Everything Interrupted

September 10, 2016 § 26 Comments

On Friday I killed the first of our three fatted hogs in preparation for a friend’s wedding this afternoon. I started early, the sky barely clear of night, the grass dewy-wet, the sound of the gun almost too much for the soft morning air. Wham. The birds silenced mid-song. Everything interrupted.

Maybe it was just the fragile newness of the day, but for a few moments after the act I could do nothing but stand there, watching thick arterial blood drench the thirsty soil, still holding the sticking knife, with that same warm liquid redness spreading down the blade and over the handle and into the creases of my palm, shocked by what I’d done. By what I’m capable of when I decide I’m capable of it.

Soon enough the blood stopped flowing, and the pig’s hind legs ceased their frantic churning, finally accepting the truth. The birds took up singing again. And there was still so much to do and not enough time to do it, but damned if I didn’t just stand there a minute or two more, staring down at what I’d done, not knowing whether to feel sorrow or relief.

Eventually deciding on both.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

§ 26 Responses to Everything Interrupted

  • emanuelbetz says:

    The unique brutality of the human species. There it is. We are all capable; on animals or each other. Redrum!

  • Chris Gonso says:

    Deciding on how to feel, that would be unique to the human species. Knowing how to stick pigs in the right places isn’t unique – that’s what those long canine teeth are for in many species.

  • Eliza Waters says:

    Visceral, real, a hard task, but one that is natural to life. Whether you eat meat or vegetables, you must kill it before you ingest it. Perhaps it is harder when it is an animal because we relate to it more. But in the end, life begets life, and that is all there is to it. With awareness and gratitude for the gift of sacrifice of the life we consume, we participate in the cycle.

  • Peter H. says:

    If one had to be shot, and one had to choose who was to shoot us, one might not be surprised to see so many choosing the same pensive shooter.

  • I would have to write something about that, too. It’s a remarkable task. Never stops being remarkable no matter how many times you have to do it.

    Did you ever try being a vegetarian for a while?

    • Ben Hewitt says:

      I was a vegetarian for about six years in late teens/early 20’s. I was not healthy on that diet, but that might have had something to do with the fact that I was a competitive cyclist at the time, and also that I really didn’t know much about nutrition in general.

      >

  • Cristine Storey says:

    That is so down to the bone. I know how it feels having been raised in farmlife in southamerica. Its exactly so. Or when you have to sacrifice puppies….damn it. It is overwhelming to hold the power of life and death in ones hands. How and when to use it is an art that can be sacred as in a wedding ceremony, or merely survival. Only the humans who weild their knives for these purposes know. The rest of us, who blindingly buy the meat already dealt with are the deaf and dumb, unaware to notice whether or not birds and life is interrupted for that infinite moment. Thankyou. I really enjoy your writing.

  • Tricia says:

    I thought of telling the chicken co-op I belong to that we should cull the old hens ourselves (yeah, in the city, against the law). But they believe our diseased, mite ridden, featherless fighting hens live in paradise, because it’s not a factory farm. A year later, we have 44 hens laying about 20 eggs a day, and nobody has made a decision about culling. I myself did not understand this stuff only a year ago. But I get it now, thanks to you and how artful you explain things. Wish I had that same gift, mostly I just tell people that what they are doing is messed up and then they ignore me. Your blog and a couple other online presences help keep me sane. I’m quitting the co-op after this year. Living with my foot half in and half out is becoming harder every day. Also, more fucking annoying. Cheers!

  • Emily says:

    Just wanted to let you know a funny thing I became aware of recently. My husband and I like to talk about education/homeschooling/school/unschooling. Speaking of different styles and options, we’ve come to refer to “Hewittonian idealogy”… this phrase is now commonplace in our discussions. Usually it refers to our ideals of homeschooling, where our kids are having a blast doing self-directed projects on the farm, and we’re actually available to guide them, rather than frantically chasing cows, making hay, and telling our kids we don’t have time for them.
    Anyway, I think it should be in the urban dictionary… or maybe the rural, alternative-lifestyle-Vermont dictionary 😉

    • Ben Hewitt says:

      That does sound pretty ideal… I think we’re living something closer to Hewittonian reality… in which our kids are constantly complaining and asking for direction in their so-called “self-directed” projects, while we sit around second-guessing every parenting decision we ever made;)

      Oh, and the cows run rampant through the garden.

