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The Butcher


In the valleys of the Appalachian mountains, in a little village called Hebe, there was a butcher. His shop was an extension of his home, though it can be argued the shop was his home. “The shop.” That’s all it was called.

This was his life’s work, for more than 60 years. His specialty was smoked venison meat – deer sticks, ring bologna, summer sausage, and dried beef to name a few. The overwhelming smell of coriander and smokehouse, metallic scuffing from the consistent sharpening of a knife, and the whispering screech of the screen doors all take me back to standing in the shop by the counter.

He spoke little, and when he did, it was meaningful, funny, and loving. He was beyond great at what he did, and people respected him for it. When stopping by to drop off or pick up an order, people were just as excited about their items as they were to spend a few moments with him. His process was patient. It would take a week or so to receive most of his meats, and sometimes over a month for orders of dried beef, but it was well worth it. Most would think honing a craft for as long as he did would make you expeditious. But for him, it was always gentle attention to diligence that created the best outcome.

Though the shop had a very different energy for most of its life, what you see here is special because of its uniqueness – it shows my grandfather’s last season working in the shop. Just me and him. The few images collected in this film help keep alive what only existed for a short time, and moments only I experienced.

I miss the shop. I miss the taste of his craft-smoked meats that will never be replicated by anyone anywhere. I miss the witty one-liners and the random calls to see if I’d like to come work in the shop that week. I miss my euchre partner. I miss this time with Pap in the shop. I want this again. But I’ll forever be happy I had it.