Holy Saturday

Part three of The Great Reversal, a CT Classic article

Prettyfeather placed two buffalo-head nickels on the countertop for her Holy Saturday purchase: smoked ham hocks; two for a nickel. In the descending hierarchy of Holy Saturday foods, ham hocks were at the bottom.

Large hickory-smoked hams held center position in the displays in my father's butcher shop. Colorful cardboard cutouts provided by salesmen from the meat-packing companies of Armour, Hormel, and Silverbow all showed variations on a theme: a father at an Easter Sunday dinner table carving a ham, surrounded by an approving wife and scrubbed, expectant children.

Off to the side of these displays were stacks of the smaller and cheaper picnic hams (though a picnic ham is not, properly speaking, a ham at all, but the shoulder of the pig). There were no company-supplied pictures, nor even brand names on them. On Holy Saturday customers crowded into our store, responding to the sale signs painted on the plate-glass windows fronting Main Street and sorting themselves into upper and lower socio-economic strata: the affluent buying honey-cured, hickory-smoked hams, and the less-than-affluent buying unadjectived picnics.

Prettyfeather was the only person I ever remember buying ham hocks—gristly on the inside and leathery on the outside, but smoked and therefore emanating the aroma of a feast—on Holy Saturday. She was the only Indian I knew by name in the years of my childhood and youth, although I grew up in Indian country. Every Saturday she came into our store to make a small purchase: pickled pig's feet, chitlins, blood sausage, head cheese, pork liver.

She was always by herself. She wore moccasins and was wrapped in a blanket, even in the warmest weather. The coins she used for her purchases were in a leather ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Subscribe to CT and get one year free.
Read These Next