Thursday, February 22, 2007

Picking the Fat

“Well, now, I’ll just be honest and tell you how it really was miss,” the patriarch says to me. I’d called him to see what if the asking price on a supposed milk cow and calf wasn’t more than a bit high but being who we are where we are, that wasn’t the first conversation. First I asked how he’d been feeling, and when had he hooked his team, and how was his “boy” (who is older than me), stuff like that.

Eventually I got around to asking about cattle prices. Sure enough, the starting asking price was a good $200 more than what a high first asking price would legitimately be, especially taking into consideration the specifics on this cow. She is just barely 2 ½ years old and yet has just born her second calf -- that is too young. She was bought as a milk cow and would not stand to milk, no matter what. Allowed to gestate while being babied and accustomed to the routine, she still wouldn’t stand to be milked by machine when she freshened . . . but they say she will stand quietly while being hand milked. But she is not actually being milked, and she never has actually been milked so she can hardly be called a milk cow. Her bull calf is less than a week old, and yearling beef calves are bringing very little this year, what with the price of corn having doubled. It is February (no grass), not April. My starting offer, if I were to make it (which I eventually did), would be less than half their beginning asking price.

Of course, he didn’t say anything that directly. He told me how much yearling calves had averaged per head year before last, last year, and this year, told me he’d missed the last two cow sales, told me those Jersey cows didn’t bring the prices like those “good” cows do. When I told him I thought they were asking a bit much for the pair, he said, “What? Are they asking $800?” and by this I knew what he considered a high beginning asking price.

And then we went on to pigs. Yep, they’ve killed theirs but he wasn’t feeling well enough to help much. He told me to be sure I stopped by his place and he’d give me a mess of meat, and sausage since we don‘t usually make any sausage.

Then he said, “Well, now, I’ll just be honest and tell you how it really was miss.” He always calls me miss and never can remember my first name at all. “When we used to kill pigs, people would come and pick the fat out of the intestines, that’s how hard times were. People would walk, I’m talking they’d walk five miles, just for a head. To make that souse meat. My momma didn’t make it but Mrs. Dust made souse meat with the liver and meat from the head and all those spices and it was good stuff. That’s how hard them times was, people picking fat out of the intestines.”

He isn’t talking about the depression because he isn’t old enough. He’s just talking about a way of life. How it was. Not about any particularly hard time as we would look back and think of it.

Let him with ears hear.

Helpful hint of the day: instead of ordering overly expensive fingerling potatoes (and having to pay exhorbitant shipping), check your local stores for them at affordable prices, then save your own seed. We've found them at the health food store and we've found them at Wal-Mart. They work fine.


Fathairybastard said...

Reading this brings memories to mind from stories told by older folks through the years. Dad tells of a time when the AAA man came by to kill cattle, and my grandfather would take him aside and distract him while neighbors took the meat. I've never had any of those experiences, so I read this and live vicariously.

the Contrary Goddess said...

ok, different culture -- who is the AAA man?