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It’s January and it’s cold. Obscenely cold. Colder than a witch’s you-know-what. Cold enough to freeze the . . . off a brass monkey. It’s what some call bone-chilling weather– and what my family calls “hog-killing weather.”

“Hog-killing weather” is a new phrase for me, a nod to my family’s agricultural roots.

I first heard it on a crisp January morning as I was enjoying a bowl of cereal. My dad was reading the newspaper and remarked that the high temperatures would only be in the 30s. “Hog-killing weather,” he mused.

I paused. “Hog-killing weather? What’s that?” I asked.

“You know, when it’s really cold?”

“So you have to wait until it’s cold to kill a pig? You can’t kill a pig in the summer?”

“Well you could,” my dad said, “but the meat wouldn’t last very long.”

He explained hogs were slaughtered during the winter so the meat could be well preserved in the smokehouse, another new term for me

“The smokehouse? Is that where you smoke meat?”

“Well, it’s not like you go in and start a fire or anything,” he said.

The smokehouse, my dad explained, was was where meat was preserved and stored, not the enclosed structure with a grill that I had imagined. (My great-grandfather, J.E. Nance, had a smokehouse on his farm in Enterprise, my dad told me. It was about the size of a storage shed.)

I was fascinated and decided to share this information with my mom. (But having grown up in rural southwest Georgia, this was probably common knowledge for her.)

Unsurprisingly, she knew what I was talking about when I mentioned “hog-killing weather,” and described it as the time of year “when the ground spews ice.”

Now that’s cold.

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