• A Tale of One of Two Scars

    by  • 5/20/2008 • health, work • 0 Comments

    meat stamp

    There are only two scars on my body that really have anything near a story to tell. There’s one I received as an adult and one that I received as a child; only the one from my youth could be used as a means of identifying my corpse should things come to that. This is the story of the mark that no CSI would likely see or pay attention to.

    The image at the top of this post is an inspection stamp (albeit one of the USDA ones), and you may have seen something like it if you’re someone who buys or prepares a tasty ham on occasion. That odd purple ink is injected like a primitive tattoo into the skin on the ham of each half of the freshly gutted hog.

    While in college, I worked for a short period of time at Fletcher’s “processing plant” (abattoir) in Red Deer, Alberta. I was only there for a couple months, and I’m glad for that, as the working conditions were horrible and nearly everyone ended up injured in some way. I have to say that more people who eat meat should have to work on a kill floor and see that food doesn’t just magically appear in cello wrap on stryoform trays in the cooler at the market.

    I received my less visible scar at the business end of an inspection stamp. The idiot standing beside me had the coveted job of stamping each carcass with the food-safe ink stamp. The stamp is composed of a hundred or so needles mounted on the business end of a hammer handle. Well, this one time, idiot-boy swung the stamp without looking, and it glanced off the back of my right hand, just below the knuckle at the base of the index finger. The needles ripped pretty deep, leaving purple ink coated all over my hand; I was a bit concerned that the ink might stay, and I might be unwillingly tattooed by this pigsticker.

    Luckily it healed clean, with no tattoo, though I can still make out three of the faintest white lines of scar. I have my doubts that he was quite as lucky, as I snatched the stamp from his hand, re-inked it, and slammed it hard into his right deltoid. The look of shock on his face after he was labeled as being top quality pork is one of the few good memories I have of the kill floor. I’m sure that if that one held ink, that he tells his cell mate these days about how bad ass he was to get such a stylin’ piece of work.

    For the record the jobs I did on the kill floor included fat puller (pulling the fat out from inside the ribs; very hard work), kidney popper (removing the kidneys for inspection; stand with your arms directly in front of you for 8-10 hours at a stretch, holding a knife), and casing cutter (turning the small intestine into coverings for tasty sausages). None of these jobs were technically easy; one had you doing about 800-1800 bicep curls per day, another tested your endurance, and the other introduced you to the taste of porcine feces. It’s like being given the choice between being ripped apart by dogs or by wolves; it’s still a painful death no matter how you slice it.

    The above is the story of a scar, brought about by a post on Pharyngula which referred to someone trying to start a Meme Of Their Own (starring Madonna and Rosie O’Donnell!). I don’t really like chain letters or chain blogs (memes) so I’m not naming anyone here; write about a scar or don’t.


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