Farm Boy Sausage Rats Dogs

Once a year just before the winter it was the custom on the farm to slaughter a large ox and a large pig. From these animals we made salt beef, ham, bacon, biltong(jerky), dried sausage(droe wors) and soap for the whole year. As we did not have freezers or decent refrigerators a very large portion of the meat was turned into biltong and droe wors. We had quite a few wooden barrels for pickling the salt beef , ham and bacon.
The biltong and droe wors was left to hang to dry in a very large wire mesh cage which was constructed on one of the very large verandas which were part of the farm house. The droe wors was not squashed flat like the ones that you buy today. They were more like polony. They were about 500mm, folded into an oblong shape. The two open ends were tied with string. This was then suspended from a wire hook which was on a very long  horizontally suspended wooden pole. This pole was suspended from the veranda roof with about three wire stays of about 400mm from the roof. Secured in the middle of each of these stays was a 250mm square of flat galvanised sheet. As an inquisitive plus minus eight year old I could not see the reason for these pieces of galvanised sheets. I asked my mother as to why these sheets were positioned  above the poles. My mother told me that rats loved eating sausage and these plates were to stop the rats getting onto the poles and eating all the sausage. The fact that rats like sausage was firmly imprinted into my tiny little mind.
In those days my mother made all my clothes. There were no zips in those days  and everything that had to close was done with button holes and buttons. On this particular day, as it was winter, I had a pair of long pants which was secured to my shirt with buttons. 
There was a small store room attached to the house which had a lot of empty boxes in it. I was playing in this room when a very large rat ran at me. This was a large rat with a thick tail and not a mouse. Horror of horrors, this rat ran up the inside of my left pants leg. Immediately my mind focussed on the fact that rats like eating sausage and this one was on his way to my sausage. When he got past my knee and he was working his way up my inner thigh I latched onto him and held on with all my might. I was determined he was not going to get my sausage and obviously screamed for help. When my mother arrived she very quickly took charge. I was picked up and taken to the middle of the lawn. The farm dogs were summoned and put in a circle around me to catch the rat when it was released. My mother undid the buttons that held my pants up and dropped them down to my feet. Surprise! surprise! the rat fell out stone cold dead. In my fear that this rat was after my sausage I had unknowingly strangled it to death.
It just goes to show that the knowledge that we impart to our children is more often than not taken literally.

Butch Hannan.

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