This opening chapter of Leviticus just throws us right into the blood and guts, doesn’t it? If you’re a butcher or ever took part in FFA, you might appreciate this chapter a little more than the rest of us. Remember, we left off at the end of Exodus with the Israelites heading to the Promised land with the newly built Tabernacle in tow. Leviticus picks up there at the beginning of the Israelites’ new journey, and as they set off, God wants to be sure they understand that each day He wants some special time – mealtimes to be precise – with them. He goes over the rules of sacrifice again. Only this time he adds a few more details so that the Israelites know exactly how he wants this daily dinner to go. It’s a little gross to read about ripping open birds and washing internal organs. Growing up, my best friend Claudia’s dad used to run a meat processing biz, and during deer season, he would turn the shed behind their house into a deer processing factory. The shed during winter made a perfect DIY always freezing-cold meat locker, and he’d recruit several of his buddies to give him a hand with all the deer that came in during hunting season. Sometimes we’d sneak to the shed to see if Jim had any deer sausage or jerky we could swipe. The sight of skinned deer hanging from hooks, bloody meat lying around everywhere and the pungent smell of raw carcasses somehow didn’t ruin our appetites. Jim would get so busy sometimes that he’d recruit Claudia to help. This was often while I was with her and we popped into the shed to ask permission to do something. Dedicating a little time in the deer shed was our payment for privilege. I usually got stuck at the fat-trimming station, where we’d trim the fat off great big chunks of deer meat and slice those big chunks into little pieces that would fit into the meat grinder. Jim would usually only keep us working for half an hour or so. That was about the maximum time he could stand us complaining about how stinky and cold it was in there, so he was happy to see us go whether he was short-handed or not. I suspect the Israelites knew a little more about processing animals than I did at the age of 16, so while this sounds like tedious work to me, they probably had the process down to a tee. It’s sort of like the “wet markets,” as they call them in Southeast Asia. These are the morning markets that sell freshly butchered meats. Like, these suckers are sometimes butchered right there on the spot. In Cambodia, you’ll often see the animals lying behind or beside shops or restaurants, and you know right then and there that one of those animals might be your dinner later. It puts a new perspective on buying ground beef at the grocery store all packaged up nicely and ready to throw in the pan. For me, the process of skinning and draining the blood and butchering the meat seems like a days-long project, but I bet to a butcher, writing a 1,000-word research paper feels the same! We all got our thangs.
Writing prompt: Jim
We all have a Jim in our lives. My Jim (well, my friend Claudia’s Jim anyway) not only butchered deer for half the hunters in Alfalfa County, but he was the last milkman the county ever had, too. That’s a different story, but Jim was quite a guy, and as I get older I realize what an impact he had on my life. I can still see his big, bright smile as he approached our doorstep every week with our milk supply in hand. I was super little when he lost his job, but I remember my parents talking about what a shame it was. Little did I knew that in eighth grade I would become besties with his daughter. Oh, the good times we had, much to Jim’s chagrin, I’m sure! Jim is still with us but is aging, and I know Claudia wishes some days that we could go back to when he could throw a whole deer carcass on a table by himself and yell at us to stop complaining and get to work. I wish that, too, in so many ways. Write about the Jim in your life and think about the person you are today because of the moments you spent with him. (Your Jim might be a Judy, and that’s ok, too.)