Friday was the last day with students for Ms. O (that’s me!) and it was marked by some very special moments that I will save for a later post. One of the best parts of Friday was first thing in the morning when my principal slipped a grocery bag of red plastic cups and a copy of the lyrics for the song “red solo cup” into my hand, saying “you’ll need these.”
Folks started arriving shortly after Sean and I got home from school. We built a fire to start making coals to fuel the smoker and to heat a barrel of water for scalding the pig. After a week of rain, though, we didn’t have much dry wood or much luck. It took us hours to get the water hot enough.
Our neighbor, Butch, came over with some of his helpers (rising ninth graders: my future students!) to guide us through the process. He was invaluable to us at last year’s barbeque, when we were slaughtering our very first hog. We’ve been through the process a few times now, but his experience is indispensable. He’s butchered hundreds of hogs in his day.
We had intended to heat water for scalding over a fire, but we wound up digging a hole for the barrel and building a fire around it. After some trial and error, this method proved successful.
When the water was hot enough (not boiling, but too hot to touch), Sean shot the pig with the .22, then stuck it under the breastbone to bleed it out. Dillon dragged it to the top of the hill and the crew dipped it in the hot water to scald it.
After scalding, the pig was scraped to remove hair and the outer layer of skin. It was surprisingly white under all that red hair.
After scraping, Sean and M hung the carcass from an old swing set that we found in the yard.
I don’t have any good photos of the evisceration process, but it’s fairly simple. Make an incision in the lower part of the belly, cut down toward the head and back toward the hip bones. Be careful to tie off the bung. When you are ready for the organs to spill out, cut through the sternum. On a hog this small, you can do this with a knife. A friend asked us to save the liver for him, and Sean saved most of the other organs to dissect in class. We buried the intestines to keep from attracting critters. Sean halved the carcass and we laid the halves, skin-side-down, on the smoker.
Using the coals from our hardwood fire, the team kept the smoker between 200 and 250 degrees all night.
Sean was still tending the smoker at dawn.
The night watch looked tired but happy.
We kept roasting all day, and Jesse heroically weed-whacked a bocce court. We laid plywood over the worst mud puddles, made a mountain of slaw and set out tables and chafing dishes, borrowed from another generous neighbor. At around 2:00 we pulled the pig off the smoker.
Dan and I helped turn the whole smoked hog into pulled pork for sandwiches.
Folks were arriving by then, and the party was underway. People hung out in lawn chairs and ate and talked. Groups of folks wandered down to look at the pigs or the garden and congregated at the bocce court. One friend brought 50 pounds of crawfish and boiled them up to share. They were spicy and delicious, and we got some great carapaces to feed to the pigs and add to the compost. At one point, the weather laid down a little bibbity bobbity boo and gave us a rainbow.
Sean rocked shorts and cowboy boots, and Shannon turned up in an outfit to match.
I wish you could see the rainbow in this photo.
Unfortunately for us, the rainbow came before the rain. It started pelting and people grabbed dishes and papers and cameras and dashed onto the porch, laughing. A pot of crawfish was left boiling on the cooker, just like Pompeii.
Everyone wound up a little soggy.
Some brave souls went out in the rain to bring in the keg, and we finished it before dark. Some folks stayed out on the porch, drinking and watching the clouds, some sat in the living room, chatting, and others shucked crawfish in the kitchen, making a dent in the not inconsiderable bounty in the bottom of a fortuitously rescued cooler.
Eventually, everyone went home. We stayed up for a while, talking to friends from afar who came down to stay with us for the weekend, then crapped out, absolutely exhausted.
We spent Sunday recuperating and tidying up the sodden and abandoned yard. A red velvet cake, soaked in the sudden shower, had bled all over the table, and we discovered a pot of crawfish still on the cooker. In the evening, we ran to town for Game of Thrones and Pizza Night, a Marianna Sunday tradition.
We packed our friends in the back and rolled up to the park for a pre-dinner walk.
Can an Arkansas experience be complete without a little wind in your hair?
The pizza bros did it again: yet another delicious Sunday night dinner to fortify us through our journey to Westeros.
On the way home, I rode in the back with Sarah and watched the indecisive clouds skid back and forth over the silver treetops. We stopped for a swim under the star-littered, rain-laden night sky and dried off as best we could in the humid night, watching the fireflies glitter in the fields along our dirt road. It’s the best show on earth, folks.