This is a story of my husband's first bike ~ and of Jake the pig!This was posted first at my blog, 'Junie's Place,' in several parts, in 2006, but I will put it all together and in order here! ~~~
He had wanted a bike for a long time, this Alabama farm boy.
Ed and his brothers had, in the past, tried with little success to build a bike…wheels of wood and whatever they could find of metal or wood to build a frame…bending tree limbs for handlebars! As resourceful as these boys were, and as determined, they were never able to achieve what they wanted.
Ed had seen the new bicycles, lined up in long rows outside of U.G.White’s hardware store at the NW corner of the town square, in all their shining splendor! The dark green and creamy white bike was the one that captured the boy’s attention and left a yearning in his heart like none he had known before.
At age eleven, growing up in the 30s and 40s, one in a family of ten children, Ed realized how unrealistic this dream was of having a bike of his own... especially a bright and shiny brand new Schwinn bike! Still, he couldn’t get the thoughts of the bikes out of his mind.
He wished desperately for a way of earning money to be able to pay for a bike! This, seemingly, was an impossible dream for an eleven-year-old farm boy.
But what is life without dreams?
In late fall, in this time and place, after the crops were harvested, most folks who had hogs would turn them out to forage in the fields, mostly corn fields; for whatever they could find to eat. No one minded as it benefited everyone for the hogs to roam free during this time. Winter was the time for slaughtering the hogs and the corn leavings in the fields would help in adding weight before the coldest days of winter came and the hogs could be butchered safely. Without refrigeration, the cold days were essential.
Sometimes sows with new litters of piglets would be seen. Often, hogs have more babies than they can raise. There is almost always a runt that gets shorted on the feeding, and does not thrive.
Such seemed to be the case with Jake.
Ed was the one who spotted the little runt pig, unable to keep up with his mother and brothers and sisters. He was much smaller than the rest and was always trailing behind in the ongoing search for food in the cornfields.
The boy rescued the little pig from an almost certain young death, and with no way of knowing whose pig it was, decided to keep him, raise him! He gave him the name ‘Jake.’ He took special care to see that the little pig had food every day.
The plan from the start was to raise Jake up and sell him. In a few months Jake would bring a good price…enough for a bike Young Ed thought!
As the weeks passed, Jake grew well - becoming big and healthy. He also became a pet and in awhile Ed found himself rushing home after school, eager to see the pig. Jake would always come when he would hear his name called! He would follow the boy around the farm, much as a puppy would have done.
A strong attachment had developed, and it was mutual!
The days were getting colder and time was nearing when it would be the right day for the slaughter of the hogs.
Although, it had never been the intention that Jake be among those slaughtered, Ed had resolved to sell him at this time and have the money for that bike! It had been a few months since he had found Jake and with the care he had given him, the little runt pig had become an impressive hog!
Finally the day arrived and the job of the slaughter was undertaken. Neighbors helped neighbors, as was the way in those days. The job had to be done quickly, so as not to lose the meat to spoilage. There was a flurry of activity on the farm, with everyone willing to do their share with the task at hand!
Without refrigeration, the meat had to be salt-cured and hung in smokehouses. Lard was made from the fat of the hogs , ( an essential in those days) boiled in a big iron pot over open flames and then, drained. Any meaty parts were removed, leaving just the pure white lard. Sausage was made, too, with the spices and herbs grown in the garden added. Pickling of some parts of the hogs was also done in those days- (ears, feet, snouts) nothing could be wasted in those hard times. Chitterlings (Chittlins’), made from the intestines, were boiled and prepared in a big iron pot in the back yard. The women of the family carried out this process. Ma -the grandmother-had a fondness for this delicacy and was the self appointed over-seer of the chittlin' pot!
Ed and the younger siblings of the family were at school during this day of hard and unpleasant work. After school, as had become his usual thing, Ed went searching for Jake.
This time, Jake did not come running when his name was called. He searched every inch of the farm, calling the pig’s name, with an increasingly heavy heart! Jake could not be found.
Ed’s mother averted her eyes when asked if she had seen Jake, saying,” Oh, he’s around here somewhere!” His grandmother, too, was silent and avoided eye contact with her grandson. “Where could Jake be?’ the boy thought, sadly.
Ed suddenly realized some members of the family were missing. His daddy- his older brother- his older sister’s husband- all should have been there on this day of hard work of preparing the meat. He wondered where they all were.
He didn’t have long to ponder the mystery because at that moment they all arrived in his brother’s 1934 Ford, with a shiny, new, green and white Schwinn bike tied to the back! It was the bike of Ed’s fondest dreams!
So for the moment, thoughts of the pig were pushed aside.
As it turned out and could now be revealed, Jake’s fate was a sad one - and ironic!
His mother and grandmother had wanted to wait for the return of the other family members with the bike, to make the news about Jake a little easier for Ed.
No! Jake was not among the slaughtered hogs that day, as one might have suspected.
Jake was hanging out with Ma around the chitterlings (chittlin’) pot, as she worked, preparing the parts for the pot! Unknown to her, as she tossed the unwanted sections of intestines aside, Jake was eating them. Jake choked on the discarded intestines!
The pig, after his untimely death, had been sold to a neighbor for a small sum of money, (Jake was not yet of the usual slaughtering size) though, not nearly enough for the bike! Family members added the extra money needed to buy the bicycle for young Ed!
Charles Edward would remember Jake through all the years - and that green and creamy white Schwinn, too!
And he would remember the kindness and generosity of his family on that day.
Ed would have the bike for the next several years, until he went in the USAF just out of high school. He handed it over to his young nephews when he left home!
Years later, when he had his own wife and children, all of this was brought back fresh in his memory! On a visit back home with his family, there, hanging in his brother’s shed was the frame of the Schwinn bike!
All of the bittersweet memories of that time…of the bike and of Jake…came back in full focus for a little bit.
I, personally, have wondered if the young Ed would have gone through with the selling of Jake in order to get the bike.
However, considering the time and place in the past of this story, he probably would have. The cost of keeping a pig for a pet would have been too extravagant in those hard times!
…Besides... the young boy, Ed, had that burning desire for that new Schwinn bike! :)
Labels: Alabama, bike, Charles, Family, farm, Jake the pig, Mud Bottom