I’ve often told friends that if civilization were to collapse, I would survive. Thanks go to my parents for that. I’m sure teaching their children to be self-sufficient wasn’t what was on their minds when we were put to work gardening, canning fruits and vegetables, feeding livestock, milking cows, gathering eggs, etcetera, etcetera; the reason we were put to work was so there would be plenty to feed a bunch of growing kids. And truth be told, us kids didn’t labor long or hard. My parents did the lion’s share, especially Mama since she was left to run the farm/ranch a good part of the year while Daddy worked half the country away.
I learned how and when to plant seeds, how to take care of the plants, and how to harvest and preserve fruits and vegetables. And I learned how to cook meals from scratch—not as tasty as Mama’s, but edible.
And I wasn’t a stranger to the ranch side of our life, the taking care of cows and chickens. My parents stopped raising pigs when I was small, so I don’t remember them, though there are pictures of me and my sister with our pet pig, Red. I was told he tasted good. Yes, Red was slaughtered to feed the family.
I probably sound callous to a lot of you, but I grew up in a time and place when most people were still close to their food sources. Pigs, cattle, and chickens were harvested the same as corn, potatoes, and beans. It was just a part of life. I admit, though, that I have never killed an animal, but I know if push comes to shove, I could.
I have processed many and varied carcasses. When I was small, I helped my daddy skin squirrels and rabbits, and I remember him telling me what a good helper I was. His praise made the fried rabbit and squirrel and dumplings my mama made taste even better, knowing I had played an important part in bringing food to the table.
Then there was the time I assisted Mama with freezing some chickens, an experience that didn’t produce any good memories. Chickens are a horse of a different color, so to speak, when it comes to readying them for consumption. One has to pluck out the feathers, and before one can pluck the feathers, the chicken has to be dipped in hot water to loosen those feathers. I’m here to tell you, that is not a good smell. Add that smell to the plucking, gutting, and cutting into pieces of about twenty chickens, and even a strong stomach can turn. I didn’t eat chicken for a year or two after that.
My first husband had a hand in furthering my education. He was an avid hunter and fisherman. I learned a lot from him in regards to fishing—what made good bait and how to find it, how to recognize the best places to fish, and how to scale and cut up the catch. I learned how to skin and process deer from him. But I never hunted.
I had no problem dealing with dead animals; it’s the live ones I couldn’t deal with, not as food. But as I have learned other things, I could learn to kill. Most people could. Hunger, yours or your loved ones’, is a powerful incentive. Most of us have never known the sort of hunger that would cause us to kill an animal, with our bare hands if need be. And I pray we never do.
But it doesn’t hurt to be prepared, to have a little basic knowledge of farming and animal husbandry. Or if nothing else, own a paper book(s) on the subject. And maybe one on survival. Just in case. I don’t look for civilization to collapse, for all our modern conveniences to stop working—ever heard of an EMP attack?—but it’s somewhat comforting to know I could survive without them. What would bring me much more comfort, though, would be to know that my grandchildren could. Sadly, I can’t say that. As are most people their age, they are a product of the 21st century, willingly tethered to the Internet and their cellphones.
We have become a nation wealthy in technical knowledge, but dirt poor in everyday knowledge. Maybe along with the 3 Rs, we should be teaching our children how to plant a garden, raise livestock…and maybe skin a squirrel.
©2020 KT Workman
Image via Pixabay