Many Village residents had a pig pen in the back yard where they fed food scraps and all sorts of other stuff to the pigs. In the early Fall, a day would be chosen as Hog Killin’ Day. On that day, someone (I don’t know who or how they got the task) would come visit each of the pig pens to slaughter the pigs that had been fattened up.
Meanwhile, the men would have a big fire going under a metal barrel of boiling water to put the pig in after the slaughter. After boiling for a period, the pig would be hung by its back legs on a tripod made of poles, or some other contraption. Once the pig was securely hung, the men would use Zinc Mason Jar lids – the kind with milk glass on the underside – to scrape the hair from the pig. After the hair was removed, the pig was sliced open, and its innards removed.
The women, working in the kitchen, would take the guts, pinch them with their fingers forcing out the smelly contents, then put them in salt water to soak for further cleaning and cooking (chitterlings). Meanwhile the men would cut the pig into sections and bring them to the kitchen to be prepared for freezing, for grinding into sausage, blood puddings, etc. Nothing went to waste; we ate everything from the pig except for the squeal!
Every year just after “hog killin’day,” I would break out with poison ivy, especially on my face, arms and legs, which would spread all over my body. I would go to the doctor for salves, etc., and soak in the tub in Epsom salts. This scenario went on for several years until someone figured out that the fire built for the pig boiling pot was fueled by logs with poison ivy on them which, through the smoke, caused my problems! I have a grade school picture with scabs on my nose from the poison ivy that year.
(As told to me by my aunts)
Three score, plus more, years ago, I was born at home. Nothing unusual about that as most babies born in the countryside were born at home. There was no way the mothers were going to a scary hospital to give birth. You went to the hospital to end life, not to begin it! And particularly, you would never go to the University of Virginia Hospital because they killed folks there so the medical students could practice on the remains and who knows what else??
So, when the “time came,” Mrs. Beasley, the Village midwife, who lived at the top of Red Row Hill (now called Red Row Lane) was summoned to come deliver the baby, and eventually Dr. Harris would be contacted to check out the baby when he could get there.
In preparation, several ladies, either relatives or neighbors, would be on standby to participate in the birthing of the baby. The attendants would get in the bed with the mother to coach her through the breathing and pushing and provide strong arms for her to pull against as she pushed the baby, while Mrs. Beasley waited to receive the infant as it entered the world.
After the birth, Mrs. Beasley would bath and tend to the baby while the women tended the new mother and cleaned up the room. As for the men, no, they did not boil water. They stayed around waiting for the process to end so they could take the remains from the birth and bury them in the back yard, being sure to dig deep enough so dogs would not dig them up.
This was a special time for me for many reasons. The excitement of talking up the event went on for a long time, weather had to be just right, all the equipment had to be assembled, help had to be made available - both men and women.
When the date was finally picked, the
group would assemble at Pruvis Store. The barrel had been filled with water the night before, all the knives had been sharpened, and the jar tops had been made ready. When Jack Purvis said "let's go!" the entourage would
move to the hog pen.
I was right there with them and I stayed until two of the men would climb over into the pen and catch the hog. At that moment I would put both hands on my ears and run as fast as I could back to the store so I couldn't hear the scream of the pig or watch it stagger around until it finally fell down and bled out. The bleed out was important because if the hog got too excited before the killing it wouldn't release all the blood in its system. The kill had to be quick and exact.
Then the hog was taken from the pen to a platform that was built with the barrel at one end, hoisted up and shoved into the boiling water, turned around several times, pulled out and a test scrape was made to see if it needed more boiling. When it was just right, the hog was pulled out of the barrel and all hands, armed with knives and scrapers, would remove all the hair. A jiggle pole was a pole about 3 feet long, with both ends sharpened to a point so it could be inserted into the tendon just above the hind toe. It was used to hang the hog in a tree or scaffold for the butchering.
Butchering was an art passed down from generations, the head was removed, the cavity opened up, and the intestines and all the organs removed and carried to the kitchen by the Ladies so their work could begin. They
cleaned the chitterlings by hand, made souse, sausage and liver pudding, tied up the bladder so I could use it as a soccer ball, saved the brains to be eaten with eggs for breakfast. The skin was boiled to make lard and then fried to make cracklings. They would kill several hogs at a time to make use of all the people and equipment needed.
This was certainly a community affair. We had the only commercial sausage grinding machine in the area so, during hog killing time it was in great demand. There was no charge for the machine but it was always returned with several packages of sausage.