22 November 2011

Hog Killin' - Part II

Emanuel County, Georgia, 1940s, Photographer Unknown, Georgia Archives

Nothing to be Gained Here
Stewart Voegtlin
Part II

—Come git the head boy, Owen said. He paused and searched for his breath and rubbed slowly at his chest as if to free it. Horace cradled the hog’s head in his hands and he laughed and rocked on his feet.

—You gone take that to maw, Owen said, breathing heavily. He pushed Horace on and pointed to the house. Elsie Ayle stood at the door, hawking snuff upon the dirt. Her gray hair stood in a frightwig wiry and filthy and her breasts hung as heavy stones in a sling. She scratched at her sex and smelled her hand and wiped snuff and spittle from her lip. Behind her snakes sat piled two deep, their wire cages covered in stained quilts. Elsie could smell them and the strange musk of their skins.

—Come on boy, Elsie said, waving Horace up on the porch. She spat and took the hog’s head from him and disappeared into the dark house. A crazed lot of cats slipped from the door and stopped and marveled at Eugene and Kinard as they pulled organs from the hog.

Horace pointed and laughed and drew circles in air. He watched as a hawk floated above. Its wings teetered as it moved through ourobouros in a repetition at once banal and divine. Vultures joined the hawk and traced slow circle and dropped slowly closer to the earth and Horace pointed and laughed.

Eugene’s knife worked through connective tissue and the lungs fell and he ran the blade across the heart’s valves and plucked it from the carcass, the organ bright with blood. Kinard pulled the diaphragm with two hands and it came quick—a gore soaked cloth torn from its table. Eugene cut and pulled and spleen and liver were put into the steel tub, their shape not unlike a tortoise’s shell. The intestines rolled out and Eugene and Kinard cussed and fought with one another trying to keep them from the dirt. Owen laughed while Maddox stood and smoked his pipe, giddy and nearly drunk in the early November morning.

—Somethin, aint it, Maddox.

—What that, Owen.

—Them hogs we feed em and take after em an theys with us for years an then theys not.

—Way things work.

—Reckon so. Still aint sit right with me. How them go from bein to not bein like so.

—Aint gone there myself.

—Spose it get me right hard, Maddox. Spose it cut close on me. Soon ah gone be led out my pen and taken from bein to not.

—We all is, Owen.
—Reckon ah might could have some of what theys have. That not knowin. Somethin said for that. They aint known it comin. And then it do. When it come it jus come. It jus happen.

—Try an tell me you aint in a better place for it.

—Aint feel like it. Aint feel at all like it. Wager there aint nothin gained here.
—Here ah church an here ah steeple an open they door an seen all they peoples, Horace said, his fingers folded over and writhing in a mess of clotted blood.

Maddox bubbled the bottle.

End of Part II

Author interview continued-

Stewart Voegtlin hunting, 2008

More than anywhere else...Where do you like to be?
If it's not in a hunting blind or standing in a river fly-fishing, it's at home with my wife and 20-month-old son. He's changed my life in so many ways and made me want to be things I never thought I could be.

Where do you want to go?
To Oxford, MS to Faulkner's home, Rowan Oak. My church I've yet to attend.

Where did you come from?
The dirty south. Atlanta, Georgia. It gets a bad rap, and rightfully so. But you can drive for an hour and see nothing but mountains and water and converse with people who don't know what an i-Phone app or Kindle is. That's my idea of heaven.

Where do you wish you came from?

I used to be infatuated with New York City. But now it makes me nervous and depressed. I'm older and need quiet to think. I don't know how you stand it sometimes.

Where are you?
I'm in my den typing on a borrowed laptop while my son tears the house apart. It's time for us to go on our morning run and he's getting antsy.

Part III of 'Nothing To Be Gained Here' and author interview concludes tomorrow.


Anonymous said...

Is Atlanta really the "dirty south?" I live in Atlanta and it seems pretty darn squeaky clean, coffee foam-whipped and digitally juiced to me. But it's all in the eye of the beholder, I suppose.

Voegtlin writes very well, indeed. He tells far more than I ever cared to know on a subject that I have never thought of in my life, save for a vague and uncertain time.

When I was a kid in the '60s some of the transplanted skinny rural Southern boys, who for questionable reasons known only to their families, relocated to Florida. Long before Hogzilla, Billy Bear and 4-wheel ATVs, these boys would stare at me, but with far off gazes, and wistfully tell me stories of squirrel guns and of hog killing. It was a family thing and it made them proud. It made me uncomfortable. But standing in front of me, within spitting distance of a beach that these kids had no interest in, they just seemed...neutered.

I envisioned a life much like these photos you posted, rural folk doing things way under the modern radar. The movie "The Yearling" comes to mind. Their families had seemingly dark complex ties so far removed from that of say, The Dick Van Dyke Show - which at the time was my cultural reference - that it sort of scared me.

Someone eventually came up with a phrase for it: Southern Gothic. And I think this writer Voegtlin has it.


tintin said...

DB- Make sure readers understand you're 20 was Northeast Florida and not south FL.

That's great insight in your comment and you hit on a lotta things I've long forgotten.

When I worked at the Castillo in St A, there were a lotta day trippers from Northern GA who would visit. Poor, white and usually mean as Hell. But I learned, all they had was their pride, and no one was gonna step on it.

I've said before that no one hates like the hated and they came to town with a $20 bill and a dirty t-shirt and didn't change either. But when you're up around Rome and Cave Spring, they're softer and most welcoming...usually.

I was at a party in No Ga and the only asshole there was a newspaper editor from Rome, GA who keep making cracks about my being from Chicago. I didn't tell him I was moving to NYC.

Brohammas said...

When I told people in my neighborhood in South Carolina that I was moving to Philly they would say, "I couldn't ever do that. I just wouldn't be able to deal with the people."

Here all this time my mental picture of Stewart was that dude from The Gangs of New York. Turns out he looks... a little like me.

tintin said...

Bro- you look like Owen.

Ben said...

Great series, and a great change of pace for your blog.

I've slaughtered, butchered, and pitted my share of wild boar. Here in Hawaii we do it differently in many ways. Except separating the head from the shoulders. I suspect thirty pounds of skull and jowls is thirty pounds of skull and jowls.

Can't wait for the Part III.

Main Line Sportsman said...

"Vardaman is a fish...."

Thanks for the interview...I knew he was my brand of gunpowder!

GSV JR said...

Anon: I was thinking regionally. I guess it goes without saying I'm not hanging at the Piedmont Driving Club...

Bro: Yeah, we do look alike. Brothers from another mother.

Ben: Thanks; I appreciate it.

MLS: Let's have some of that homemade hooch you're talking about...