I have been a hunter since my teenage years and am not a stranger to processing larger animals. I think I was about 16 years old when I harvested my first deer. I have skinned, eviscerated, and cut up a fair number of deer since then. I had not been involved in the processing of a hog, though, since I was a teenager. Even then my assistance was only cursory. To be quite honest, I was a bit intimidated by the 250 pound plus hog hanging in my friend’s garage.
For myself this is an easy fix. I have already decided that my family's hog will be killed by my own hand. I will be the one scalding, scraping, eviscerating, and processing my hog this year.
It is not uncommon for me to hear folks that are my parents age tell of the Thanksgivings spent killing hogs. It seems to me that it used to be tradition to kill hogs on the day most of us think of as a relaxing day with family. No, I don't believe that I will revive the tradition of hog killin' on Thanksgiving, but a traditional hog killin' is in my future.
The traditional hog killin' is part of our heritage here in Appalachia. It is a heritage that has almost been lost. I will be the second generation removed from this tradition that brought neighbors and family members together for a day. This was a day set aside for the procurement of meat for the year ahead. It was a day of community, with old men telling stories of days gone by and the ladies sharing the latest gossip. The children were not left out of this, they had their roles as well. The day would not be complete without dinner.
You may find this hard to believe but often our chicken processing days are like this. There is a small handful of people that help us each year. They come and go throughout the summer, but there always seems to be a sense of community with those that help. We tells stories, laugh, and talk of news from around our little community of No Business. It isn't a glamorous job and a lot of work is accomplished as the stories fly as fast as the chicken feathers. There’s something that you will never find in a nine to five office job- community and a bit of heritage.
It will be a shame if this part of our rural American heritage is lost. There are a few stalwarts around that continue the practice of having a hog killin' each fall, but their numbers dwindle each year. I hope, with the growing desire folks have to know where their food comes from, we will see a revived interest in the traditional community hog killin'.
I hope that when Christmas comes around instead of a ham from some unknown factory and an unknown farm, your family can sit down to a table with a ham from a hog you help kill, dress, and cure. A ham like that brings more to the table than just sustenance, it bring heritage, community, history, and traditions that cannot be replaced.
Do you remember the old fashioned hog killn'? Or, are you still helping with killin' hogs each year? Could you see yourself getting involved in one? I would love to hear about it in the comments.