High on the Hog

Vegans, PETA, & the Squeamish Should Skip This Post

I’ve done many interviews over the years. But never from inside a kill room, standing next to an enormous hog suspended from the rafters by a hook, blood seeping from its freshly slashed throat onto the concrete floor and sluicing down a drain.

Until today.

And if that isn’t surreal enough for you, my biggest concern at that moment was the nice shoes I was wearing. Can’t be getting pig’s blood on the Allbirds now!

Talk about the ultimate “I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore!” moment. Although it kinda did feel like we were in Kansas. Close enough, in any case. I mean it in the sense that these are most definitely not the types of interviews I did for Ye Olde Publishing Company. Those involved ice cream parlors and precocious pre-teens—not just-slaughtered livestock.

I was interviewing the owner of a meat processing plant in Wall, South Dakota, to learn how they weathered the pandemic. That it included a tour of the plant was an unexpected bonus.

First, I was shown the storage freezers. They were ice cold and full of packaged meat. Nothing unusual there. Next, we went to the meat locker, filled with slabs of meat hanging from the ceiling. I had an overwhelming urge to slip on a pair of boxing gloves and start pounding away at the carcasses. Eye of the tiger, baby.

Yo, Adrian! You know how to cook a porterhouse?

But, then. Holy moly. The guy could have given me some advance warning. I didn’t know we were entering a kill room until we stepped inside, and I came face-to-face with that morning’s victim. He was rambling on and on about the process like it was no big deal, oblivious to the fact that I’m a city slicker who has never seen anything of this sort.

After the kill room, we stopped by a butcher block table with a Hillshire Farms-style summer sausage and a knife.

“You can go ahead and help yourself to a slice,” he offered, but I politely declined.

I obviously wasn’t too traumatized, because on the way out, I bought a couple of ribeye steaks and a package of sausage links from their retail case. I mean…at least I know the meat is fresh, right?

As strange as this interview was, it felt like a breath of fresh air (though not literally). This was my first in-person interview since COVID began 15 months ago. I don’t mind phone interviews, but only in a pinch. It’s always better to meet face-to-face. And this one was just the beginning: Thursday, I’m driving to Custer to interview the owners of an outdoor shop, and next week, I’m taking an honest-to-goodness business trip across the state. I’ll be on the road two nights, meeting with a rural hospital, a small-town grocer, and a quilt shop. I haven’t been on an actual business trip, one that involves hotels and comped meals, in years. It feels like a novelty. I’m looking forward to visiting a bunch of South Dakota communities I have never seen before.

The nice thing is, CenturyCo has company vehicles, so I never have to put any miles on my car when doing these interviews. The downside: I don’t know these vehicles like I do my Kona. For instance, today I stopped for gas in Wall before heading home, pulling up to the wrong pump because I assumed the gas tank on the Equinox I’d borrowed was on the driver’s side, as it has been with every single car I’ve ever owned.

Nope.

I had to drive to a different gas station, and this time I pulled up to the correct pump, but couldn’t find the lever to release the gas cap. I searched high and low, under the dashboard, next to the seats, everywhere I could think of. Nothing. I finally had to dig through the owner’s manual and learned that I had to push on the fuel cap in order to get it to open.

Life: it’s one hell of an adventure, huh?

Kayak Two-Pack

Speaking of adventure, we bought kayaks today. Hope you didn’t think I was kidding about those. Tara found a deal for two 10′ kayaks, complete with oars, for less than $900. And they have bottle holders, which pretty much sealed the deal. She had to order them for delivery to Tractor Supply Company, and they could take up to 10 days to arrive, but that’s okay: with all my upcoming travel, I’ll be too busy to hit the water right away.

Our new kayaks are purdy.

With a little luck, we’ll have them just in time for the upcoming Independence Day holiday weekend.



Categories: Food, work

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

29 replies

  1. You are amazing selecting titles, Mark, and making me smile. This is a courageous post since some people have strong emotions associated with this subject. I ‘get it’ on knowing the limitations of your own car. Yay! You did buy the kayaks. My daughter bought two kayaks recently and I have already put dibs on borrowing. An aside: I had a few slightly negative comments on my ‘Plenty of Fish’ post. Good luck on PETA. I am always curious about people and life in general. Thank you for sharing an interesting post.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, I’m sure some people will cringe when reading this, but it’s reality, you know? We don’t plant hot dog seeds and pluck them from the ground when they’re ripe!

      Funny aside from me: when I was telling Tara this, her response was, “Did you take any pictures?” I had that thought when I was there, but didn’t want to ask. Plus, it all happened so fast, I never even had my phone out.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Those are nice kayaks! Well done.

    There’s actually an indicator arrow on the gas icon on your dashboard that shows which side the gas tank is on. Crucial for borrowed or rental cars. Check it out in your Kona if you don’t believe me! Can’t help you with opening the tank, though. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  3. EVERYbody should understand where meat comes from. Like it or don’t.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Most of my/our cars were always imports so the gas thingy was always on the same side. Now I drive my dad’s car which is a Saturn (GM) and every time I need to fill up I make the mistake and have to turn the car around. 🙄

    Liked by 1 person

  5. My cousins raised Great Dane show dogs. When I was a kid and spending the night with them they said they needed to go get dog food. I was thinking the grocery store for a bag of kibble, but we ended up at a slaughterhouse and I had nightmares for weeks. If you’re not expecting it, a slit open cow belly is a bit of a shock.
    Nice kayaks!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. That sounds very disturbing. Like most city slickers, I prefer not to know where my meat comes from.

    Shocking that you are able to get the kayaks so quickly. Most recreational items are back ordered these days.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Hard to get in the moo moo moo – d after reading this,.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Sort of traumatic but also awesome. The whole opening the gas tank think would be more traumatic for me. What a pain. Good thing the manual was there. You have such a fun job. I would enjoy all of that. I did get to tour a jail once and interview a deputy. That was pretty cool.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I don’t know how I’d feel about being inside a meat processing plant. I eat meat, but I like being detached from knowing how the pig got to be my pork chop. As for not knowing where the gas tank is… that’s our running joke here at Chez Bean. When traveling we’ve had too many experiences like yours to even count. You’d think we’d learn to check before we drove into a gas station, but we haven’t. The kayaks look great.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s pretty funny, but Tara has you beat. She once drove away from a gas station with the nozzle still in her tank. Sadly, this was before we got together, ’cause I’d have LOVED to have seen that (and would have teased her about it mercilessly for the rest of our lives, I’m sure).

      Liked by 1 person

  10. I guess you can count yourself lucky you didn’t see the pig being slaughtered. That would have done me in. Nice ‘yaks.

    Liked by 1 person

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