|This is NOT a picture of the butcher shop where I worked, but...you get the gist.|
My first paying job was working in the meat market of a little grocery store in my hometown. I was sixteen, and I was the worst butcher in the history of meat. One day, an elderly woman asked me to cut up a chicken for her. I grabbed fryer and a butcher knife and went to work. After several minutes of mangling this poor bird beyond all recognition, I looked up at her and apologized. She said, “Son, I’ve been coming here since the place opened. I’ve seen ‘em come and I’ve seen ‘em go, and there were a whole bunch of ‘em that weren’t no better than you.” That was the nicest thing anyone ever said about my skills with a knife. I had been on the job three weeks, working a few hours most days after school, when the boss and the other two employees of the meat market had to be out of town on a Saturday. That meant the market was all mine. That was the longest day of my life. Everyone in Lavaca County apparently decided they needed meat. I made mistakes. I got behind. I managed to cut my index finger on the meat slicer, but didn’t have time to do anything about it, so I filled orders with a bloody paper towel wrapped around my finger. Somehow, that didn’t seem to hurt business as much as I hoped it would. Finally, closing time arrived. Now I had to clean everything up. I had done this with my boss before, but he had always been the one who took apart the meat grinder. There was raw meat inside that thing, and I couldn’t figure out how to take it apart. Finally, I wrote a note of apology and stuck it to the machine, and went home. One of the other high school kids who worked there told me that when he and the boss came in on Sunday morning, the place smelled like a dead cow. I decided to call that morning before church to offer a verbal apology. I called right when the boss was trying to figure out how much ammonia it would take to get rid of that smell, and how much business he would lose in the meantime. So the moment he heard my voice, he let loose with a string of profanities that would make Bobby Knight blush. Three weeks. That’s how long my career as a butcher lasted.