Whittle: Hog castration in Congress?
Tuesday, December 16, 2014 1:15 pm
By DAN WHITTLE
"I'm just an old country boy," I sometimes affirm on book-promoting tours.
Wife Pat often corrects me, sometimes firmly: "It's been a long time since you lived on a farm."
There's an rural Americana adage: "You can take the boy out of the country, but you can't take the country out of the boy."
I cracked up during our nation's recent increasingly-weird political election cycle, when a female candidate declared part of the reason she was qualified to be elected, she'd castrated some defenseless hogs.
I had an up close glimpse of cutting the testicles out of hogs back on the farm of my youth.
I had got up early, to witness Uncle R.T. Reed's artistry at knife-sharpening.
He couldn't read or write, due to not attending school in the Great Depression, but he was great with machinery and putting a keen edge on a whittling knife. Farm boys of that era took great pride in the condition of their pocket knives.
And Uncle R.T. was highly sought-after on our farm road due to his knife-wielding artistry on cold hog-killing days.
This was the morning Uncle R.T. jarred my young boyish psyche, when he chose to share that the Japanese had "castrated" some American prisoners during World War II. To this day, I can't imagine one human inflicting that kind of torture on another being.
Being only six years old at the time, I didn't know a lot about the reproduction ways of fine farm swine. But, I was old enough to know that the deed we were preparing to inflict on those young pigs was not going to be pleasurable.
At this point, Uncle R.T. explained Little Danny's job that cold winter morning was to hold and stretch out the pigs' back legs, which put me up-close, with a personal view of what was taking place on those hogs' reproductive parts.
However, when Uncle R.T. explained having a "razor-sharp" knife resulted in less pain to the pigs, it may have soothed my dread to some extent.
But when those poor defenseless hogs started squealing and crying with pain, which sounded just how humans squeal and holler when great pain is inflicted, I let go of the hogs' back legs, and cut a trail out of the barn.
"You can take a two-by-four plank up side my head, but you can't make me castrate a hog," I declared. "It just ain't right."
Thus, Little Danny became the first "farm boy pacifist" in our farming community.
"You're a sissy, for not cutting the testicles out of those hogs," judged older brother harshly.
However, there's more to this painful hog tail castration tale to come.
It happened that night when Momma Whittle set a platter of "mountain oysters" on the table for our supper meal. In that era, the meal was called supper. "Dinner" then was the bountiful mid-day meal needed for hard-working farm folks.
And for citified types not familiar with barn yard vernacular, a "mountain oyster" is code talk for a painfully-extracted male hogs' testicle.
Never mind Mother Whittle had fried the things to a crisp and pretty golden-colored flour-and-buttermilk battered brown, there was no way one of those "mountain oysters" was going past Little Danny Whittle's fluttering lips.
That was my farm daddy's way of describing losing one's supper: "It's kind of like dynamiting tree stumps, it blows out all at once."
And where's Uncle R.T. and his sharp knives, now that our nation needs him?