SMOKE HOUSE

© 2019 Bil Murphy

Who remembers playing in the old smokehouse? I’m not talking about your local tobacco store either! Unless you’re like me, older than dirt, then you’ve probably never had the blessing of smokehouse fun.

Pappa and Mamma Murphy had a ‘working’ smokehouse when I was a kid in short pants. It sat a few feet from the rear of their house in Carthage, MS, and a few dozen yards from where those hams were born and raised. Because my Dad loved his parents dearly, we visited Carthage often, much to my approval and delight!

The ole smokehouse was no more than eight feet square, with a low roof. Hams hung from the rafters at about eye level. It smelled… what can I say… almost heavenly in the place… but it was dark inside. Because it was a valuable asset to the farm, and a major source along their food chain, our care-free play time inside of it was strictly limited.

Occasionally, a friend or distant cousin would visit who was ‘out of the loop’ of our country fun activities, and we’d suggest a game of follow the leader.

The smoked hams hung from the rafters of the low roof by strong cords, making the lower portion of the heavy hams about eye level to an eight or ten year old. Perfect! We’d entice the unsuspecting newcomer to follow us inside that dark and sweet smelling place. The aroma alone was enough to shock your senses, and throw your thinking off balance.

Did I mention that these the hams hung down… looking for all the world like punching bags in a prize fighter’s gym?

The leader would wait until the door was closed, and it was once again dark inside, and the unsuspecting victim was pressing close to the leader for guidance… and then the leader would reach forward and push a ham forward… and then release it… and duck! Instead of egg in your face, the poor visitor got twelve pounds of ham in the face!

My grand and great-grand kids think that I must have had a boring childhood… because I had no cell phone, no TV, no radio controlled toys, no video games.

And I shake my head and think what an artificial childhood they are having, because they have no smokehouses, hay lofts, peanut patches, nor have they ever experienced drinking cool fresh water that they themselves have drawn from a well with a bucket on a rope.

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