Rock Ledge shows modern folk how old-timers got ‘everything but the oink’

       “Wow. Check it out.”
As butcher Steve Zettlemeyer removes internal organs from a freshly slaughtered hog, young onlookers get an eyeful at Rock Ledge Ranch Historic Site Nov. 8. Called "Everything But the Oink" this year, the annual event teaches about traditional hog processing and other activities frontier people did to prepare for winter.
Westside Pioneer photo

       One of several youngsters visiting Rock Ledge Ranch Historic Site Nov. 8 was watching a butcher remove intestines from the carcass of a recently slaughtered pig that had been hoisted outside the barn.
       It was the annual event in which Rock Ledge, a working, old-style ranch, shares with the public the necessary - though gross to some - aspects of traditional hog processing.
       This year the show was called “Everything But the Oink,” to emphasize the many uses of a pig's parts.
       “This is so important,” said ranch manager Andy Morris. “A lot of living-history places don't do this [because of objections from animal-rights groups], but this is how it was done [in the old days]. And the kids are so into it.”
       The annual event culminates activities throughout the year involving pigs at Rock Ledge. In May, the ranch buys a mother pig and her piglets, and these entertain visitors throughout the summer while the young ones grow to full size. In the fall, all but one of those pigs is sold, and the one that's kept is slaughtered early on “Oink” day, before the ranch opens to the public.
       The one this year weighed in at 290 pounds, according to Rock Ledge foreman John Winters, who agreed that getting to that size in less than a year involves a lot of food intake. “Pigs are eating, growing, give-us-meat kinds of animals,” he said.
       According to a ranch handout, “on the American frontier, hogs were a mainstay, providing meat and many pork by-products at a reasonable cost. Typically, animals were processed in the coolest, fall months to keep meat from spoiling while curing. Hogs required little care, were durable in extreme weather, and ate scraps and refuse so they were very economical to raise.”
       The meat from the “Oink”-day pig was shared between the ranch and the butcher (Steve Zettlemeyer), who took half for his “pay.”
       The ranch's share will be cooked up into a ham and other cuts that will be frozen and served out at different times during the year as a special treat for ranch volunteers, Winters explained.
       Other “Oink” activities Nov. 8 included demonstrations of lye soap making at the Galloway homestead cabin and sausage making in the Rock Ledge House.
       According to Morris, about 200 people came to this year's processing event. “I was thrilled,” he said. “It was great feedback. People said it was real history. Some even offered donations to help keep it going.”
       Other than special events such as “Oink,” Rock Ledge is closed to the public at this time of year. The next visiting opportunities will be the Holiday Tea and Tours, starting (by reservation) Dec. 5. For more information, call 578-6777.

Westside Pioneer article