      >

  • BeeHappee says:

    And those who had met Ben know that to stop him from doing something it has to be something big. A death. A hurricane (maybe?). When we visited and the whole time chatting, he was putting up pickles, feeding pigs, chasing goats. 🙂

    ” By what I’m capable of when I decide I’m capable of it.” I need to carry that attitude more often.

  • This gave me a lump in my throat – and not because I’m sentimental about killing animals – but because with your usual economical, beautiful fashion, I was standing over that pig too, feeling the weight of what you’d done. And I’m sure you will savor that bacon!

  • Anne says:

    Killing an animal that you will eat is, no doubt, bittersweet.

  • David says:

    My wife and I are vegetarians. Why? Not really sure. Those who raise the animals themselves, care for them, feed them, and scratch them behind the ears and give them a good quality of life, deserve the right to take those lives for their own survival and consumption. They factory farms and commercial feed lots are cruel. But as long as the consumer buys, the cycle will continue.

    Does a plant ‘feel’ it when you cut it down or harvest part of it? I think so. But since we can’t hear the scream or watch it wiggle around, we feel okay with it. I guess everything we eat requires some decision to kill before we eat.

    I applaud your lifestyle Ben. I don’t have the guts to do what you do. I think I would collapse in tears after the gun went off. Keep writing and opening our eyes.

  • David says:

    My wife and I are vegetarians. Why? Not really sure. Those who raise the animals themselves, care for them, feed them, and scratch them behind the ears and give them a good quality of life, deserve the right to take those lives for their own survival and consumption. The factory farms and commercial feed lots are cruel. But as long as the consumer buys, the cycle will continue.

    Does a plant ‘feel’ it when you cut it down or harvest part of it? I think so. But since we can’t hear the scream or watch it wiggle around, we feel okay with it. I guess everything we eat requires some decision to kill before we eat.

    I applaud your lifestyle Ben. I don’t have the guts to do what you do. I think I would collapse in tears after the gun went off. Keep writing and opening our eyes.

  • Everything interrupted.

    A loaded phrase.

  • Heather says:

    This was really tender, Ben. Nice telling.

  • Amy says:

    Ben, I am raising 2 hogs this year, for the first time ever. I’ve hankered to raise hogs ever since we moved to the country 15 years ago. They have such personalities! Chinwig and Beacon are my friends now, alas! They watch for me when I come out and I like this, even though I know they are just excited to see what I am bringing them to eat. I like the way they churn their tails when they are eating; I like their soft floppy triangular ears. The day is coming when they will have to be butchered and I’m paying somebody to do it for me; a gentle man nearby who has a meat market will perfect the dreaded task. It puts a lump in my throat, too. It’s a hard thing. You are braver than I.

  • Do I know that feeling. Resembles those I felt when killing my first roosters. I held them between my thighs, hit them on the head and cut their throats. I felt the life drain from them as they struggles with both hands and legs.
    It was the first time I’d ever deliberately taken a life of something bigger than a fly.

  • Everything on the farm is about the cycle of life to death. We start with the seed. It might be sperm. Or it might be a tiny speck that we put in the ground, only to have it grow to 14 feet high, as in the case of the field corn that we raise to feed our pigs. Either way, and any way, it begins and it ends. I look at my dog, Boo, who is the only other best friend (first and foremost is my wife Katherine) and I know that she is only with us for a while. And I am only here for a while. As is Katherine. As are the carrots in our raised beds, and the chickens and cows and pigs that we raise. Farming is my life, my solace for a life not lived ill I came to this place where I was always meant to be, back to my rural roots, torn from the ground by the false expectations of parents, teachers and the world. Ben, you have nailed it once again. Thank you.

  • Scott says:

    I can only hope to be so brave. The one and only creature I’ve shot is our family dog, after he got hit. That one hurt. Although, I suppose I was capable when I needed to be capable.

  • joey gilmer says:

    well said per the usual

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