Continuing our remembering of the annual November hog butchering on the Scheckel farm on Oak Grove Ridge outside Seneca in Crawford County in the 1940s and 1950s. Butchering was a 3 or 4 man operation and farmers often banded together, same as the threshing ring and wood cutting. Dad had 3 sons and I would guess that we three totaled up to about 2 men in terms of getting the job done!
If you read accounts of farm butchering in that time period, you come across articles that say the men did on relish or enjoy it all that much. It’s just a chore that had to be done. Often the work was done with a minimum of talking, ribbing, and bantering that occurred when farmers got together. They knew they were taking life, and it was necessary to sustain their families through the winter.
We tried a rope around the legs of the demised hog and dragged him to the place of butcher. Short pieces of rope were tied to each ends of the single tree and the other ends around the back feet of the hog.
“Pull the rope boys”, Dad yelled out. Phillip, Bob, and I grabbed the block and tackle rope and started pulling and slowly the hog moved more into position under the single tree. Slowly the back legs raised up, gradually the hog’s rear end raised up, and bit by bit, the work became harder.
There were 3 pulleys on each end of the block and tackle. You had to pull 6 feet of rope to get one foot of lift. This was the same block and tackle we used to stretch fence. We were quite familiar with how it worked.
Soon the whole hog was off the ground. We raised the hog’s head about 4 feet above the ground and positioned the block and tackle over the cast iron barrel of hot water.
“OK, boys, lower him in” commanded Dad, and we unset the block and tackle and slowly lowered the hog into the water. The hog was kept there several minutes. We brought him up a bit and dunked him down into the water again. Dad tested the hair scraping with a knife.
The idea was to soften the hog hair or bristles so they could be scraped off with a knife. If you get all that hair off, your hog should be white, not black and white. I was amazed at that. I discovered that all pigs were white underneath.
We raised Duroc hogs, which sported a dull reddish color. There was very little white hair or coloring on Durocs. We also had Hampshire hogs. Hampshires were all black, and displayed a white band around the body that covered the front legs.
I do believe we had some Spotted Poland China pigs. Dad bought these as 30 to 40 pound feeder pigs and we fattened them to 200 pounds, ready for market. The color Spotted Poland China was just what the name implies. These hogs were the color equivalent of Holstein cows.
Phillip, Bob, and I argued this one through and through. Were these hogs white with black splotches, or black with white blotches? We didn’t know and had no way of getting a definitive answer, but it did not hold us back from putting forth a conviction, one way or the other.
More on butchering in the next blog.