Racism and Hog-liver

Yesterday afternoon I was driving down a long and winding gravel road. I had just replaced a flat tire with one which I didn’t trust all that much — you might say that I was driving on tiptires.

Down at the very end of the road was a secluded farmyard with a circle drive. As I was about to insert a rolled newspaper in the box I saw a man over by a barn beckoning to me. Evidently he wanted to receive the paper into his own hands, with the added benefit of being able to meet this new driver in the battered red car.

I got out of the car, grateful for the opportunity to straighten up and stretch my legs. A stocky over-all-clad man in his seventies approached me. A woman of the same vintage peered at me from a few yards back. She was wearing gum-boots and a loose jacket.

The man said, “Howdy, fella! Y’know, if ya circle around the other way you wouldn’t have to reach over to deliver the paper!”

“Yeah, you’re right. I hadn’t thought of that.”

I gave the man the newspaper.

I said, “Nice place you have back here!”

“Yeah, we like it! Don’t get many visitors. Most people we get along with, but niggers … we just knock ’em in the head and bury ’em in a plot out back, right next to the woods!”

The farmer chuckled, as if this was an entirely natural response to a visit from a dark-skinned person. I was a bit taken aback by the casual racism, but I’ve dealt with this before. No good could come from debating the issue with the man.

The farmer went on:

“Had a visit from the sheriff a while back. Had a spot of trouble goin’ on. Generally we don’t have much truck with the law — most often we can handle things ourselves. I said to the sheriff, ‘I don’t know what you can do to help us. We have our own ways of dealin’ with trouble. Most often, if I have to, I’ll knock a troublemaker on the head and bury ‘im!'”

“You shoulda seen that sheriff jump when I said that! Like this — [the farmer demonstrated a sudden shake or start]. He didn’t know what to think!”

Neither did I …

That point being made (the implicit message seeming to be, “Yeah, now you know where we live and what we got. Just don’t be wanderin’ down here when you ain’t deliverin’ papers!”) the farmer changed the subject:

“Ya like hog liver?”

“Well, yeah, I eat liver …”

“I butchered a hog today, and ma and I have more’n what we need.” He called out to his wife, who had inched closer: “Ma, could you get some bags? Let’s give this guy some liver!”

The farmer’s wife went to the house and returned with two enormous zip-lock plastic bags. The three of us walked into the barn.

I asked the farmer, “So do you still scald a hog in a big kettle to remove the hair?”

“Naw, that’s just a pain in the butt. Used to, but nowadays I just skin ’em out.”

The farmer’s wife bustled around. She retrieved a bloody five-gallon bucket from a walk-in cooler, set it on a low platform, and was about to reach into it when she had second thoughts.

“Pa, my hands ain’t clean. You get it out! I’ll get some of those frozen Mountain Dew bottles from the freezer and we’ll pack the liver in with them, keep it cold.”

The farmer reached into the bucket and held up a huge mass of purplish-brown lobed tissue. It must have weighed five pounds; blood dripped back into the bucket.

“A beauty, eh?”

“Yeah, that’s a nice one, all right.”

What in the world was I going to do with that much liver? I wished that I had a dog to share it with!

I got home and put the weighty bag in the refrigerator. I procrastinated for a couple of hours, but I knew I had to do something with that perishable liver.

I put a pot of turmeric/paprika rice on to boil and proceeded to hack at the liver, dividing all but a quarter-pound into portions which I bagged and put in the freezer. What a mess to clean up!

I cubed the quarter-pound chunk of viscidly-gleaming liver and fried the cubed organ with diced onion and Poblano pepper. It was actually pretty good on a bed of rice, with a mild and not too “liverish” flavor. It was certainly fresh!

Larry

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7 Comments

Filed under Quincy, Stories

7 responses to “Racism and Hog-liver

  1. bev

    That’s some work day story! Hope you have got yourself fixed up with a better spare before doing much more driving. The farmer’s racist comments remind me of a similar conversation which I had with a local farmer about 25 years ago. He told me how, when he was a young man, the local boys would go into town and hang around on the main street corner with their sleeves rolled up. I raised an eyebrow at that and he demonstrated. You tightly rolled up (not folded) your shirt sleeves until they were about half way between your elbow and your shoulder – up past the typical farmer’s tanned arms. People could then see your muscles and how tough you were. Then you would stand around and look for an excuse to have a fight. If a black man came along, you would all pitch bottles at him and chase him out of town. Needless to say, I was rather shocked that this seemingly kindly old farmer once participated in such violent racist deeds. No doubt he picked up on my dismay and added that he now regretted that behaviour – that it was stupid – but that was what people did back in those backward towns in the old days. Scary.

  2. I’ve found such attitudes are common in rural districts with no black population. I imagine that the farmer learned his racism at his father’s knees.

    Enjoyed your story, Bev!

  3. Joan

    Well now. Looks like another vote for Rick Perry, should he make it to the top of the heap. This is what really gets me. This fellow is sharing food with you, without even knowing who you are. A nice thing to do. He’s sharing because he seems to like you. He feels a kinship because you are not black. Now a black man, in the same circumstances, as yourself. ( Probably not with a light on top of his car,) could run out of gas next to this cracker, and maybe get shot.
    I’m guessing..not a great place to take photos, Larry. (unless you want to check out the backyard there…)

  4. I took some photos there today, Joan! The farmer’s wife came out when I delivered the paper. She was just so tickled that I liked the liver and froze six bags of it. We got to talking about gardening; she gave me an enormous cushaw squash and before I left I took photos of the piles of squash lined up by their drive. There must be a ton of squash there!

  5. Kathy

    Creeped me out. Hope it really was hog liver.

  6. Me too, cuz I’m eating some more tonight!

  7. Joan

    I am a liver lover. Calves liver, however is all I know. That slice of liver looked great, however..with the onions on top. Seriously I don’t want to a anthropomorphisingeverything I see, but it looks like a little hedgehog to me. See if you can see the resemblance.

    Farmers. This is just a heartwarming story, Larry.. What a shame that so many salt of the earth people are so hide bound in prejudice. The usual conversation with someone like this will result in the fellow admitting that yeah..he did know one black guy that was not so bad..(meaning not so threatening) but the ‘rest’ of them…blah blah. This poor guy seems not to even have that going for him. Well.. keep up the friendship. They are isolated. Everyone needs friends..even those who don’t want to be a friend to everyone.

    How is your garden holding up btw?

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