Communities come together to make butchering day a little easier
I enjoyed the article about the old threshing rings (Steam Threshing Rings, March 2011). I remember those years but it was a generation past steam power and the International 15-30 (1930-1941) was a common power source for the threshing operation. Otherwise the details in your article were the same. It was an exciting time of the year.
On the final page of your article you quoted Raymond Wik’s statement: “…and other communal aspects of farm life, such as husking bees, barn raising, butchering and hay baling.” Butchering was a big thing in southwestern Iowa during the same period as the threshing rings and was called a butchering ring. Remember, during that time there was no rural electrical power and thus no freezers or refrigeration so keeping a supply of fresh meat was difficult.
A typical butchering (or meat ring) had four or eight members and each member dedicated an animal for butchering (beef or pork and sometimes both) and each member in turn hosted “butchering day” as needed. The men conducted the heavy part of the operation and the women helped in the cutting of the various parts and cuts and “the equal dividing of the supply” so that each member had like amounts of meat to take home.
The women then had their work cut out for them. When they arrived home with the new meat supply, only a small portion could be kept fresh so the remaining meat had to be processed. Most of the meat was cut up into small cubes and canned on a wood-burning kitchen range, and the fat was rendered for lard. Butchering a hog was even more labor intensive due to the time and work to cure bacon and hams (which were smoked for two to four days as a part of the curing process).
By the way, having enough wood for the kitchen range and the stove for heating also called for a wood cutting bee – but that’s another story!
P.S. Do you suppose the only thing good about “the good ol’ days” is that they are gone and we were younger then?