Children Play on Hog-Killing Day

Children Play on Hog Killing Day

By Elton Camp

(This is another in the series of true stories about life in the rural South during the early part of the 20th Century.  Others are posted on this site if you are interested.)

            During hog killing day, men labored with the swine while the women stayed busy preparing a meal. It was a time of fun and play for the children. Nobody expected them to participate in the difficult and sometimes dangerous work.

            “Chillun, git outsid’ ’n’ play. Y’all don’t b’ comin’ ’n th’ hous’. We’ll b’ fixin’ dinner ’n here. Stay out o’ th’ way o’ th’ menfolk. They don’t need y’u gettin’ ’round where they’s workin’ wif th’ hogs,” a mother said.

            Such opportunities for group play were limited. The youngsters meant to take full advantage of it. Hog killing was time-consuming. It would be late afternoon before the hardest work would be completed. They looked forward to hours of unsupervised frolic.

            “Hid’ ’n’ seek,” one of the boys called out. “Not hit,” he hurriedly added.

            To be “It” was the most undesirable position since it meant having to seek and chase the others. That was less fun than hiding.

            Others quickly added, “Not hit.”  The children pointed their fingers at their comrade who was judged to have spoken last. “Yore hit,” they called gleefully. “It” then took over direction of the game.

            “This here’s home,” he declared as he slapped his hand against a fence post well away from where the men were doing the hog killing. “No fair hidin’ anywheres ’round th’ scaldin’ pots.” 

            The boy leaned against home base, covered his eyes and began to count slowly. When he reach twenty, he called out, “Reddy ’er not, heer I com’.” 

            Most of the children had vanished into the surroundings. Any child not yet well hidden jumped behind the nearest available object.

            As “It” searched behind the smokehouse, a lanky girl with long, brown hair rushed from her hiding place and made a mad dash for home base.

            “Hom’ free,” she cried out in triumph.

            That meant that she was exempt from consideration for being “It” in the next session and could relax as the game continued.

            A boy jumped from behind a tree and attempted the same thing, but was spotted. “It” called out, “I spy Robert” as he pursued him. Laughing the whole time, Robert made a series of fast turns to avoid being tagged before reaching home base. This time, “It” was the victor. “Yore out,” he shouted as he touched the boy’s shoulder. Having been tagged, that youngster couldn’t play for the duration of that session. The game continued until all had been found, or “It” got tired.

            “Olly, olly, oxen free,” when chanted by the leader, signaled his playmates that the game was over and that they could safely emerge.

            Some of the boys decided to hunt doodlebugs. Their lairs were located in dry, sandy soil where they looked like miniature funnels.

            “Heer they air, unner th’ house,” one boy said as he pointed to dozens of depressions separated from each other by a few inches.

            One of his companions inserted a straw of grass into the bottom of the pit, twirled it, and recited, “Doodlebug, doodlebug, com’out o’ yore hole. Yore house ez on far ’n’ yore chillen will burn.” 

            When the ant lion larva moved, the reaction was attributed to the charm. In fact, the larva behaved as if an ant had fallen into its pit. By pulling away the sand, the doodlebug caused the victim to tumble into its devouring maw.

            If the boys were quick and determined enough to extract the larva from its pit, the insect would play dead as long as it perceived danger. None imagined that it would eventually grow wings and fly away.  

As with the adults, the children rested for about a half hour after dinner before resuming activities. Hog killing was a day filled with memorable activity. Even after the visitors left, much work with the butchered hogs remained.

angelfly   angelfly wrote
on 1/7/2012 4:36:10 PM
Nice story!

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writing Elton4562

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Hog-killing day was a day of fun for the children. A true story of the old South.