Thursday, December 22, 2005

Community Pig Killing

part two -- Community

I’ve done a lot of thinking about what exactly makes it possible to have a community pig killing.

The first thing I think is that all the participants value the food. But not all for the same reasons. I’d guess we were the only people there who expressly value organic, non-medicated, non-hormoned, non-feedlotted food. I think of it as clean food. But it is just flat out plain better than can be bought at any price, it is economical, it is food security to have food put back, and also security to be able to repeat the production of the food, and it is so many other things too.

Another thing that stood out to me was that no one there was fat. Everyone there was willing and able, even in infirmities, to work. And work hard. And not complain.

And everyone was skilled. Not a man jack amongst them couldn’t have slaughtered and butchered a pig on his own, but doing it together made it easier and more pleasant. The patriarch was the most skilled butcher, but his grandson was stationed at his side to absorb it all. One of the best lines of the day was grandfather to grandson, teaching him to cut the end of the rib loose -- “Lay that saw right there son, you ain’t gonna hurt it -- it’s already dead!” “Ah, you did that just right,” grandfather said. “I wish my wife thought that sometimes,” said grandson. “Well, I’m your grandpa. She’s your wife. That’s the difference,” said grandfather.

The whole thing was truly made possible because of a single dominant family (not a board or consensus or people constantly squabbling with each other) which family was possible because of stability. The grandfather, past seventy, told of what had happened to him when he was seven, gesturing with the bloody knife, "Just around that bend in the road there." Four generations of that family were there.

The community has also interwoven for years: The patriarch's son cut the trees for the wood in our house; one of the pigger's family had owned our farm before us; and was cousin to the neighbor closest to us. Relationships don’t form overnight.

Other of the piggers were hired hands who work for the patriarch’s son. They are Mexicans. The racism of one participant wasn’t welcomed in respect of the skill of these hands. And here in lies another secret of real community prosperity -- the Mexicans are landless and pigless. Had they lived in a community full of social workers, they would have been homeless as well. But because there were no social workers around, no interveners and coordinators, no government to take a toll of the pigs, the Mexicans did their bit and got their share. They got heads, lights, kidneys, hearts, feet, livers, and most of the valuable leaf lard with which to make 'manteca'. In this type of community with all workers and no drones, the Mexicans who would be homeless anywhere else have money generating jobs, a place to live thrown in, and the gleanings of any agricultural goings on. Very Biblical.

I don’t think I can leave this subject without highlighting the character of the head pigger himself. He works hard and has made a place for himself in the world of work and “progress”, the world that we largely turned away from. He is a truly fine man though. He would go out of his way to do something nice for anyone else, he would hurt himself to be honest in a business dealing with you. And it is really that kind of character that is the wick in the candle of community.

The pigging involved many ancient skills and ancient palaver -- one did not want to 'squeal' a pig, the lungs of a slaughter animal are it's lights, the sum of the viscera is the 'paunch', what is 'bacon' when it is commercially prepared is the 'midlings'. There was shooting and sticking, the temperature and technique to scald, knife sharpening, butchering and trimming, salting and sausage making.

And then there are the stories. My favorite this year involved one Zake Treadway who had moonshined near our farm.


thingfish23 said...

Congratulations. You've just outdone yourself. Great post.

madcapmum said...

So we're going to get the moonshining story in the next installment? Looking forward to it. There's lots to think about here.