Smiths Falls

Mary did everything to keep tree stump out of her mind

Posted Apr 26, 2012 By Mary Cook

EMC Lifestyle - My brother Emerson said the sooner I got used to the tree stump, the better off I would be. Well, as far as I was concerned, if I lived to be 100, I would never get used to what was left of the big old elm tree behind the silo.

To me, it represented everything I hated and feared, all rolled in one big bubble of emotion. I never knew if the big elm was cut down because it was too close to the silo, or if it was cut down because it served its final purpose so well. And even though it meant many more footsteps to avoid passing it, to me, it was a small price to pay to avoid going anywhere near the place I hated with a passion.

If I circled far away, towards the gravel pit, on my way to the West Hill, and if I walked with my eyes barely opened, I could almost miss seeing the stump. But even at that distance, I could see what it was used for, and my stomach would churn every time I came anywhere close.

There was a small hatchet imbedded in the surface of the stump. To me, it was as dreadful as the stump itself. Father had put a wide leather strap tightly around the stump as well, and stuck into the strap was an assortment of knives. These never found their way into the kitchen. And as far as I knew they were never washed. Probably just wiped clean on the grass, and stuck back into the leather strap waiting for their next piece of murderous business.

This stump was where the chickens met their final fate. It was the duty of my brothers to catch our Sunday dinner out of the chicken coop or the barn yard, grab it by its two legs and haul it over to the stump behind the silo. I tried to be anywhere but near the stump when Everett, Emerson or Earl were sent to do the dastardly deal.

Only once did I actually hear the slaughter, and I never wanted to live through that experience again. It was a deadly "thunk", and I pictured in my mind's eye exactly what was happening, and it would take every bit of nerve in my body to enjoy Sunday dinner that night.

This was the place too, where the brothers cleaned the mud pout caught in the Bonnechere River. They would bring their catches up in a tin pail, lugging it up the hill to the stump. I could never understand how each of them, although mischievous, but never evil, could attack both a live chicken, or a mud pout, and bring either to its sudden death without a second thought.

Although my sister Audrey would never in a hundred years, be asked to kill a chicken or clean a fish, she never seemed to harbour the fear and loathing I had of the stump behind the silo.

Her explanation was simple enough, but never really did answer my concern. "It's a man's job," she would say.

I never got close enough to the stump to know what the flat surface looked like after years of serving its murderous purpose. There was never any attempt made to scrub it down with soap and water, which I always thought was the healthiest thing to do after using it. And Mother, who was meticulous about clean food, never seemed to mind that the stump bore the results of goodness knows how many slaughters. I once asked her about this, and she said the rain takes care of cleaning it, and besides, everything coming off the stump was either, baked, fried or stewed.

Although I was always considered one who had what Mother called a squeamish stomach, it was amazing to me how, when I sat down at the dinner or supper table to a roasted chicken, I was always able to put the stump behind the silo out of my mind.

It was a good thing too. Had I brought up visions of what the chicken, or any of the other farm animals that ended up on our table, had to endure before their trip to the Findlay Oval, I would surely have given up eating meat for the rest of my life.

blog comments powered by Disqus