Going hog killing and other stories
Howard Parris, son of Bryson and Almeda Ruppe Parris and grandson of Lafar and Beula Atkinson Ruppe, has many memories of his grandparents. One of his more vivid (and humorous) memories is of going “hog killing” with his grandpa.
Lafar, like many men of his time, had a sideline craft that provided additional income for his family when his mill wages weren’t quite enough. His, however, was just a little messier than most. He had a slaughter pen/processing site in back of his house off Highway 221A just South of Cliffside.
He was experienced and very expert at getting the job done, so he was kept quite busy when the weather turned “cold enough to kill a hog” in the winter. If the hog was not brought to him, Lafar would go to the hog owner’s pen, shoot and bleed it, and winch it onto the back of his truck. He would then take the hog to the cement-paved processing area in back of his house to dress it and cut up the meat.
Howard was often around and observed the process. He was proud that his grandfather was good enough so that people would come to get him to help them, and to his young, inexperienced mind, this seemed an exciting thing to do. He begged to be allowed to go along and help, but was always refused until he was about six or seven years old, when his begging finally wore his grandfather down.
He went to a farmer’s pen with his grandfather, and after Lafar had dispatched the hog, he told Howard he could cut the jugular vein. Howard quickly sloshed through the lot to his intended victim, intending to straddle the hog to make the proper cut, as he had seen Lafar do. However, he found the job was not quite as easy as he had imagined.
In its dying throes, the hog kicked out just as Howard started to jump astride him. Spinning from the kick, he went flying, landing on his face in the midst of the mud, hog excrement and urine. The muck was on his face and hands, in his hair, and all over his clothes. Having no way to bathe or change clothes, he carried the muck and aroma around with him for several hours, until they arrived back home, where his grandmother bathed him and washed his clothes. He decided the hog slaughtering and dressing business was not something he wanted to grow up to do, since it was not as great as he had originally believed.
Lafar’s cough medicine
Howard Parris said his Grandmother Beula did not approve of anyone drinking, and although he did not overindulge, his Grandfather Lafar liked to take a nip now and then. Lafar had developed a smoker’s cough, and once, after going to the doctor for an totally unrelated illness, he told Beula that the doctor told him taking a nip of spirits for medicinal purposes each evening may help his cough. Lafar was able to take his little nip without upsetting Beula, since she was fine with it because the doctor had prescribed it.
Lafar’s good heart
Howard said Lafar did many unselfish things for him. One summer, Howard wanted to earn some money by raising watermelons and selling them. His father said he couldn’t do it, since they only had an old mule to work a field, and no tractor. Lafar had a Farmall tractor, but no trailer on which to move it. He drove his tractor all the way from Cliffside to State Line and plowed the field across the road for Howard’s watermelon patch. He helped Howard plant the field, and later came back to plow it before the vines grew too long, again driving the tractor all the way from Cliffside to do so. Howard set up a stand and sold the watermelons down beside the road.
Howard wanted a bicycle when he was a young boy, and his father always said he did not need one, and they could not afford one. There really was very little extra money over and above basic living expenses, but Bryson had another reason that he did not tell Howard. He once had a young relative who had an accident on his bicycle in which he was thrown headfirst onto the road. His skull was fractured, and he died from his injury. Because of this, Bryson feared for his son’s safety, and would not buy a bicycle for him.
When Howard was about 10 years old, he came home from school one afternoon to find a bicycle leaning against the porch. He knew instantly that his grandfather had been the one who gave it to him, and that his mother had probably interceded with his father to allow the gift. It was an old beat up bicycle, with no fenders, no handle bar grips, and no chain cover. Lafar had found it somewhere and had hand painted it black with a brush. It was a pretty sorry looking thing, but Howard was as proud of it as if it had been shiny new. He rode the bike all the way from State Line to his Grandfather’s house just outside Cliffside to thank him.
Howard’s Grit route
His Grandpa Lafar’s gift had a far-reaching effect on Howard’s young life. He could see the bicycle opening up all sorts of opportunities for him. He knew boys who had grit newspaper routes, and made good money at it. The papers were sold to the customer for fifteen cents, but cost the boys only nine cents. This meant that for each paper they delivered, they got to keep a whopping six cents. With a bike for transportation, he could have a route, too, and could see himself earning lots of spending money.
The application he completed stated that one must be at least 12 years old to be a grit Carrier. He boldly entered his age as 12. At age 10 his conscience was apparently not as well developed as it would become, since he grew up to be an honest man.
The papers were delivered to him each Friday evening, and he started out early on Saturday Morning to deliver them to his customers. He built up his route until he had about 20 regular customers for the paper. Living in the country where the houses were scattered meant his route was a long one, taking almost six hours to complete. Since he had no basket on the bike and needed both hands to ride, he hung the Grit sack holding his papers around his neck. Heavy at first, it became lighter as he delivered each paper and collected his fifteen cents. If a regular customer was not home, he would leave their paper and go back to collect his money later that afternoon. If they still weren’t home, he would try to collect the following Saturday.
After almost two years, the realities of the newspaper delivery business began to set in. Some people never seemed to be at home to pay for their paper. Since Howard had to pay for them whether he collected for them or not, his estimate of earnings possibilities each week had to be lowered a bit. His customers expected their Grit to be delivered, come rain or shine, and the weather did not always cooperate. With no fender to deflect the water thrown up by a bicycle’s rear wheel when it rains, one’s back can quickly become uncomfortably wet, which can become very discouraging. During one heavy rain, he had to wrap the Grit sack in a heavy cloth to keep the papers dry. What finally brought his newspaper career to an end, however, was not dead-beat customers, and was not Mother Nature, but free enterprise.
When his mother took a clerical job working during the livestock sales at the Chesnee Sale Barn each Friday night, Howard went with her, and was hired as a soft drink vendor. He carried bottles of Coca-Cola around in a bucket of ice to sell to bystanders, and received two cents for each one he sold. In addition, he was paid one cent for each empty bottle he picked up and returned after the sale was over. As business at the sale barn increased, the Friday night sales began to last far into the night. Howard was not able to get all the bottles picked up before he had to go home, so had to go back on Saturday morning to finish the job. This made him late starting his paper route, when he was still tired from being up so late the night before.
He was faced with a hard business decision. It took him six hours of pretty hard pedaling on his bike to earn the $1.20 he made on the 20 papers he normally sold each week. He only had to sell 40 Coca-Colas and pick up the empties to make that amount, which would not be hard to do. In addition he would have no hills to ride up, and no worry about collecting his money. After this comparison, Howard decided the wiser course was to give up his paper route.