Vol.2..Norwegian Farmer’s Son..June 29th

June 29th………..“WHAT WAS A DANGEROUS TASK THAT YOUR FARMER FATHER CARRIED OUT TO MAKE HIS TEAM OF HOGS OVERALL STRONGER AND THEIR MEAT BETTER”?

Spit, swirl, swirl, swirl, check the cutting edge……..spit, swirl, swirl, swirl, check the cutting edge and repeat. As I trotted into our family Kitchen, one fine morning there on our farm, that’s the sounds I heard from our farmer father, Russell, as he sat there at his kingly spot next to our family’s dinner table. Dad was spitting on the whetstone and intently focused on sharpening his pocket knife to a near scalpel’s edge with every angled stroke upon his well-worn, old-fashioned sharpening device. So worn was his whetstone that it resembled a sway-back horse with it’s very own “valley” where our patriarch’s knife blade had traveled hundreds, if not thousands of times through the years.

Elliott’s father, Russell, with some of their pigs on their farm near Kiester, Minnesota. Circa 1963.

“Whooeeee, Dad, just how sharp IS that knife of yours”?? “I’ll show ya, Son”! And with that, Dad spit on the hair of his forearm (for a bit of lubrication) and shaved the hair clean off of his arm lickety split!!!

“Wowsa!!!, Are ya gonna do surgery”? said I. “In a way, yes”!, said Dad... “And you’re gonna help me”!!

As the back porch door slapped shut behind us, our father took aim and was walking us towards the Hog House at the southeast corner of the yard. Pa informed me, as we walked, that today was his day to castrate all the young males of the recent litters of piglets that had been born there in our family’s little “hog heaven”. “What is castration, Dad? and why do we do it to the boy piglets when they’re young like this”? “For a couple reasons, at least, Son”…said Dad. “For one thing, as a farmer, I want the very best team of hogs that I can breed. That, in turn, will give me the best dollars for them when I take them to market. Also, I already have my one and only strongest male boar pig for breeding. Hopefully, as he does his job, strong baby pigs will be born to the sows. Therefore, I just don’t need a bunch of other males around the farm. Castration, Son, is the process of removing a couple parts from these young male pigs that will keep them from mating with the females as they grow into adults. Another reason we castrate is that, if all male pigs WERE allowed to stay male, their bodies would produce hormones that will taint their meat (makes the meat stink when it’s cooked after butchering and is actually called “boar taint”). And, yet another reason, Elliott, is that it’s better to do this procedure when the piglets are still small enough to handle and for the trauma of this experience to not be quite so hard on them as it would be when they’re older.”

The two dotted lines, in this drawing, shows where Elliott’s dad made the cuts to make this upside down piglet boy NOT a boy. 😉

With that animal husbandry knowledge now imparted into my young boy brain, it was time to get this adventure underway.

My little boy job in this piggy process was to standby, there in our Hog House, and hold a squirt bottle of disinfecting iodine while Dad reached out and caught the first little male piglet. With decibel levels above a first soprano, that little oinker was squealing to high heaven for getting caught by our father. The next thing that little porcine prince knew was that he had been flipped upside down between our muscular daddy’s legs and he was looking up at that cobweb covered ceiling above us still squealing in protest. Out came Dad’s super sharp pocket knife with the blade out and ready for “surgery”. For me to put it in as gentle terms as possible, Dad found and squeezed the two little orbs that designated that animal to be a boy and made two quick incisions with his blade. When the “objects” came out from those incisions, our father made a second quick slice to sever them away from the piglet’s body. My job, that day, was to now squirt a sufficient coating of iodine on the two little wounds to help kill any latent germs in the area and help with healing. In a quick re-flip and release, the little pink porcine went squealing back over towards his other family members and the healing slowly began. One less boy in the “sounder” of pigs.

The real danger in this operation stemmed from the fact that, even though these young pigs were still relatively small, they could really kick hard in their excitement of being handled and upside down in Dad’s lap. On more than one occasion, a male piglet got a lucky kick in against our Pop that caused that ultra-sharp knife to cut our dear daddy instead of the piglet. Poor father, now it was HIS blood that was gushing from a deep gash into his hand from his own knife!! 😦 But, our father was one tenacious man who didn’t give up and call it quits. He just doused himself with iodine, grimaced with the pain and continued the castration process till the job was done. What a tough and determined man was our poppa and it made me proud to be a Norwegian Farmer’s Son!!!

The Noorlun’s Hog House is the red building to the left in this 1965 photograph. View is to the southeast.

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