Saturday, October 1, 2011

The Strongest Memory

If my head were ever hooked up to some machine that could access my strongest memory, the head scientists would be shocked.  “Well, look there, Dr. Fred!  Do you see that?! Who woulda thought?”  I can hear them saying that.

Most people would call up shared memories such as the birth of their children or maybe running under enemy fire.  No, my memory would be more plebian and consequently more peculiar.

I would access the memory of an autumn day in my sophomore year at high school.  The bus dropped me off in front of our farm house, and I walked beneath towering maple trees shedding their leaves.  My hand reached for the door, and I stepped into the warm kitchen, where my mother was washing dishes.  

 On the table, cooling from the oven was the entire head of a full grown hog

Eyes, ears, snout, bristled hair, and pink thick skin—all the distinctive features of a hog’s head that I had seen thousands of times, but those hogs had been alive.  Those hogs had been rooting in the mud or eating from the feeder. 

This hog was long dead and the head had just been roasted in the oven.  The rest of the hog was cut into various roasts and chops, wrapped in white butcher paper resting comfortably in the freezer.

In just a few words, Mom sensed my discomfort.  My mother was the ultimate pragmatist, which served her well throughout her life on the farm.  She pulled out two very large crocks and set them in front of the cooling head.  “Wanta get a snack before you start taking off the meat and skin?” 

I indicated that I wasn’t hungry.  “Well, change your clothes and wash up.  You’re gonna strip the head of meat and put it in this crock.  Put the skin and what-not in this other crock.  Don’t mix them up.” 

She went on to tell me that this meat was for mincemeat pies, the great nummy pies for which she was so famous.   

Mom would take this meat, chop it up, mix it with God-knows-what-else-meat-discards and candied fruit, can it in quart jars, and set them in the pantry.  Then we would feast on mincemeat pie at Christmas time.
I never had known what we were eating and enjoying.

When I set to the task by tearing off the ears and then cutting off the nose, Mom said, “Oh, put those here in this jar.  I will pickle those; your father loves those.”  I just about up-chucked.

 It didn’t get much better as the process when on.  Poke out the eyes.  Tear off the jowl meat.  Strip the muscles from the back of the neck.  On and on.  I do not recall what she said to do with the brain; I was pretty numb by then.

The science part of my own brain appreciated how God put together muscles and ligaments, attaching them to bones.  The fifteen year old farm girl in me was on the verge of vomiting. 

All in all, it stands out as a strong, indelible memory.  What is yours?


  1. I can see where that would stick with you.
    I don't think I have any one memory that could stand up to yours. Not for horror value at any rate.

  2. oh that is just plain nasty, would never ever want to do that, ewww and ewww some more..haha. As of now don't know if one particular thing would stick out if someone popped open my head, but there is so much in there who knows.

  3. No, anything that I would come up with could not hold a candle to yours. Right now I am trying to get that picture of the pigs head out of my mind.

    My mother made mincemeat pies for Thanksgiving and Christmas. I never knew what was in it. Oh, lordy, I think I ate it. Shudder, shudder.

  4. Dear Susan, I, too, have a vivid memory of something horrible that happened when I was seven. I'm going to post about it in the next few weeks.

    I've often wondered--if all that we've sensed with taste, touch, sight, smell, sound is within our brains--why do we recall so vividly some memories and not others? Is it the emotion that was involved when they happened?


  5. Yep, I can see why that'd be a pretty strong memory. Do you still eat pork?

    I have a pretty strong memory of slimy stewed tomatoes that my mother's friend forced down my throat. I gagged and threw up. Then she washed my mouth out with soap. Your memory, though, still has mine beat.

    But, we lived through them, eh?

  6. Not this, but you reminded me of the time I came home to find my mom pulling the guts out of a chicken and I was horrified. She cracked up. She had just been thinking how easy this was compared to going out to the yard and killing the chicken and then plucking it. Today they make chickens with their guts in little baggies inside. God's getting more delicate, I'm thinking.

  7. Yep, that's one strong memory. I think we should all of us be exposed to how meat gets to our table so that we learn to honor and respect the life that has been taken that we might have life.

    As for a strong memory. I think arriving in the Virgin Islands when I was five is one of the strongest.

  8. Pretty sure seeing that in person would turn me vego in an instant. lol. Then again seeing the picture is bad enough...!

    Thanks for stopping by my blog Susan!

  9. OH my gosh! I think I can handle a lot of things, but I don't know if I could have done it. I had to dissect a cadaver once--I fainted when I got to the face.

    I featured you in my post today. I absolutely loved your comments yesterday (especially the one about Rocky Mountain Oysters lol). Today's post is probably my strongest memory when it comes to food anyway.

  10. Oh wow. That reminds me of a time when the college students across the street roasted a whole pig in their driveway...I could hardly breathe. My then 5 year old son still remembers it with horror, and won't eat pork!
    I just wrote one of my memories-
    I'm a new follower from Crazy Life blog...

  11. Dea, thank you for commenting on my blog posting about the convent. Like you, I think "Dee" is best! I've never regretted entering the convent, nor have I regretted leaving it.

    The poet Walt Whitman once wrote, "I am the world I wandered through." For me, part of that world was the convent. I learned so much there about the strength of a community that cherishes its members.


  12. Oh my goodness, I feel for you! I have two - the first was being served 'blacky burgers' made from my pet lamb. The second was plucking christmas geese with my father - him looking like a horror-snowman with the down and fluff stuck in his beard!

  13. EW! Ew, ew, ew, ew, ew, EW! Wow. I can see why that is a powerful memory! I'd tell you what mine is, but I can't seem to think of anything else but that pig at the moment...


Go won' t hurt...I'd love to hear what you think!