In a little rural community nestled on a high bluff overlooking the Mississippi River, the first week in November after the first freeze always began with a highlighted activity called hog-butchering time. This liveliness ranked second only to Christmas in the little community. A ring of neighbors and families who lived on top of the bluff and those who lived down under by the river always gathered at the Henry Popp Farm to butcher hogs for their winter meat.
Henry, Evelyn's father, and Garrett, Garnet's father, always built a fire under the iron kettle to render the lard. Charlie filled three iron barrels with water and started a fire under them by 6:00 A. M. in the morning. The water had to be hot enough to scald the hogs after they were shot.
Henry, Garrett, and Ed would build the hoist, scaffolds, and erect the pulleys to lift the hogs. After dipping the animals in the scalding water, they scrapped off their hair.
The men always butchered from fifteen to eighteen hogs during that week. On Monday, everyone took part of the first hog butchered home with them. All the families would have fresh meat that night and some for breakfast and lunch the next day, including homemade liver and pork sausage. The of us children were so hungry we could hardly wait to eat the fresh homemade sausage.
One Tuesday, at three in the afternoon, Hans, the town's leading banker, brought two hogs to the Popp farm. He wanted both to be butchered that afternoon so he could take the meat home and have tenderloin for supper and bacon for breakfast.
"We can't get 'em butchered, Hans." Pop Popp said. "We'll butcher and hang one hog. It'll be dark before we get that one done. We'll have to cut it up for you in the morning."
"No!" Hans stamped his foot. "I want them today."
"All right, you stubborn old goat." Pop Popp said and pointed a stick of wood at him. "We'll get one done, but not both of them."
The tired men worked and worked. Their anger shot their system full of adrenalin. Hans's hog got butchered, but the men had to cut it up after dark. They placed it on tables and shelves in Henry's smokehouse for the meat to air and cool.
"No! No!" Hans stormed at the men. "Bring that meat out here. I'm taking it home on my wheelbarrow. Goin' eat some tenderloin tonight and have fresh bacon for breakfast in the morning."
"But it's dark." Henry told him. "You can't see to take it home."
"You whipper-snapper." Hans shook his fist at Henry. "Don't you tell me what I can do and can't do. I'm loading that meat in my wheelbarrow and taking it home."
"Man, you're crazy! You can't guide that wheelbarrow down that winding river bluff road. There're too many sharp curves." Henry said. "You can hardly walk down that long steep hill to the river where you live. That pushcart will get away from you."
"I'll show you. Help me load my meat." Hans determined he would take the meat home. The men loaded the wheelbarrow with the hams, shoulders, sides, feet, and the head.
Hans pushed the wheelbarrow and away it rushed. The wheelbarrow took off faster than Hans could walk. Hans ran. The wheelbarrow rolled faster than greased lightening.
"Help me! Whoa!" Hans ran on his stubby bowed legs yelling. "Help me! Whoa!"
The men saw the outline of hams flying upward, hog shoulders swirling sideways, liver, pig feet, and sides soaring in all directions like a boomerang. Goodness knows where the head went.
"Help! Help!" The men ran to the sound of distress. They found Hans sprawled over twined honeysuckle and blackberry briers. The men dragged him out and pulled the sticky briers from his britches as he hollowed, "Ouch! Oh!"
Where was the wheelbarrow? The meat?
They hunted for the meat in the dark, but they couldn't find it. The next morning at daybreak, the good neighbors gathered to help Hans hunt for his meat. No meat could be found, only bones. A packs of coyotes, wolves, and dogs had all dined on the fresh pork for their Thanksgiving meal.
All Hans had left was a broken wheelbarrow, a few freshly gnawed bones, and a crushed ego.
And all he had to eat was crow.
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