Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Bone Chute

The strangest place I ever worked was a mail order company.

I’d just gotten divorced, and my primary goal in life was to stop running into my ex-husband and his hussy at the grocery store, and then going home and crying until I vomited, so when a job was offered several states away from Ohio, I opted to take it.

It was not, on the surface, a match made in heaven. I was vegetarian; they sold hunting equipment. I was pro gun control; they sold ammunition. I favored animal rights; they favored animal pelts. (As room décor. Seriously -- every office at VP level and above sported a bearskin, or a moose head, or a fish. The place was a taxidermist’s wet dream.)

On the other hand, I could buy weekly provisions without a meltdown, so it all evened out.

Not only was this place just drenched in testosterone, it was situated across the street from the stockyards. My favorite feature of the stockyards (other than the opportunity to get stampeded by an escaped bull whilst walking at lunch) was the bone chute.

The bone chute was a conveyor line that transported the leftover parts of the carcasses to a second-floor opening in the western wall of the slaughterhouse. Outside, a dump truck waited to haul the offal away. On a brisk winter’s morning, the sight of a rib cage with red flecks of tissue still clinging to white bone, gently steaming against a cloudless blue sky, was enough to take your breath away.

It could do a number on your breakfast, too.

It was not a female-friendly environment. It was said that during one of the buying meetings, during a discussion about tee shirt logos for the next catalog, the CEO proposed one that said, “What Do All Battered Women Have in Common? They Don’t Know When to Shut Up.”

Since I wasn’t feeling all that great about men at that time, I derived a fair amount of enjoyment from being the scariest woman they’d ever met. For example, I started my meetings on time, regardless of whether everyone was there. When people showed up late and wanted to know what they’d missed, I recommended that they get the notes from their neighbor. They soon began arriving on time.

It was kind of like those cartoons you see of elephants piled up in a corner, cowering away from a mouse.

My favorite quote from that era was made by the woman who ran the Telemarketing Department, whose office overlooked the slaughterhouse.

“Every evening I look out at the bone chute,” she said. “If I don’t see myself dropping into the truck, I figure it’s been a good day.”


  1. How long did you work there?

    My old was pretty male dominate too. I learned how to swear like a sailor to counteract my baby face.

    At least you have some good stories to tell.

  2. How awful! Guess you can laugh in retrospect, but yuk. How did you survive that? Great story.

  3. Ewww Ewww and Ewww!

    I've been that lady at work, the one who starts meetings even if you aren't there yet ... good times.

    wv: mingfur (what's left in the bone chute ...)

  4. What a great post. You are an excellent story teller.
    I am so proud of you for not cowering to those men. And how many of them ended up on that chute?

  5. I used to sell steel to Bil-Mar Farms, when they processed turkeys. Watching a thousand dead birds hanging from hooks on a conveyor line headin' for the defeathering area, is a sight you don't forget...

  6. I worked on a farm while I was in high school. One of most memorable experiences there is when the young bull got out and chased me and my brother around the place. Before it was over, my Dad's car had a bashed in fender and I was in a full grain wagon being pushed around like it was a child's toy. Being a "city" kid that worked on the farm, the farmer and his family thought it was all very amusing.

  7. OMG, you are brilliant! How you handled all of that is amazing. How many times have I ended up in the bone chute? 37895769 or so.

  8. I am actually speechless! You are a good story teller...

  9. Popping in from SITS - really enjoyed the story. And yuck on the bone chute!

    Happy Wednesday!

  10. You do tell a good story. Funny how you remember quotes from people. I worked with a woman years ago and I still quote her on many occasion.

  11. Love that quote - it sounds like a positive way to end the day!

  12. Believe it or not, I used to be a taxidermist...the more I was around all the hunters, the more I started wondering how I could pose them all with beercans in Halloween display in the front yard was a camo clad scarecrow(hunter) surrounded by beer cans and body riddled with arrows...I could see a pattern forming here...thought I'd better start up my bird studies in watercolors instead...soon came the divorce from my alcholic hunter and I've never been happier, no testosterone in my life!!!

