Like I told you recently, Kay’s cousin, Maybelle, no longer raises hogs, so I asked you to let me know where I could get some firsthand information concerning the making of cracklins.
Maybelle’s son, Mike Curtis, called Kay and told her we could get some information in the old book of “Foxfire.” Well, I have all six volumes of that book so I started looking through them and there were several pages of “hog killing” such as that which took place back in them good old days.
And I think I told you about taking my son Sam up to Coytee Springs one fall day to try our hand at crow shooting. We found the descendents of the old Hoover family still living on the farm. They had killed hogs recently and were in the process of “rendering the lard.” I really lucked into have taken Sam and seen an actual old-timey farm event such as this. He enjoyed it very much and so did I.
Even though my daddy and mama lived here in town, they both knew a lot of old-timey ways because of being raised out in the country. Daddy would buy a ham that had just recently been cut from a slaughtered hog down at E.R. Blackburn’s meat market here in town. I remember very well he and mama could “rub it down in salt” and he would hang it in our barn to let it cure during the late fall and winter.
The barn had a small room — maybe 4 feet wide down toward one end — and he had lined it with sheet tin so the rats couldn’t climb the walls and get to any meat he had hanging there. It seems every fall, he would buy some hog meat of some variety, usually salt it down and hang it in there to cure. He and mama knew just how and what to do and it always turned out very, very good.
I tried my hand one time to render some lard here at home just to see if I could. Let me just simply say it did not work out as I wanted.
Talking about E.R., I’ve been told he started his butchering business down close to the depot on the property where the museum is located today. He had one of those big trees cut down, leaving a stump about 4 feet across, and he used it as a butcher block. I’ve heard his business grew quickly in spite of his make-shift ways. Remember his nickname was “I say-I say”? All us boys down on West Broadway liked him maybe because he sometimes would give us a slice of “bloney” (not bologna like today) and it was the best I ever ate. Everett was another adult who loved us youngins.
Daddy told me and my sister, Virginia, a lot of tales of his childhood while being raised at Coytee Springs. One thing I always enjoyed hearing about were the big steamboats that docked at Coytee. It was the final upstream terminal for all freight going up the Little Tennessee River. This caused all kinds of things to show up on the docks.
Daddy and two of his brothers, Hodge and Dowel, worked at the dock helping unload mostly mechanical things and the feed and grain going down the river. He loved seeing all that freight come into the Coytee dock. Nearly every summer, he would hire Bud Fisher as a taxi to take all of us across Bussell’s Ferry and up the back roads to Coytee where we spent a few days on a family vacation. Bud would come back, pick us up along with all our stuff and bring us all back home to Lenoir City.
Yeah boy, very good days.