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| Guest Columnist | Harry M. Covert | Hayden Duke | Jason Miller | Ken Kellar | Patricia A. Kelly | Edward Lulie III | Cindy A. Rose | Richard B. Weldon Jr. | Brooke Winn |


Advertise on the Tentacle

November 7, 2003

Great For Everyone But The Hog!

Richard B. Weldon Jr.

On Wednesday I spent the afternoon and early evening at the Burkittsville Ruritan building. Now that I am blessed to represent Frederick County's most beautiful legislative district, I feel compelled to learn as much about our agricultural heritage as I can.

The Burkittsville Ruritan was holding a butchering, and I was given the opportunity to come and learn. Let me tell you a little about this Ruritan Club. Like all Ruritans, these guys work really hard. They care deeply about tradition, community, and one another.

These events serve as major fundraisers for the clubs. So much so that Ruritan brothers from other clubs descended on Burkittsville to help cut and prepare the 30 hogs for processing. In true Ruritan tradition, the Burkittsville Ruritans will pack up their boning knives and visit another club to help them.

Putting a boning knife in my hand would have probably resulted in poorly prepared cuts of pork, and more likely than not, a little sliced Weldon, too!

So, instead of a knife, I was assigned to help carry hog halves from the refrigerated truck into the cutting room. Heavy, greasy, and a bit unwieldy, this is not glamorous work, but necessary.

I was amazed at how hard these guys work. Knives smoothly cut through hide, and hams, ribs, and loins are carefully trimmed out and prepared for sale. Cuts and trimmings go into large tubs in anticipation of the big-deal aspect of a butcherin', the sausage making.

The magic of the ham-curing is a wonder to behold, as well-trained hands mix the brown sugar, spices, and salt into a rub and apply it to the hams. I'm sure that every Ruritan Club has their own technique and special secrets. All I'll say about Burkittsville's is that I can't wait to try a slice of that ham!

An unfortunate aspect of our societal lurch into governmental nannyism is that Health Department inspectors now attend the butchering, overseeing every aspect of this long-standing tradition. It was interesting to watch a county and state inspector standing idly by while more than 40 experienced Ruritans did exactly the same thing they've done for years, and their fathers and grandfathers before them.

Wonder if those inspectors had any value to add? It sure didn't seem like it to me, but I will say that they were interested, curious, and treated the members with respect.

It was much different from another bureaucratic nightmare that played out two weeks ago. A roving health inspector impounded a truck full of milk at a Frederick County dairy farm. The hauler, who possessed a valid Pennsylvania hauler's permit, was awaiting the issuance of his Maryland permit. He had filed the necessary paperwork, but the process had not yet produced his permit.

Instead of a simple phone call to verify the claim, the easier choice to impound the milk was made. Now we have a hauler who is "soured" by his dealings with the state of Maryland, a dairy farmer who wonders if our State is serious when we say that we care about agriculture, and an inspector seemingly empowered by less-than-inspiring supervision.

I got into government because I believe that we can use this substantial power to do good things for good people. I'm learning that it doesn't just take government to do good things. In fact, sometimes government hinders more than it helps.

Ruritans know a thing or two about doing good things for good people. They also know a thing or two about butcherin', and I'm grateful for the chance to watch them work!

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