    This is rich, the word verification is singel...HA!


  13. 1. Porter? My father's Aunt Florence was married to an Elsie Porter. He died at 30 in a car crash in Lewis Co. They were first cousins. Love hurts.

    2. In Vanceburg, we had the luxury of a flashlight on those cold trips to the 2 seater. Santa's lighted sleigh over the road through Chillicothe sent us to Christmas in KY, in the back seat of the big Merc as analog radio signals faded us into sleep.

    3.My last boss cared less as he used the F word indiscriminately, while I never punched his nose, even when Christian women were in the room.

    4. Today, I looked at black people differently. They looked at me differently too. Malcom X was correct. He taught me I was prejudiced, and why. I still am. Most of us are. Today, I felt it again. He knew why they looked at me, knowingly unsure as I looked differenty toward them. Thank goodness this page is being slowly and deliberatley turned.

    I follow your followers. What an incredible group of friends!

    May I have your permission to send Mr. Horton into the light, so the folk singer poet guy can stop in?

    T(S) H(G)

  14. That is so great Jeanne. I love your colleague's quote at the end.
    I'm glad they were all scared of you.
    You are my type of girl.

  15. Random answers:

    I worked there 3 years. Actually, I worked almost everywhere 3 years -- 8 at the first college and 12 at the last manufacturer, but 3 at the college and retailers in between. Oh, and 7 months as a proofreader and a year as a dental assistant before I got into IT. Good grief, I've been working forever! Isn't it time to retire yet? No rest for the wicked, I guess.

    To all the folks who are so kindly empathizing with me for working in such a tough environment, I appreciate the sentiment, but you're probably being too kind. Given how I felt about men at that time, I think God put me exactly where I needed to be. In a normal environment, I would have been like Grade Z sandpaper, scraping the skin off any male unfortunate enough to come into contact with me. The poor guy I dated during that period certainly had a rough row to hoe. Of course, when we broke up, and I told him his mom was worried about him living in squalor, he responded, with raised eyebrows, "Well, I assume I'll be dating." It took me a full five minutes to realize what he was saying: that she would do all his cleaning.

    Twelve years of marriage to a man who tells the truth and keeps his promises has done much to restore my faith in huMANity.

    TH -- out yourself, my old friend. This blog not only supports equal rights for all Americans, it also believes in freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of religion (including the right not to be a Christian. I am not arrogant enough to believe that what works for me is the only answer to life's most complex question.), freedom from random search and seizure...all that stuff!

  16. Oh, my. The things we do to keep ourselves afloat!
    I would've loved to have been there with you, though, if only to be there on time and have someone ask me for my notes.
    'Cause my notes will cost you.
    p.s. And why DON'T Americans sing in the bars like on "Educating Rita"?! (I loved that movie, btw.) I once posted on that, I think. Something about how if we all need to sing at the same time it's probably going to be "Oh, I Wish I Was an Oscar Meyer Weiner" or the Theme from Gilligan's Island...

  17. Wow. All I can say is ... wow. Good for you for exacting your revenge in whatever way you could. And you are so right that that is probably where you needed to be at that time -- but glad that since then your faith has been restored! It's exhausting to be hurt and bitter for too long.

  18. I'm just catching up on all I missed while I was out of town. You're so funny, though this is my favorite story I think. It just sounds so AWESOME! Hee :)

  19. I love your sense of humor about this time in your life and the situation. That would be a great title for a horror novel - The Bone Chute. Creepy.

  20. That would be enough to make me a vegetarian!

  21. Should I keep this to myself? My family owned a slaughter house here for many many years.

    As a child I was terrified to see the cows hanging from the hook in the ceiling...

  22. Interesting story...

    One of my husband's favorite things to say was a quote he saw on a t-shirt advertising a boxing studio. It said: What do you say to a woman with two black eyes? Nothing she hasn't already heard twice.

    Sad, but ironically funny.


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