John Larrysson Column: Summer Story Chapter 1 Part 6 - Butchering Time

Then one day Uncle Henry came riding out of the Big Woods. He had come to help Pa butcher. Ma's big butcher knife was already sharpened, and Uncle Henry had brought Aunt Polly's butcher knife.

Near the pigpen (a place to keep pigs) Pa and Uncle Henry built a bonfire (big camp fire), and heated a great kettle (big pot) of water over it. When the water was boiling they went to kill the hog (male pig). Then Laura ran and hid her head on the bed and stopped her ears with her fingers so she could not hear the hog squeal.

"It doesn't hurt him, Laura," Pa said. "We do it so quickly." But she did not want to hear him squeal.

In a minute she took one finger cautiously (slowly and carefully) out of an ear, and listened. The hog had stopped squealing. After that, Butchering Time was great fun.

[audio 1]

It was such a busy day, with so much to see and do. Uncle Henry and Pa were jolly, and there would be spare-ribs for dinner, and Pa had promised Laura and Mary the bladder (the bag-like part in the body that holds urine) and the pig's tail.

As soon as the hog was dead, Pa and Uncle Henry lifted it up and down in the boiling water till (until) it was well scalded (heated with water). Then they laid it on a board and scraped it with their knives, and all the bristles (stiff hairs) came off. After that they hung the hog in a tree, took out the insides, and left it hanging to cool.

When it was cool they took it down and cut it up. There were hams and shoulders, side meat and spare-ribs and pork belly. There was the heart and the liver and the tongue, and the head to be made into headcheese (a type of luncheon meat), and the dish-pan full of bits to be made into sausage.

The meat was laid on a board in the back-door shed (small building used for storage), and every piece was sprinkled with salt. The hams and the shoulders were put to pickle in brine (salt water), for they would be smoked, like the venison, in the hollow log.

"You can't beat hickory-cured ham," Pa said.

[audio 2]

He was blowing up the bladder. It made a little white balloon, and he tied the end tight with a string and gave it to Mary and Laura to play ball with. They could throw it into the air and hit it back and forth with their hands. Or it would bounce along the ground and they could kick it. But even better fun than a balloon was the pig's tail.

Pa skinned it for them carefully, and into the large end he thrust (pushed) a sharpened stick. Ma opened the front of the cookstove. Then Laura and Mary took turns holding the pig's tail over the hot fire.

It sizzled and fried, and drops of fat dripped off it. Ma sprinkled it with salt. Their hands and their faces got very hot, and Laura burned her finger, but she was so excited she did not care. Roasting the pig's tail was such fun that it was hard to play fair, taking turns.

At last it was done. It was nicely browned all over, and how good it smelled! They carried it into the yard to cool it, and even before it was cool enough they began tasting it and burned their tongues.

They ate every little bit of meat off the bones, and then they gave the bones to Jack. And that was the end of the pig's tail. There would not be another one till next year.

[audio 3]

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 3: Venison

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 8: Winter

Chapter 1 - Part 9: Winter Night

Chapter 1 - Part 10: About the Author & Where to Find the Book

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A native English speaker who has been teaching practical English in Hong Kong for more than a decade.