LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — It’s hog killing time on Blair Branch if anyone living there still raises hogs and I’m betting that John Wayne Blair already has one or two in his smoke house and probably another one fixing to meet its demise this weekend. Brother Keeter told me he helped John Wayne butcher one last year that was so big they had to use a bulldozer to drag it from the pen down to the scalding ramp and the hams were so big they had to use a wheelbarrow to get each one to the house.
When I was growing up, the weekends before and after Thanksgiving were set aside for hog killing all up and down the holler. And sometimes the mines would shut down on a weekday so the work hands could take time off to kill their hogs.
And not just anybody knows how to butcher a hog. Dad always tried to get Arlie Adams to oversee ours because Mom liked the cuts he made, but he also got Arthur Adams or Buford Caudill from time to time because Arlie was kept pretty busy. All three of these men were in great demand at hog killing time and they were generally paid with cuts of meat.
As were all the other folks who helped out because butchering a hog is not a one-person job. Scalding and scraping the hair off the carcass alone can keep four people busy for an hour or two. Water had to be packed from the well to fill two or three No. 2 washtubs. One of these was placed on rocks over a wood and coal fire and brought to a boil for scalding purposes. Other tubs contained cold rinse water and they had to be refilled every few minutes.
Packing the meat from the slaughter site to wherever it was going to be stored meant heavy lifting. And it didn’t take long to raise a blister in the notch between your thumb and forefinger hand-sawing a back bone into pork chops.