A Commentary by J. D. Longstreet
The recent near arctic weather we have been experiencing brought back some fond and not so fond memories of my Carolina country boy heritage.
(Before I delve into this missive, allow me to set the record straight -- in the spirit of full disclosure, don't you know.
The original title of this piece was: "Hog Killing Time." But, since I am a thoroughly modern ole codger, I am aware of the, shall we say, sensitivities of the younger set. Therefore the change in the title to a kinder, more gentle, description of the "Slaughter of the Swine." Just thought you ought to know.)
As I walked down my concrete driveway to retrieve my morning newspaper from it's delivery box, in a nine degree temperature, memories came flooding back of cold January mornings like those when I was a lad. It was hog killing weather!
Now, we had a small country place about thirteen miles south of the North Carolina border in South Carolina. We were eight to ten miles out "in the country." I don't mean suburbs -- no. I mean in the country.
From the time I was old enough, and strong enough, to heft a 5 gallon paint bucket filled with edible garbage, referred to as "slop," it was one of my chores to "slop" the hogs and water them before I went to school each morning. That was my job -- summer, or winter, rain or fair, the animals always came first.
I kept a stick cut from a nearby tree, from which I had stripped the bark and this I used to break the ice in the watering trough for the hogs on those frigid winter mornings.
Rarely did we have any breed of hogs other than Hampshires. The Hampshire hog is a domestic swine breed characterized by erect ears and a black body with a whitish band around the middle, covering the front legs -- and a quite unpleasant disposition. They could, with the slightest provocation, or none, become violent -- with no notice -- and attempt to take a massive bite from the human limb nearest and most exposed to them. Having virtually no neck, the irritated swine would, turn his head as much as he could and upon grabbing said limb in his mouth, in one smooth action, snap his head back to the normal position, thereby breaking said limb of the unfortunate human who had been so careless as to get too near and drop his guard for an instant. It was a constant danger when dealing with those Hampshires.
The could also climb -- (Hogs usually prefer to go under a fence rather than over it. They are, after all "rooting" animals.) and DID more often than I care to remember, leading me on a several day's long chase tracking them through the woods and muddy bogs and the many hardwood thickets on our little country place.
Dad's hog pens always seemed to have the tallest sides. Once he was asked if he was penning up a hog -- or a gorilla. I am happy to report that we tracked each one of the swine escapees down and returned them to their place of confinement.
As killing time approached we'd build a wooden floor in a section of the pen. The hogs to be butchered were moved to the floored area and from then until their demise they were fed the choicest food, such as corn, and store bought hog feed that contained some of the sweetest smelling molasses I have ever, to this day, smelled.
The near-by neighbors and relatives would begin gathering at our house before dawn. (They would receive generous and choice portions of fresh pork at the close of the day's proceedings.) Fires were built around huge black cast iron wash pots. A frame for suspending the carcass was erected -- usually in the form of a tripod.
I won't walk you through the entire process, but allow me to say that we ate very well. Nothing went to waist that could be eaten, in some form, from that animal.
It was a daylong process and by nightfall everyone was exhausted and nearly frozen from the near frigid temperatures. And it was messy ... very messy. Slaughtering always is. But as is the case with making omelets, well, you know the expression. But all that hard work was rewarded with some of the finest, tastiest, dinner table fare to ever grace the palate of man.
So why am I writing a piece about something that is totally off the "narrative" of the conservative commentariat today? Simply because it IS off the narrative.
Then there is, I suppose, a bit of me that hopes you begin to see that when I speak of self sufficiency, of responsibility for one's self, of dependance on no one but yourself, I really do know what I'm talking about -- first hand.
I proudly hail from a background of red necks and blue collars, of moonshiners and smugglers, of rakes, rogues, rebels, rascals, and reverends. We even have a long, and colorful, history in local law enforcement. In other words, the salt of the earth -- all off-spring of the family that sailed into the Charleston Harbor in 1789 (just five years after the British and Tories were kicked out and the name changed from Charles Town to Charleston) and settled in the ninety-sixth precinct of South Carolina.
You will note that I said nothing above of the family being, at any time, involved with politics. While my ancestors did not shy from, shall we say, shadowy activities, some less than circumspect, ahem, politics was considered just too, uh, distasteful.
They were proud, tough, independent, thoroughly southern and thoroughly American.
So why am I telling you this? Well, I suppose it's a part of my bona fides. When I write of individual freedom and liberty, it's because I grew up enjoying both. I know both the cost AND the value of each. It is a part of who I am. And I am not alone.
See, when my generation observes the current crop of citizens who seem to be oblivious as they micturate away their individual freedom, we are frequently dumbfounded. I must tell you I have been more dumbfounded in the past five years than ever before in my life!
So. I have come full circle, back to the conservative narrative.
So many of my generation, are approaching, or have past, that point in our lives when we had hoped to hand off the mantle of "apologist" for our representative republic to a younger, more zestful, more zealous, more healthful generation ... only to find so many have no clue what they have lost and are totally incapable of defending those freedoms that still remain but are tentative, at best.
Do not mistake anger for bitterness. I am not bitter. I am angry. The ravages of time and ill health have made it so that I can do little more, these days, than climb aboard my cyber soapbox and shake my verbal fist in the face of the spineless leaders in Washington who have taken advantage of a dumbed-down electorate to trash our constitution and steal our liberty. I find very little in the way of redemption for any from either side of the aisle.
They remind me often of the hogs I described above, except -- they are slurping from the public trough. At least the Hampshires wound up on our dinner table where THEY actually did some good.
J. D. Longstreet
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