Butchering and Fresh Water

Feature Story June 2006
Butchering and Fresh Water
…Arthur W. Heim, Dawson, Nebraska
One butchering day Mother (Mrs. Jonathan Heim) liked to tell: “It was the women’s job to clean the casings and scrape them and have them ready to make stuffed sausage.  It was a disagreeable job at best, and sometimes there were “accidents”.  When the job got particularly trying, Aunt Lizzie would start to talk German.  What she said I never learned, but Mother would get a big laugh out of it.  She never re-told the story with out having a good laugh.

   Butchering day was seldom postponed.  The day was set perhaps a week in advance, everything was ready, and the next one in turn probably had his day set.   The morning had to be exceptionally bad to put it off.  One morning at our place it was snowing and blowing hard from the north, and the temperature was below zero.  We started the fires as usual before daylight and with the water almost hot and the snow continuing, considered, calling it off – but it was “our day” and we went ahead.  By the time the first hog was ready to scald the snow had let up and by mid-morning it cleared off and everyone was glad we had not postponed it.

   Another morning at our place there was snow with a hard crust of ice on top.  No horse could stand up , so we used a car with chains on to pull the stone sled.  The route to the butcher site was on a side hill (up through the grove) and the sled and hogs slid all over the place.

The spring on the old place has always been quite an attraction.  It was one of the main reasons Grandpa Jacob G. chose this place rather than some other location where lack of water would be an immediate problem.  A spring house was built and a trough made so that buckets and other containers could be set down in the cold flowing water and not tip over.  It was a fine place to keep milk and cream, and melons cooled to just the right temperature.

   The main disadvantage was it nearness to the creek.  sort of dike was built up, but after a heavy rain the creek comes up and some times floods the spring.  I do not know how long the spring house stood, but after a very heavy rain the creek came up and got quite high around the spring house.  They saw it was in danger of being carried away and got ropes to try to anchor it to the large cotton wood trees nearby.  Before they could get a rope around the building the flood tipped it over and carried  it down the stream.  It was damaged to such an extent that it was never set up again, but the open trough continues to be used as the cooler.

   The incident was told to me by Uncle Sam.  Whenever a rain of any size came up, the first thing to be done was to run to the spring and bring up to the house anything that was there.  If water backed up in the overflow ditch the buckets and containers would float high enough to upset and so ruin the contents.  If the water got high enough it floated them on down the creek.  That happened more than once in my experience, especially when a rain came up suddenly at night.  The overflow ditch had to be cleaned out with a shovel occasionally, and always after a big flood.  Since it is no longer used as a cooler, overflow is now piped out to the creek with a 4 inch pipe.  In a wet time it runs the pipe full.