Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Thinking of Eating: The Day Finally Comes

I hadn't slept well the night before the slaughter, waking up several times thinking about what was going to happen later that day. It was odd because I'd witnessed a slaughter at Clare Carver's Big Table Farm before and, while it had been both moving and fascinating, I certainly hadn't lost sleep over it.

The turmoil reminded me of the time several years ago when I had scheduled our vet to come to the house and put our beloved old Husky, Nikki, to sleep. The night before he was to come, my mind roiled with conflicting thoughts. "Maybe today's not the right day. Maybe the vet won't be able to make it. Maybe…" But of course the morning came and he did as we had asked, giving our old girl a peaceful sendoff.

Around three o'clock I picked up my friend Linda, who was coming to watch the slaughtering process, and we drove out to the farm. It was a beautiful warm day, and Roger and Don were hanging out in the shade of their pig house. Richard arrived in his truck and pulled on his big orange rubber overalls and mud boots, clipped the white chain carrying his knives around his waist and picked up his small black rifle. As Richard walked up to the pigs, Clare was feeding them raw eggs, one of their favorite treats, just as we'd done the day before.

I'd hoped that Roger would be the first, since I was worried that he might be upset if he noticed Don getting shot, but I couldn't tell which pig Richard was closest to. If I could have yelled, "Stop!" I would have, but Richard put the point of his gun to the back of the pig's head. There was a popping sound as the gun went off, and the pig flopped over. Richard then straddled him, cut one of the arteries in the neck and blood started spilling out onto the ground (above left). There were some residual muscle spasms as the pig's heart pumped the blood out, but it quieted and I was able to go over and confirm that, yes, it was Roger. I couldn't help reaching over and scratching him behind his ear.

By then Richard had finished with Don and was getting ready to drag the bodies up the hill to the shed where he'd dress the pigs. It's a frankly fascinating process, and Richard is a master at field dressing, the skinning, gutting and halving of whole animals. At this point it was hard to identify the carcass as being Roger, the pig I knew, which made it easier to watch.

When it was all over, my half of Roger and Clare's half of Don were eventually hung in the shed to cool overnight (above right), we washed the driveway of the blood and bits, then went into the house to share a bottle of Clare's wine and cook dinner. As we sat at the table in the dooryard of the farmhouse, we toasted each pig and thanked them for their lives and the good food they would provide.

Read the other posts in this series: Roger and Me, Roger Grows Up, Saying Goodbye, The Meat of the Matter and Pasture to Plate.


Linda said...

Your photographs and words are beautifully rendered.

Gary said...

Great stories about Roger, Kathleen. Thanks for sharing.

Sarah said...

Thanks for this series! I've enjoyed reading about your experiences with Roger.

X said...

Thank you for this. I'm a vegetarian in the PDX area and I so enjoyed reading the story (though I'd be lying if I said this portion of the story didn't bring a tear to my eye!). If I ever go back to eating meat, I will be what is referred to as a "Killatarian," because I firmly believe this is the way we were meant to raise and eat animals--no machines involved. Thanks again, so glad I found this blog.