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Jim's story - Page 4

Written by James Needham Groom (b.1911-)

When the corn was ripe in the furrows it was pulled stock and all and thrown in a wagon pulled by a gentle team. Of course a man gathering corn moved slowly down the rows so the team started and stopped continuously at the command of the picker. The side of the wagon opposite the picker had a high side board and the near side was low so that he could throw the corn against the high side board without looking. You could judge the proficiency of the picker by the time between the thumps of the corn hitting the side board.

The farmer shucked a light load of corn to take to the grist mill to make enough corn meal for his family. This came first, if it was a poor crop, the animals had to eat something else. The miller took a percentage of the corn for payment, and again no money changed hands. Thus, the farmer had the second in the 3M diet - meal.

There was no R.E.A. then, therefore no electricity, hence no refrigeration. This had a tremendous effect on how people ate. What was cooked for the noon meal couldn’t be served for the evening meal in hot weather, because it would sour and also food poisoning was a great danger. What food that was left at noon was thrown in the slop bucket for the hogs. In this manner, the food that would have spoiled was, in effect, recycled by the pigs who furnished pork to be eaten in the fall.

There being no refrigeration, the hog butchering took place in the fall on a day cold enough to chill the meat all the way thru, but not cold enough to freeze the outside, thus trapping the body heat inside. The hog that had lived on swill all his life had been switched to corn a month or so before butchering. Nobody had ever heard about cholesterol, so the fatter the hog, the better.

A fire was built under a pot, which measured around 4’x6’x2’ and the water brought to about 180 degrees F. The hog was walked to near the vat where he was hit between the eyes with a heavy hammer and his throat was cut with a large keen butcher knife to drain the carcass of its blood. He was then rolled into the vat and submerged in the hot water to loosen the hair, after which everyone pitched in to scraping all the hair off with a relatively dull knife.

When the pig was cleaned of hair, a slit was cut on the back legs just above the feet so that a sharp piece of wood could be stuck behind the Achilles tendon. A block and tackle was hooked in the middle of the wood and the pig was hoisted high enough for his head to clear the ground. Using a sharp knife, a slip was made from between the hind legs to the jowl and the pig was de-bowelled. The liver and heart were pulled out and sent to the house to be cooked for lunch. This was the first meat of any kind to be eaten since the winter before, except for chicken and very salty "fillet of sows bosom". The next treat was back bone and loin. There will never be food as good as this was. There is an old saying "Hunger is the best tonic for an appetizer".

All the fat was stripped from the intestines to be made into lard, and the intestines turned inside out and stripped and cleaned to be used as sausage casing. From the pig there were sausage, salted bacon or "middling meat", ham and shoulders, also spare rips, lard and lye soap. The scraps of fat were thrown into a large black kettle in the back yard with a small fire under it. The fat was slowly boiled from the tissue and strained in a pure liquid form into buckets where it set as solid white lard. The pieces of tissue that were left were called cracklings. One of the dietary treats of the year was created by mixing cracklings with cornbread to make "crackling bread". Of course the taste buds were not jaded by cookies, ice cream cones, Babe Ruth bars, banana splits, etc., so any variation from every day diet was a treat. This all furnished the last of the meat, meal and molasses diet.

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