MY COUNTRY UPBRINGING
I was raised country. I lived the country life. I learned country things and country ways. Living in a rural area was what I knew and I had no desire to live in a city or large town. I could see nature all around me where I was raised. I lived on a farm that had cows, goats, hogs, turkeys, chickens, rabbits, and even a pet skunk, raccoons, and a pair of ferrets. When I tell folks about all the animals we had on the farm, folks most-likely think that I was raised up on Old McDonald’s Farm or some place similar. We would butcher two or three hogs every winter on one of the coldest days. Family and friends would come help with the butchering. We boiled water in a large cast iron pot by placing sticks and other wood around the pot and then setting the wood and sticks afire with matches. Then we would place a hog into a fifty-five gallon drum that was placed at an angle in the ground. The hog would be placed into the drum head first and then the scalding hot water would be poured into the drum with a metal container like a five gallon bucket or a stainless steel mop bucket. Steam would rise into the air and some of the men would twist the hog around and after a moment, the hog would be removed from the drum and placed upon a sheet of tin or a piece of plywood. Then we would pull the hair off the body as quickly as we could. If the hair set on the hog, it would be very hard to pull the hair off, and I remember someone had to go get some razors so that we could shave the hair off instead of pulling it off. When the butchering was completed, my grandmother, with the aid of a couple helpers, would then make cracklings in another cast iron pot that was being boiled down with burning sticks and wood, in much the same way as the water was being boiled in the other large cast iron pot. I, for one, loved those cracklings. My grandmother also would take the meat from the butchered head of the animal and make some of the best tasting “Hog Head Cheese” that I ever ate. And of course, we cleaned out the intestines so that my grandmother could make chitterlings. We, being country folks, didn’t pronounce them Chit-Ter-Lings. We called them Chitlins. I can’t imagine eating those things now, but I ate them all those years ago. There was one fellow in the community who would always show up on hog butchering day so that he could get the testicles of the hogs to take home and fry them and eat them. I can remember wondering how the heck a person could eat a hogs family jewels and not throw up or get violently sick. I still can’t stand the idea of eating hog nuts, balls, or whatever you may choose to call them. The very idea of it totally turns me off entirely. I’ve heard of folks eating rattlesnake meat, and that’s about how I’d feel about eating a hogs private parts…YUCK! And I mean YUCK!
Being rural farm folks meant that we had to get out in the field and work the crops, planting, hoeing weeds, and picking corn, beans, peas, etc. We also would sometimes have to shell corn for the animals, and we toted buckets of water and feed to the animals. Anyone who thinks that owning and operating a farm is all pleasure and leisure is very mistaken. It takes work. Plenty of work! But there was one reward that surely was nice…MEAL TIME. Country meals are very tasty. We used to have peas and cornbread, fried chicken, liver and onions with plenty of onions cooked down, fried deer steaks, deer meat hash, fried okra and fried egg plant slices, etc. We worked pulling nails out of found lumber from the city dump, for my paternal granddaddy was very thrifty and loved to go to the city dump to find lumber and other things that be put to use on the farm. Of course, if we hadn’t gotten that stuff, then someone else would have. Visiting the dump always showed me how wasteful some folks were (And still are!).
Being raised country had its moments of charm and it had its moments of negativity. For one thing, the city kids seemed to be able to do more “Fun” things. While we were stuck to the task of tending the crops, they were Scott Free and happy-go-lucky doing whatever they wanted to do (Or so we kids always thought). But, to be fare, they probably had their share of daily grudge to go through also in some form or the other. We, the country kids, just perceived it that way, that they were able to have more freedom than we were. My existence as a farm kid, is only a distant memory now. Would I ever go back and change myself from a country boy to a city boy? Absolutely not. Being country was a large part of what made me who I am. And country I shall stay.