Vegans, PETA, & the Squeamish Should Skip This Post
I’ve done many interviews over the years. But never from inside a kill room, standing next to an enormous hog suspended from the rafters by a hook, blood seeping from its freshly slashed throat onto the concrete floor and sluicing down a drain.
And if that isn’t surreal enough for you, my biggest concern at that moment was the nice shoes I was wearing. Can’t be getting pig’s blood on the Allbirds now!
Talk about the ultimate “I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore!” moment. Although it kinda did feel like we were in Kansas. Close enough, in any case. I mean it in the sense that these are most definitely not the types of interviews I did for Ye Olde Publishing Company. Those involved ice cream parlors and precocious pre-teens—not just-slaughtered livestock.
I was interviewing the owner of a meat processing plant in Wall, South Dakota, to learn how they weathered the pandemic. That it included a tour of the plant was an unexpected bonus.
First, I was shown the storage freezers. They were ice cold and full of packaged meat. Nothing unusual there. Next, we went to the meat locker, filled with slabs of meat hanging from the ceiling. I had an overwhelming urge to slip on a pair of boxing gloves and start pounding away at the carcasses. Eye of the tiger, baby.
But, then. Holy moly. The guy could have given me some advance warning. I didn’t know we were entering a kill room until we stepped inside, and I came face-to-face with that morning’s victim. He was rambling on and on about the process like it was no big deal, oblivious to the fact that I’m a city slicker who has never seen anything of this sort.
After the kill room, we stopped by a butcher block table with a Hillshire Farms-style summer sausage and a knife.
“You can go ahead and help yourself to a slice,” he offered, but I politely declined.
I obviously wasn’t too traumatized, because on the way out, I bought a couple of ribeye steaks and a package of sausage links from their retail case. I mean…at least I know the meat is fresh, right?
As strange as this interview was, it felt like a breath of fresh air (though not literally). This was my first in-person interview since COVID began 15 months ago. I don’t mind phone interviews, but only in a pinch. It’s always better to meet face-to-face. And this one was just the beginning: Thursday, I’m driving to Custer to interview the owners of an outdoor shop, and next week, I’m taking an honest-to-goodness business trip across the state. I’ll be on the road two nights, meeting with a rural hospital, a small-town grocer, and a quilt shop. I haven’t been on an actual business trip, one that involves hotels and comped meals, in years. It feels like a novelty. I’m looking forward to visiting a bunch of South Dakota communities I have never seen before.
The nice thing is, CenturyCo has company vehicles, so I never have to put any miles on my car when doing these interviews. The downside: I don’t know these vehicles like I do my Kona. For instance, today I stopped for gas in Wall before heading home, pulling up to the wrong pump because I assumed the gas tank on the Equinox I’d borrowed was on the driver’s side, as it has been with every single car I’ve ever owned.
I had to drive to a different gas station, and this time I pulled up to the correct pump, but couldn’t find the lever to release the gas cap. I searched high and low, under the dashboard, next to the seats, everywhere I could think of. Nothing. I finally had to dig through the owner’s manual and learned that I had to push on the fuel cap in order to get it to open.
Life: it’s one hell of an adventure, huh?
Speaking of adventure, we bought kayaks today. Hope you didn’t think I was kidding about those. Tara found a deal for two 10′ kayaks, complete with oars, for less than $900. And they have bottle holders, which pretty much sealed the deal. She had to order them for delivery to Tractor Supply Company, and they could take up to 10 days to arrive, but that’s okay: with all my upcoming travel, I’ll be too busy to hit the water right away.
With a little luck, we’ll have them just in time for the upcoming Independence Day holiday weekend.