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Gutting

Gutting a hogOnce the hog was on the pole, the next step was gutting. This job required special care. You couldn’t afford to nick an intestine or puncture a bladder which would result in fecal matter or urine contaminating the meat. A hog wasn’t thrown away if this ever happened. You washed it off and kept on going. But you sure didn’t like to think about it when it was time to eat. In fact, of all the hog killings I ever went to, I only recall this mishap occurring once or twice.

A gutting knife was used for this job. This was a butcher knife with a 6 inch blade that curved up. This upward curve gave you more control of the blade which was critical for the initial cut. This initial cut began between the hogs hind legs and extended all the way to the throat. It was just slightly more than skin deep. Once this cut was made you went back to the top of the cut and sliced in to the pelvic bone. The pelvic bone had to be split in order to give access to the end of the gut and rectum. And this is where an inexperienced gutter usually had his first problem. There is a seam in the lower part of the pelvis. I suppose it is where the bone grew together before birth. The experienced gutter finds the seam by feel – there’s a very small ridge.. If you place your knife precisely on this seam, you can give the knife a little whack with the side of your fist and the pelvis will lay open as if you had split a piece of wood. If you don’t hit the seam, then you’re cutting through solid bone and the chances of cutting something you don’t want (maybe even yourself) greatly increases.

Next, you started the delicate work of opening the abdominal cavity. Cutting through the pelvic bone gave an opening into which you placed your hand against the interior wall of the abdominal cavity. You used this hand to prevent the knife from touching any intestines as you moved down the initial cut while opening the cavity. When you reached the breast bone, the rib cage had to be opened. You could cut through the breast bone from the top down. This required some force to cut through the bone. Or you could start at the throat and come up. This had the effect of letting the hogs weight work for you but you had to be careful not to puncture anything at the top of the cut. It was usually just a matter of preference. With this done, you headed back up to the other end of the hog.

Removal of the intestines began with cutting around the rectum. Another delicate operation because you didn’t want to cut it. You could safely cut about 3 or 4 inches deep and all the way around. This freed the rectum enough to pull it away from the backbone. You grabbed the rectum and held it shut (for obvious reasons) as you pulled the intestines away from the abdominal cavity. Someone would stand at the ready to catch the guts in a large pan or foot tub.

The last step to removing the intestines was to cut the diaphragm away from the chest cavity and to reach in and sever the esophagus as far down as you could. With this done, the guts would easily roll into the pan. You were always sure to hang the rectum outside the pan.

Hog liversRemoval of the heart, lungs, and liver would be accomplished by cutting the windpipe in the throat and pulling them out of the chest cavity. They would be hung up for later use. The last act of this phase of the hog killing is to wash out the inside of the hog with a water hose. Usually, all that’s left to wash out is a little blood. A piece of corncob was placed in the hogs mouth to keep it open. This helped in the washing out process.

Next: Weighing