November 8, 2023
This past week, when the temperatures plummeted to depths not felt since last winter, I got an e-mail from a friend in my first parish. It was simple, direct, and clear: “Hog killing weather. You comin’?” It took me back many years to that rural community and prompted me to call him and check up on everybody.
Of course, many of those dear folk have gone to their rest. My contemporaries are growing somewhat long of tooth but the old memories remain.
One of the activities which came at the beginning of Stewardship Season was the annual Pig Pickin’. A hog was purchased from a local farmer and mercifully dispatched by a member of the church well versed in such things. Then it was, well, shall we say “processed” in such a way that nothing went to waste. (Notice how daintily I dance around the specifics!) The remaining carcass was cooked overnight in a bed of coals and attended by the men of the church. Traditionally, some potent potables were passed around but the Reverend Clergy was not usually included in that fellowship. I, of course, was the first exception to that rule and I am led to understand that subsequent clerics enjoyed a wee dram along about 3:00am.
By about 4:00pm the next day a steady stream of members began to arrive with decorations, side dishes, sauces and enough desserts to give Richard Simmons a running fit. The hour of 6:00 saw everything ready. Long handled forks were supplied for the Pickin’ and everyone dove in. There was no hesitation among young or old and if you went home hungry, it was your own fault.
I suppose that it was a different time and perhaps a different world back then. No wars were on the horizon and the only terrorists we knew of were strange folk trying to hijack planes to Cuba. Society was by no means perfect or just, but it seemed to be, by-and-large, calm. Especially in the rural climes. Of course, the hog may beg to differ!
One dynamic I remember was the gratitude folk felt back then. Rural life was easier than it had historically been but farming was (and still is) a gamble. The community depended on each other when things got tough. During the Pig Pickin’ there was an unspoken sentiment: “We are gathering to give thanks to God for what we have been given and to pledge anew our support for each other and for our church.”
There was never a surplus but there was always enough. And what was given was given with love and prayer.
I have not yet been moved to check on the price of hogs these days, but it might be something worth considering! I wonder what Bob Hubbs would say?
I bid you peace!