Butcher the day

Abbey Cutrer, Managing Editor

The October sunrise cast a shadow on Hank Schweickart’s face. He started his day with biscuits, gravy and a cup of coffee. He then loaded his .22-caliber rifle into his truck and headed to the farm. 

It was time for slaughter. 

“I worked inside a slaughterhouse as a kid — what we do is stress-free. The cows are where they’ve lived all their lives and they’re happy. They don’t know what’s comin’,” Schweickart said. 

Shooting the cow is quick, but the butchering process is laborious. He doesn’t do it alone. 

Schweickart and Rex Burkhead, his partner in the industry, met 28 years ago when Schweickart needed a job. 

“During those years, we’ve been through divorces, marriages, the first of three children. We are always there for one another. People actually think we’re brothers,” Schweickart said. “When we work, we don’t talk. We’ve worked together so long we know exactly what the other person is going to do and when he’s supposed to do it.” 

Though there is no verbal communication, Burkhead and Schweickart can effortlessly butcher a cow in under an hour. This applies to all the farming that Schweickart does. 

Since Schweickart has grown up around farming, it comes naturally to him. 

“You choose to be a farmer, but at the same time, you have no choice. You are born into it,” Schweickart said. “Have you ever heard the poem ‘So God Made a Farmer’? I mean, that’s us. Seven days a week, 60-70 hours and you just don’t think nothin’ about it. It’s not a job, it’s your life.”