To the naked eye, I look like an average female who is family orientated, but what most people fail to realize is that there is a dark shadow that lurks beneath my smile.
My days consist of killing.
I can slit a chicken or duck’s throat in a matter of seconds having their warm blood flood from their living body down my hands and clothes. It splashes on my face and exposed neck. I used to get it in my hair but it became a hassle to wash out every blood clot. I now tie it with a plain white bandana and wear it as a bloody badge of honor. After their blood has drained and the animals are no longer alive, I toss them into the tank that is filled with boiling water. I de-feather them in minutes by throwing them into the cylinder lined with rubber spikes. Less than thirty-seconds with an abusive spin cycle and the animal is ready to move on. Some feathers are a bit more stubborn, which results in me ripping it from its flesh in one swift motion.
I take a large blow torch that is hooked up to a gas tank larger than myself to their skin as they hang in a row of six by their feet. I watch the grease bubble to the surface then catch fire before I send them off to the last room.
Once on the other side, I immediately start gutting their steamy bodies. Both birds get the same treatment. The front of their necks are sliced open to remove their trachea. Then their bottom is sliced open in-between their legs. The insides are pulled out. The animal is rinsed and the heart, kidneys, liver and lungs are put into the cavity for the customer.
When it comes to the larger animals, I can do it all. I can wrangle down a goat or lamb double my weight, hang it by its legs and cut through the jugular while I watch it breathe its last few breaths of life. As it screams, I wash the blood down the drain or sometimes if the customer wants the blood, I have to hold the head while aiming the blood into a bucket. Afterwards, I skillfully and artfully skin its entirety with swift movements of my sharp blade. I start at the back of one leg a little above the ankle. I cut around the leg, but not in too deep. There is a sweet spot on the inside of the leg that will allow my blade to cut through the skin like scissors to wrapping paper. I cut all the way through to the anus and penis. I repeat the process on the other side. I make a light slit down the stomach all the way down to the neck. I typically start on the left side because I am right-handed. With my left hand start the pull away while my right hand guides the knife along the skin, careful not to puncture any fat or meat.
When I am all done removing the skin, it is time to remove the head by snapping the neck and cutting through the muscles. It is then carefully slit by the belly without bursting a hole on any of the inside organs to remove the stomach along with the intestines. The organs that are left after are the liver, kidneys, lungs and heart. After carefully removing the bile duct without rupturing it, the organs can be safely detached. If the gallbladder bursts onto the meat, it will be spoiled and inedible. The heart and lungs are carefully removed with a quick slit while still steaming hot, being as gentle as one can be.
With the help of a few men, a 1,200 pound bull can be manipulated into the killing room where it is restrained. There is a meticulous process in how to tie the animal down without any one getting hurt. The head is tied with a rope before the animal is released from the trailer. Depending if the bull has a nose ring or horns, this process can be easy or difficult. There is an iron loop that is cemented into the floor called an eye inside the killing room, right next to the door. That is where the other end of rope that is already attached to the bull feeds through to lure his head all the way to the floor. Once the head is on the floor, the rope wraps around the back legs and front legs to bring all of them together in once place, the animal is tipped over onto its side. When all four hooves are almost ready to be knotted, the tail is tucked in-between the back legs and pull to the stomach and around. Once the animal is tied up completely, it can be killed in less than a few minutes depending how much of a fighter he is.
I have been an accomplice to at least 70 bulls death in my six year stretch. I have seen it all. From the easiest to put down to having one escape. Another breaking the door with its horn and having two run out the trailer at the same time, leaving 10 men handling two bulls with safety concerns for the general public and everyone scared for their life.
Once the animal is ready to be killed, there is always one person holding the head while another one will slice through the massive neck. Typically for bulls, an extra sharp machete is used the kill the animal as quick as possible. Sometimes this can be tough as the skin is much thicker than any other animal. Once the process is done, everyone scatters away from the powerful beast. The animal is left the bleed out while everyone stands by watching so they don't get kicked from rigamortis. Even after death this animals kicks with force. I skin and butcher the entire animal in forty-five minutes without too many spasms. Although, I do need help with many lifting situations. As skillful as I am in my field, I am still a female, And a proud one at that.
I wish there were words to describe exactly how I feel when I am in these three killing rooms. How it feels to watch life disappear in your hands. To feel the warm wet blood on your body, or even what it is like to blow torch an animal with fire that was alive less than three minutes ago.
Patricia Leonard is a 29 year old writer from New York. She has her BA in English linguistics and creative writing. Her work has been featured in Three Rooms Press’ yearly anthology, Maintenant 10 and Maintenant 11. Also upcoming in The Voices project. She is a poetry and creative non-fiction writer who always leaves her readers wanting more. Her style is raw and captivating.