I didn’t get lockjaw & I didn’t die

Published 11:00 pm Friday, March 1, 2013

Waste not, want not.

Somebody famous said that. Or maybe it was what the Good Lord wrote on the back of those tablets He gave to Moses. I’m not sure.

But I do know that it was the topic of many of the sermons that Mama preached at the dinner table.

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There were little children all over the world dying of hunger so it was the absolute gospel that I must eat every bite of food that I put on my plate. So, I was always careful that my eyes were not bigger than my stomach.

Whatever was not eaten at dinnertime would be put back in the oven and that’s what we had for supper.

Back then, sometimes folks got sick from overeating but they did not get sick from eating leftovers or, if they did, it was laid off on something else.

After supper, the table scraps would be raked off in the slop bucket that Mama kept on the back of the stove to be fed to the old hog that she kept penned up in the back yard.

Mama would buy a pig in the spring and raise it into a hog to be sold after Thanksgiving for her Christmas money.

It was my chore to slop the hog every night.

I did not like hogs. They were mean and would sometime charge at me when I went in the pen to feed them. I’d have to run and climb the chinaberry tree that was in the middle of the pen and holler for Mama to come chase the hog away so I could get down and out of the pen.

This one night, the old hog was rooting around, making that ol’ grunting sound, and I decided not to go in the pen. I would just climb on the fence and pour the slop over in the trough. Daddy had reinforced the wire around the bottom of fence with boards. I climbed on the top board and my foot slipped and a rusty nail stuck in my leg.

It hurt a lot but I knew if I told Mama, I would have to get a tetanus shot so I wouldn’t get lockjaw and die. I was scared of shots, so I just didn’t say anything about it.

Not until my leg started swelling and turning hot with red streaks running from it.

Those red streaks were death on the way and I was at death’s door.

I sat at the supper table that night, looking at the ham and biscuit and red-eye gravy on my plate and knowing that I was looking at my last supper. If I had been old enough or smart enough, I would have seen the irony in that I was going to get lockjaw and die a terrible death on account of an ol’ hog and my last supper was a slice of a pig’s butt.

I got up from the supper table and ran all the way down the hill to my grandma’s house and “busted” out crying. I told her that I had lockjaw on account of the ol’ hog and I was dying and Mama was going to kill me.

Grandmothers are magic. And, somehow, my grandma worked magic on Mama. She didn’t kill me and I didn’t get lockjaw and I didn’t die.

And, I took great pleasure in knowing that ol’ hog wouldn’t be so lucky. He would, someday soon, be on somebody’s supper table and, I said, “good riddance” to the hog and I hoped not a bite of him was wasted.