Poenamo Book the Fourth - Chapter IX.
How we Shave a Pig
We paddled back to our
meanwhile island home, carrying away with us the impression that the capital
certainly still wore but a very infantile face, but, nevertheless, that it
was fair to look upon, and we had a feeling of pleased contentment that with
its growth it would still grow in beauty, and that its advancing years would
never belie the fair promise of its youth, nor did they ever.
As we neared the island we
received a most vociferous welcome from Tartar, who dashed into the water to
receive us—a famous water-dog he was amongst many other wonderful qualities.
Of course we found the flax lock of our whare even as we had left it, for we
were still in advance of that civilisation which was to give us Pakeha
thieves; but hereafter shall have to narrate to you how we became victims to
that species of civilisation, and, strange to say, Motu Korea was the scene
of the first great exploit of the kind.
The last month of spring had
now arrived, and we found ourselves passing through a climate unrivalled in
its beauty, and which gave a physical enjoyment of life that seemed to make
the mere fact of living an ecstatic happiness.
Our importation of pig stock
had obliged us to fence in our small garden, which we did with a dry scoria
wall, and we worked away at small improvements, as it was our intention when
we removed to town to try and get some one to come and take charge of our
large and rapidly-increasing families of pigs, in order that the most should
be made of our pig-run speculation, and that the fruits of our labours
should not be thrown away when the capital created a market.
Meanwhile, until we should
become absorbed as citizens in that capital, we had to eat and drink, and
the stock of corned pork we laid in from Waipeha became exhausted.
We tacitly put off the evil
day of taking the required steps to refill our "harness cask," but the
unpleasant duty was at last forced upon us, as digging peppies out of the
beach at low water had become quite intolerable, and, latterly, peppies had
been the only addition to our potato fare.
It looked as if the nearer we
got towards the "capital" point of civilisation the farther away we got from
it in a social and domestic way.
At Waiomu, amongst our
tattooed savage friends, we had all menial work taken off our hands; but
now, with the young capital staring us in the face, we had to be our own
everything. We had hitherto, with an equanimity worthy of all praise—at
least, we most decidedly thought so—submitted to the performance of every
kind of domestic work, but the climax had arrived now that it was a case of
acting the— butcher.
There was no help for it,
however it was either kill a pig or continue to go without meat, and we had
now gone so long without it that we were beginning to realise the reason why
Maories eat each other now and again, just to vary the monotony of their
fish and vegetable diet.
So one morning saw us pushing
through the high fern, with Tartar at our heels, to try and spot one of the
fattest of those sixty porkers which had given me my first commercial
lesson. The rich free soil of the island made the fern-root easily grubbed
up, so that a hog, if full-grown, Soon became fat and kept so without any
other food, and made pork of great delicacy, perfectly different to the same
article at home.
After some little hunting
about we succeeded in singling out the intended victim, and, pointing it out
to Tartar, he soon had it by the ear, and held it until we came up and tied
a flax string to the foot, when we drove it home to the place of execution.
Here we had prepared a nice
bed of fern on which our victim was to be scraped—we had kindled fires under
our largest pots for the boiling water—the scalding-tub was at hand, and all
There lay the knife, long and
sharp, but who was to use that knife had never been alluded to by either of
us. Each hugged to his soul the belief it would be the other, and not
We threw the pig on its side
amid much loud music given forth not only by the pig but Tartar, who added
to the deafening row. I got my knees on the animal's head to keep him down,
and thought I had played ane card.
There is the knife. Now is
your time," said I.
For me!—I stick a pig. How do
I know where its heart is? Come, go ahead—it is all in the way of your
profession; don't be chicken-hearted."
Whereat I looked at the ugly
long sharp knife, and roared, to be heard above the awful squealing—
"Can't do it!"
"Nothing for dinner!"
"Diiner be d—d !"
"Only one dig, and all's
"Then we must dig peppies!
peppies! peppies!" each "peppies" yelled out louder and louder.
Then came a furious struggle
from the porker. We both jumped up—porker staggered away.
Somehow I had given him his
Ah ! beastly!" came from me
as I chucked away the knife.
Bravo! You really did it
splendidly—positively quite a scientific thrust. The poor brute is dead
already—believe you gone straight to the heart. Don't look so woebegone;
it's all over now."
Yes, the sticking was but
something awaited us which proved a much worse job than killing the
beast—the scraping it.
We lifted up our victim and
soused it well in boiling water in the scalding-tub, turning it over and
walloping it about in a wonderful manner, so that ever bit of the carcass
should get a good dip in the boiling water, and then lifting it out we
placed it on a bed of fern, expecting to see the hair come peeling off.
But, lo ! great was our
disappointment, for hardly a hair, let alone a bristle, came away; it all
stuck most pertinaciously to the brute, defying all our efforts to remove
The water certainly was
boiling, I remarked.
"I thought so to, but let us
pour some more over the brute; we have a spare supply in that other boiler."
And more we did pour, but not a bit would the hair come off.
Pleasant work it was, to be
sure, with a strong hot sun overhead, the lifting the carcass into the tub
again, then out again, in the vain attempt to properly scald it and get the
Ah, poor greenhorns! you may
scrape and scrape, but the hair off that pig you will never scrape. By one
process only can you now get that hair off; and that is—by shaving.
The water ought not to have
been boiling. A bucketful of cold water should have been dashed in to take
it off the boiling-point, and then had porker been submerged the hair would
have all come away. We had what is termed set it, and thoroughly well set it
was, and no mistake. But this was an experience which came to us too late,
and that pig we had to shave, and a nice little job it was. The porker did
not look at all sightly when we hung it up on the branch of a tree; it was
not that beautiful white carcass that delighteth the eye of a butcher as he
hangs it, lemon in mouth, in his stall. Alas! our poor porker looked as if
it was rejoicing in a beard of a week's growth.
But this was our first and
our last experience in pig-sticking—we never required to kill another. The
eventuality was one I had not anticipated when learning up experiences in my
"ain kintrie" by practical lessons for the future of an emigrant's life. I
had, in anticipation of being thrown on my own resources as a sheep-squatter
in Australia, taken a lesson before leaving home of how to kill a sheep and
deal with the carcass, but I little thought then that pigs in Maoriland was
to be my fate. The knowledge I had gained in the sheep line, however, stood
me in good stead, and but for it we might have made a far greater mess
before we reached the stage of hanging up the opened carcass of our shaved
There is romance and reality
in the early settlers life. The romance is ever prominently narrated, and
travels far and wide and deludes many a victim, but the stern realities ever
remain an unknown quantity, except to those who have to pass through the
ordeal, and the remembrances are often painful enough.
'Tis well the future of our
lives is a sealed book, or we should never have nerve to face in cold blood
what comes to us in life as the "inevitable," and which we go through
because we must and can't help it.
Had I known I should have to
play the butcher in killing and scalding pigs ten to one I should have
turned up an aristocratic nose at the very idea, and seen emigration
further. Perhaps I was none the worse for having killed that pig, but certes
I was none the better; and had I gone on having such work to do, certes some
shade of refinement must have gone to the wall, but that one pig-sticking
was the alpha and omega of that work, and right glad was I. Of rough hard
work we had any amount before us, but we took to it pleasantly and with a
will as part of the inevitable that was our portion.
But none the less did we
rejoice that pig-sticking and shaving of the kind we had encountered was for
ever a thing of the past.
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