Well there I was standing in the middle of, oh what should I call it, a bunch of hog s**t. I am wondering just what I did to deserve this. Oh, you are confused. Let me back the train up a bit. I am seventeen years old, weighing in at 135 lbs. dripping wet. It was about this time in the summer. Hotter than the Hawkeyes on a winning streak. My dad gets a phone call from Ralph down the road from us. Ralph is a good guy. He is one of the Harrison clan around the area. It seems he has some feeder pigs needing to be castrated. The Vet will be out the next morning. Let me define a thing or two here. Feeder pigs are ones raised specifiably to be sold to the packing plants for their meat. They (the males – boars) are commonly castrated at between 40 and 60 lbs. To prevent them from reproducing. Just like we do to our pets. A vet will come out and perform the deed. You might imagine this is a two man job. On one side is the Vet and on the other is the holder of said male animal.
My dad and I go down to Ralph’s farm which is only about a ½ mile from us. Being vertically challenged I figured I wouldn’t be too busy. A guy needed some height for this job but I am game and full of myself. The Vet arrives shortly after us. I look in the pen where Ralph has got the unwilling recipients and, oh boy, Ralph has let these pigs go a little too long. They are more on the order of 80 lbs. The Vet does not administer any deadening to the area on the animal. It is just grunt and deal with it. No stitches either. The proper technique required by the Vet is for the holder of said overweight wiggling pig is to get its head between your legs so that its head is behind you. You grab its back legs, one in each hand, and lift him up high enough so the Vet has a clear view. You must secure the animal tight enough to minimize any movement.
As you may image a farm kid who is 5′ 4” dripping wet is not very far off the ground. At 80 lbs. The pigs are fairly long. My dad leads off so I can see how it is done. My dad is 5′ 8” or 9”. He has no problem. I grab my first wiggling stud muffin. Up comes his back legs. I have his body locked between my legs and am firmly in control. The Vet yells at me “Higher”. Huh? OK I hoisted the back legs up as high as I can get them. My hands and the pig’s feet are next to each of my ears. My face is now only inches away from the Vet’s work area. Before you can say “snap” the Vet does his thing. I let go and off the pig goes grunting and yelping an octave higher than before. I look at my dad. The three of them, the Vet, Ralph and my dad are all laughing their heads off. I then realized the reason I was there was as much for amusement as it was for providing some labor to the task. Little did they realize or care that it took about a week for me to get my appetite back. As an aside, the parts that were removed are cooked and more commonly called “Rocky Mountain Oysters”. My dad for one thought they were great. This would not be the last time I would have an opportunity to enrich the lives of others.
All in all I think we did about 60 pigs that morning. When done, Ralph’s wife invited us in to the kitchen for some refreshments and to wash up. I could not wait to wash up, especially my face. The cookies and lemonade, however, were to die for. It would seem that all of the farmer’s wives were great cooks. Sure miss those home cooked meals made from scratch. Yum, Yum. To this day, I do not eat oyster of any kind – sea or land.
While on the subject of farm animals. The singing group The Animals were a British band of the 1960s, formed in Newcastle upon Tyne during the early part of the decade. The band moved to London upon finding fame in 1964. The Animals were known for their gritty, bluesy sound and deep-voiced front man Eric Burdon, as exemplified by their signature song and transatlantic No.1 hit single, “The House of the Rising Sun”, as well as by hits such as “We Gotta Get out of This Place”, “It’s My Life”, “I’m Crying” and “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood”. The band balanced tough, rock-edged pop singles against rhythm and blues-oriented album material. They were known in the US as part of the British Invasion. The Animals were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994.
They performed a couple of my favorite songs; “The House of the Rising Sun” and “We Gotta Get out of This Place”. This second song actually became the unofficial theme song for those of us in Vietnam. It expressed our collective desire to get out of there. I remember vividly being in one of the clubs when this song was played. There was never a soldier who was not singing this song as loud as they could. I still get goose bumps thinking about that. Little did we know then that we would never get out of there. Take a listen sometime.
This past Saturday my current wife and I took a day trip to northeast Iowa. We had a great time even with a flat tire in the process. The overt reason for the trip was to meet up with Sven’s parent and have lunch at Pete’s in Prairie Du Chien. Little did I realize we also had a great sight-seeing adventure of Northeast Iowa in the process. We saw so many fascinating things and beautiful Iowa countryside. B and H were great partners because this was their stomping grounds and they knew seemingly everything. We were so fortunate to have them take us all around. Personally, I left the state of Iowa for the first time this year passing through Wisconsin and Illinois. I also found aged cheddar cheese in a fish shop. They had aged Swiss 2, 3, 4, 5 ,7, and 10 years. I purchased a hunk of cheddar aged for 7 years. It definitely had a bite.
Now Pete’s is a burger shop. They have a unique steamed process for cooking the burgers. The place is about like a carnival cotton candy shack. They serve from both sides of the building. They cook 48 burgers at a time coated with onions. It takes about 20 minutes to cook a new batch. There were 10 to 15 people in line on each side. The menu is limited – burger, chips and pop. The burger is enhanced with onions, ketchup, mustard or horseradish mustard. That is it – no cheese, no fries. Several of my men’s breakfast acquaintances have been urging me for some time to go up and experience the burgers. They have even offered to take me up. I can now say I got the full Pete’s experience.
A note found on the refrigerator read “Someone from the Gyna Colleges called. They said the Pabst Beer is normal. I didn’t even know you liked beer.” This is why men should not be allowed to take messages.
Today is Milk Chocolate Day (not to be confused with Chocolate Day) celebrates everything that’s good about milk chocolate – one of the most common forms of chocolate in snacks, bars and drinks!
“It’s not that I can and others can’t, it’s I did and others didn’t.” If I can make at least one person smile, or laugh till they leak, then my day was not wasted. Now, until we meet again. -TA!