I wrote about my high school friend Jeff the other day. One time I was at his house and he asked me if I wanted to go with him to buy a gun. I had nothing else to do so we hopped on his motorcycle and headed off. We went to the rendering plant to see a guy his cousin knew (welcome to the rural Midwest) who had a gun for sale.
For those of you who do not know what a rendering plant is I will try to explain. The FDA has strict rules on the condition a farm animal must be in to be sold as meat. The first criteria is that the animal must be alive prior to slaughter. The animal can be only of a certain age and cannot have sores, broken legs etc. Of course there are horses, mules, goats and other animals that are usually not popular cuts of meat in this country. A rendering plant takes those animals and basically boils them down for other uses. They collect the hides for leather goods and grind the bones for meal. You get the picture. I can remember as a boy seeing the trucks go through town with the legs and heads of animals sticking out the tarp covered top of the dump truck.
We arrived at the rendering plant around 11:00 as Jeff had agreed. The smell was rancid as the dead and decaying animals were cooked into glue and fat. We soon found Gary, the guy with the gun. He was outside the open doors to the plant eating his lunch. He was sitting on a dead horse. His brown lunch bag was open next him. It too was laying on the horse. He ate a soggy bologna sandwich with one hand as he reached into the bag for chips with the other. A thermos was open at his feet. Gary greeted Jeff an me like old buddies and offered us a drink from his Thermos. I politely declined.
After some chit chat, we went to his car to look at the gun. By now the smell had begun to eat away at my sinuses, I could taste the decaying flesh on my tongue. I was beyond nauseous, I was dizzy and ill. Jeff completed the purchase and we climbed back on his bike. I held the gun by the action and supported the but on my thigh, just like the Duke riding shotgun. As we traveled back to town the fresh air finally cleared my head. I imagine we were a sight cruising through the countryside; gun at the ready. We were modern day cowboys on posse hunt. Well, maybe that should read pussy hunt -- I was 16!