Dan is home from hunting with a nice, fat buck deer. Rose greeted him in the driveway with her rat, certain he’d missed keeping up on Mae’s life (which involves sleeping, scritching, scurrying, and sniffing, which is to say, he didn’t miss much). Dan immediately tapped into everyone’s needs. He gushed over Rose’s rat, fielded my kisses, and asked for Col’s help shuttling game bags stuffed with deer legs to the freezer, lifting 95% of the weight himself but letting Col feel his assistance was indispensable.
The next day, Col and Rose at their respective homeschool co-ops, Dan and I settled into butchering (we’re also butchering our friend Dave’s elk). I’m always surprised at how much I love this work. All the many previous years of meat-making rise to the surface like a scrapbook, or manual, but really the work is a fluid covenant between hand and knife. The mind can rest. I pull back my hair, tie on an apron, grab the requisite tools: pandora station, coffee, sharp knife, and get to work.
Elk hind legs: otherworldly pieces of meat. It takes four hours to get the meat off the bone.
Inside each hind leg, mounded with fat, are unbroken ruby slabs of roasts. The piece-work of sinewy shoulders become sausage. The heart, a fat-swirled red gumdrop, goes right into a marinade, to be smoked (incidentally, during my 4th/5th grade writing class, causing a pestilence of flies and distraction). The liver, that surprisingly large, slippery, purple meat-vitamin, gets ground into a mix of burger. Everything is so pleasingly familiar: how the hunting stories spill slow and steady; the feeling of great wealth; all the lurkers angling for a meat scrap: our cat, magpies, chickens and yellow jackets. Cut, trim, wrap, label. Shut the freezer door on a deep well of white packages; bring on winter.