Thanksgiving week, traditionally, was for butchering in Nicholas County, as late November air was likely to remain cool. Winter was the only refrigeration on Horse Ridge. Dad told us that when he was a boy, this was the week of the hog, fattened with his diet of late season chestnuts that smothered the ground under the grove near the woodlot. Dad's father and uncles mourned the passing of the great trees, soon chestnuts would wither to a memory, like the hog's fate. One of the elders brought out their father's Winchester, a sturdy rifle that Perry Coe used to hunt with since settling in this high timber country in 1880. They corralled the beast under the lower bough of a sugar maple near the pen, put a .44 round into his brain, and hoisted the 400 pound carcass high with hemp rope twined through a pair of block and tackle pulleys. Once the boar was gutted, life blood drained, a pair of uncles stood side by side to peel off the cuts of pork with boning knives. Organ meat was the first
to be cooked, not preserved,
salted or pickled. The smokehouse was cleared, cord wood of oak burned for days, apple or hickory added to flavor the hams and slab meat. Chunks of loin were cut for the mincemeat pie, sausage ground for the Thanksgiving feast, this clan's Samhain. I remember holding the old Winchester before it was stolen, a memory withering like the chestnut tree, like the fate of the hog.
NOVEMBER: A Poem in 30 Days
in memory of the last month of life of Lester C Coe (1925-1978)