I was in much better shape as a child and throughout my young adult life. I played little league, county pee-wee, and varsity baseball. There is one time where I remember running the fastest I have ever run in my life. I WAS running for my life. Wheat Milling Machinery
Okay, maybe I wasn’t running for my life but I was pretty darn scared of what might unfold if I stopped! Let me explain.
Growing up on a farm, there was always some sort of work to be done. As a kid, around age 13, I found these everyday duties very inhibiting on my kid schedule of wanting to relax. Some things I had succumb to that we were going to do, and I would just get them done.
My father and I owned a few pigs, about 20 of them. Most of the pigs we raised were to sell to market. We would have a few of them butchered for us, family, and friends.
Every summer, after the hogs were fatted and taken to butcher, we would have a get-together to make smoked pork sausage. Inevitably, it would be much like baling hay; it only happens on the hottest day of the year. Seriously though, it was always very humid with temperatures in the 90 degree-something range.
My father would get this old, large 220v window air conditioner and slip it under the small garage door, putting a piece of plywood next to it to block the open portion. We’d crank the air conditioner up. That thing easily cooled the entire three-stall garage nicely.
We’d get the tables set up inside and lay down plastic over them. My father would get the electric hot plate that had been sitting since last year’s get-together and put it on the bench and plug it in. Then we’d bring in the sausage stuffer and intestine casings, along with the spices and other things necessary to make sausage.
Outside we used an old refrigerator my father had converted into a large smoker with wooden rails and stainless steel pipes that went across, something acquired from where he worked at the time, Minnesota Valley Engineering (MVE) or Chart, as it is known now. The pipes were removable so we could tie the sausage rings and slip them over them and carry them out as we were done filling one. The bottom of the refrigerator, where the compressor used to lie, was a pan to put applewood and oak wood we had collected for smoking.
We would bring in the ground pork and put in the spices. The group of us would dig our hands in the meat to press and mix things together. It was very cold and made our hands cold. At some point, we would have to try the mixture to see if it was right. This, of course, was my favorite part. We would take a few different samples out of it and throw them on the pan on the hot plate and eat it! Yum!
When the mixture was right, we would start stuffing the casings, tying the sausages, loading them on the rods, and putting them in the smoker. Once the smoker was filled and all the sausage had been made, we would start the wood on fire in the smoker. This wasn’t any one or two hour surface smoke. Oh no! This was a many hours smoke, like the better part of a whole day.
The sausage would only have about a quarter inch of pink part left in the middle when we were done smoking it, almost all the way through. We had it in abundance as a kid and it seemed commonplace. As I grew older, I realized that this was special. I really missed the greatness of what it was and just how good it tasted.
My brother perfected the recipe years later. He wrote it down because he loved it so much. He still makes batches of it today for his family. My father never wrote down a recipe but simply did it off of memory and adjusted it to taste every year.
The ability to have this homemade smoked pork sausage didn’t come without work, both in the process of making it and in raising the pigs. One of the duties necessary in raising them was mixing feed for them. This is a noisy process, much like many things on the farm.
We had a pull-behind mixer we would roll up to our grain bin to have the corn augered into it. There was a small auger that came down from the mixer itself, which was lowered below an auger from the grain bin.
The auger on the grain bin was a concoction my dad had devised when he had the grain bin installed. The plate to open and close access for the grain to fall into the auger was also homemade. That plate was also difficult to open and close, so much so that we left a piece of heavy gauge hitch sitting on the cement by it to knock it open and closed.
So here we are one day, mixing feed for the hogs. I actually didn’t put up a fight or contest having to do it in any way. I was content with doing it. We had hitched the Farmall 460 tractor up to the mixer and brought it over to the bin and put the auger from it below the auger from the bin.
The tractor is now running the power take-off to run the mixer loudly. Then, my dad stepped across to turn the switch box on the bin for the electric motor to run the bin auger. I am on the other side of the auger waiting patiently and my dad yells something at me, because things are very loud. He had asked for the heavy metal hitch piece, which was beside me, to beat open the chute on the grain bin.
I can’t understand what my father just said to me and I yelled back, “What did you say?” His demeanor, face and posture changed. He yelled louder back at me, “What did you say?” He is not asking this so much as a question as it is a reaction someone has when you have called them very bad things.
I told him I simply asked him what he said because I couldn’t understand him. This is something he chose not to believe. He came back with, “That isn’t what you said. You called me a (expletive)!” I was dumbfounded at how he even heard that from what I said. The rebuttal continued back and forth for a very short time. I genuinely hadn’t said anything of the sort but my father didn’t think so. At some point, he made the decision to jump the auger on the bin to ensue chase to put me in my place as a kid and not disrespect him.
So, here we are, running laps around our granary with the tractor, mixer, and the bin auger all running full bore (pun intended). We are shouting back and forth to each other. I am running as fast as I can. Me shouting, explaining repetitively is having no affect on his reality of what I said. I am also realizing that my dad, in a rage, can apparently find olympian-level running skills. I am losing ground and that made me terrified!
After about 7-10 laps around the granary, my mother comes out of the house running down there. She must have heard us shouting inside the house. I took this opportunity to run away and hide while she stopped my father. I really had no idea where to run to but I got out of sight at least first.
I remembered a place that I thought no one would ever look, inside our chicken barn, in the back, and underneath the stairs. We never went there for anything. There was some junk stored in that room. It was gross, dusty, full of bird poop, and cobwebs. I actually didn’t even know what was under there but I thought it would be the last place someone would look for me.
After some time, maybe 20 minutes, my mother actually found me in my hiding spot. I think I might have been crying, perhaps uncontrollably, at the time. I really don’t remember. She said to me in the sweet, caring voice she had, “I don’t know what you said to your father but he’s really upset. I calmed him down. He’s fine now. You need to go back over there and help him. He isn’t going to do anything to you.” I composed myself and went back over to help my dad, wondering what this experience will be like.
I can tell you that the rest of the work was completed very quietly by us, with only necessary words spoken. The entire time I remember the look upon my dad’s face being that I kind of got away with something because mom talked to him. There was this piercing glare the whole time or at least I felt that way. He was keeping his cool and letting it be simply because of her. My mother was his soft spot for sure. She had a way with my dad.
I never saw my dad run that fast in my life. If there was one thing he demanded of his kids, it was respect of him and my mother. But that day, I ran for my life and when I returned I just remained awfully quiet. I guess that’s what it takes to make some delicious smoked pork sausage. Naturally, my father doesn’t remember the whole ordeal at all. How fitting!
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