hollow tree. Pa had driven nails inside as far as he could reach from each end. Then he stood it up, put a little roof over the top, and cut a little door on one side near the bottom. On the piece that he cut out he fastened leather hinges; then he fitted it into place, and that was the little door, with the bark still on it.
After the deer meat had been salted several days, Pa cut a hole near the end of each piece and put a string through it. Laura watched him do this, and then she watched him hang the meat on the nails in the hollow log.
He reached up through the little door and hung meat on the nails, as far up as he could reach. Then he put a ladder up against the log, climbed up to the top, moved the roof to one side, and reached down inside to hang meat on those nails.
Then Pa put the roof back again, climbed down the ladder, and said to Laura:
"Run over to the chopping block and fetch me some of those green hickory chips - new, clean, white ones." (hickory is a type of tree)
So Laura ran to the block where Pa chopped wood, and filled her apron (a cover used to protect your clothes when cooking) with fresh, sweet-smelling chips.
Just inside the little door in the hollow log Pa built a fire of tiny bits of bark and moss (small green plants), he laid some of the chips on it very carefully.
Instead of burning quickly, the green chips smouldered (burned slowly with a lot of smoke) and filled the hollow log with thick, choking smoke. Pa shut the door, and a little smoke squeezed through the crack around it and a little smoke came out through the roof, but most of it was shut in with the meat.
"There's nothing better than good hickory smoke," said Pa. "That will make good venison that will keep (not rot) anywhere, in any weather."
Then he took his gun, and slinging his axe on his shoulder he went away to the clearing (a part of the forest with trees removed) to cut down some more trees.
Laura and Ma watched the fire for several days. When the smoke stopped coming through the cracks, Laura would bring more hickory chips and Ma would put them on the fire under the meat. All the time there was a little smell of smoke in the yard, and when the door was opened a thick, smoky, meaty smell came out.
At last Pa said the venison had smoked long enough. Then he let the fire go out, and Pa took all the strips and pieces of meat out of the hollow tree. Ma wrapped each piece neatly in paper and hung them in the attic where they would keep safe and dry.
Read by John Larrysson, from a book called The Little House in the Big Woods.
The Little House in the Big Woods
Chapter 1 - Part 1: Introduction
Chapter 1 - Part 2: Wolves in the Night
Chapter 1 - Part 4: Smoked Meat
Chapter 1 - Part 5: Food for Winter
Chapter 1 - Part 6: Butchering Time
Chapter 1 - Part 7: After Butchering Time
Chapter 1 - Part 9: Winter Night
Chapter 1 - Part 10: About the Author & Where to Find the Book
A native English speaker who has been teaching practical English in Hong Kong for more than a decade.