A "Hog-Killing Good Time"
J. B. COLTHARP*
Hog killing was a very special occasion on our Central Texas farm. The
event required a cool, brisk fall day. When the weather seemed right, Papa
would invite his best friends and neighbors to come and help on the morn-
ing of the big day. To begin the ritual Mama's clothes wash pot would be
cleaned out and filled with water, and the water would be brought to a
boil over a roaring fire. Meanwhile, Papa would dig a hole in the ground
carefully slanted to hold an open scalding barrel, where the just-killed hog
would be slipped into the scalding water.
The neighbors and maybe some of their kids would show up about the
time the big wash pot of water was boiling. Then things would start to
happen at a delightfully rapid pace. Papa, assisted by a neighbor, would
take an axe-a single-bit wood chopping axe-and maneuver around until
he could hit the selected hog an almost God-walloping lick or two between
the eyes. The hog would scream to high heaven, and gradually fall down.
We younger kids generally spared ourselves this awful sight; as we got older
we steeled ourselves to it.
As the hog went through its dying motions, Papa or the neighbor took
a sharp, twelve-inch-long butcher knife and cut the hog's throat with a
long deep gash so the blood would drain out.
The events that followed ceased being "delightfully rapid" and became
frantically rushed. A horse, which had previously been harnessed, pulled
the hog to where it would be scalded. Even this took time though, so as
the hog was being dragged to the scalding barrel, hot water was thrown
A "gambling stick"-a strong stick of wood, about three inches in diam-
eter and sharpened at both ends-was placed under the leg tendons of
the hog. This gambling stick would be used later to drag the hog out of
the scalding water and then to hang it up for the butchering operation.
With awkward heaving, much huffing and puffing, and a lot of brute
strength, the hog would be sloshed in and out of the scalding water. More
hot water was continually added to keep the temperature up. In a matter
of minutes Papa would grab a handful of hog hair and pull. When it would
*Mr. Coltharp is a retired engineer living in Beaumont.
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 79, July 1975 - April, 1976. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101203/. Accessed March 8, 2014.