Quilting, Farming, Variety

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Thanksgivings Past

As Thanksgiving approaches, I always remember the way my family spent the day. I don't remember eating turkey, probably until I was in junior high school, and that would have been at school. And I don't remember ever having beef of any kind except an occasional hamburger at town, until Mama took a job in town in the early 50s, but we did have pork. The day of butchering was usually on Thanksgiving. This is a story of the day the hog was butchered; if you're squeamish, don't read.

...As Thanksgiving Day approached, Wanda was glad to have a few days off from school. One night at supper she said, "We had turkey and dressing for dinner today. Boy it was good!"

"What's a turkey taste like?" asked Charlotte. "A turkey tastes sorta like a big 'ol baked hen. You probably wouldn't eat it though; you won't eat anything," said Wanda. Charlotte was tired of the plain meals they had to have now. All the fryers had been used; there had been very little fresh meat to eat with the vegetables since then. Now and then Daddy brought home a squirrel for Mama to fry, but there wasn't much of it and sometimes it was tough to chew. "If the weather stays this cold, we'll kill hogs on Thanksgiving Day," said Daddy.
On Thanksgiving morning everything was white with frost, the skies were clear, so Daddy got ready to butcher the hog. He built a fire under the big iron wash pots and the water in them soon began to boil. Uncle Dewey came to help kill the hog and hang it; they filled buckets with the boiling water and poured it over the hog, then took their sharp butcher knives and scrapped the hair off the hog, and dressed the meat into various cuts: shoulders, bacon slabs, tenderloin, backbone, and hams.

Mama and Aunt Leola rubbed the hams, one shoulder, and the bacon slabs with a mixture of salt and sugar. It would preserve the meat and help keep flies off if the weather turned warmer. Daddy took the pieces to the smokehouse and hung them from the rafters with strings of wire. The next day Mama would put the meat from the other shoulder through the meat grinder, add salt, pepper, and sage and shape it into sausage patties. Then she would fry them and can them in her pressure cooker. Now there would be meat to last until spring. The little scraps of fat would be cooked until they were crisp and the liquid (lard) was poured off to be used in cooking.

Charlotte felt content tonight; the lamp flickered and cast familiar shadows on the walls. She and Wanda brought their flannel gowns to the heater to warm them, then dashed into the cold north room and snuggled down into the feather bed. Mama pulled the blanket and quilts up over them, kissed them both and said, "Sweet dreams, girls."

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving Day! Charlotte

As a child, I was very finicky about what I ate and I remain the type who eats to live rather than living to eat. The meat from the backbone, boiled, was always my favorite; better than any turkey!


  1. Girl, you should/could write a book. The picture of the hog hanging up looked somewhat like long underwear hanging on a clothesline. Have a Very Happy Thanksgiving. (Do you have turkey now?)

  2. I must admit that I skimmed over the part of your post immediately following "squeamish". I do recall my mom speaking of killing hogs on their farm during her childhood.
    Happy Thanksgiving, Charlotte, I'm glad to have you among my blogging friends!

  3. I agree - a book would be perfect Charlotte!
    Wishing you the happiest of Thanksgivings. I am so thankful to have met you!

  4. Charlotte this is a great story, I agree you should write a book!
    You have so much to share, a way of life many of us haven't known but need to remember - our American heritage is important to know and I love that you share it with us.

  5. I remember a few hog butchering days from when I was a child. They used to do it on Thanksgiving, I wrote about one such time in one of my manuscripts that takes place in 1908.
    I enjoy reading your stories.

  6. Good storytelling, as usual, Charlotte. I'm squeamish, but enjoyed the read--every word of it. Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family.

  7. I just love reading your stories like this one. When I come upon your posts like these I read them to my family. They love them too! My husband and I butcher our own hogs, it sure is a learning experience for our children. They jump right in a help as it is a big job.

  8. In the small country town I live in a lot of the farmers butcher hogs. I remember 35 years ago when I came to this area (after a divorce and thought I could not make it through life) I would buy fresh sausage. Wonder if anyone does this anymore. Now I eat differently. Mostly vegetables and season with meat. My small turkey yesterday more for little granddaughters to see on table.
    Yes, we have a lot in common in our past years and now. Somewhere in between I led the big city life.
    But my heart has always been in the country and a simple life style. Blessings to you Charlotte.

  9. Charlotte, your story was so real to me that I could smell the fresh meat and feel the cold! We really have a lot in common....I even had an Uncle Dewey! We always looked forward to the hog killing time--it meant pork chops and bacon. The last time I helped butcher a hog, I was pregnant with my youngest son (who is 38 now) and that is the only time it made me a little sick. My brother-in-law and some friends still kill hogs for meat, but they are processed at a packing house. Loading the hog and dropping it off, then picking up the meat wrapped in butcher paper is a lot different than we used to do it. I even remember cooking out lard in the big black iron kettle! Thanks for the memories.

  10. Great post-and great photo-I love it!!