Warm memories of wet cement, raw meat | In The Day with Jennifer Anderson

The following is written by columnist Jennifer Anderson:

I bet not many people would admit that the smell of raw meat and cold wet cement gives them a warm, fuzzy nostalgic feeling. Oddly enough, I’m one of those people.

During my childhood spent tagging along with my dairy farmer dad, we would frequent several businesses on a regular basis. A stop at R&R Dairy Supply usually resulted in a candy treat from Ray and Pauline Robbins. I could usually wrangle a penny out of my dad’s pocket at Western Farmers so I could buy some Chiclets from the gum machine, and lunch and a card game at the sales barn restaurant weren’t uncommon, (whether it was open or not). If a card game could not be found at the sales barn, there was always at deck of cards just down the road at Jorgenson’s Meats. (I heard a rumor that one of those decks of cards still remains in a drawer at Olson’s Meats.)

I would traipse along behind my dad as the creaky front door to the butcher shop was opened and slammed shut. Not only were we greeted by that smell of raw meat and cold wet cement, Bob Jorgenson, the round-bellied butcher wearing his white plastic apron and a grin would often offer a snarky comment to my dad and a cheery “hello” to me. Sometimes he was even brave enough to call me by my grandpa-given-nickname (which is not appropriate for print at this time, and neither is Bob’s nickname). Bob always had time for a card game, sometimes leaving Billy the meat cutter to work solo, and other times inviting him to join in for a swing of Enumclaw Rummy. Like my grandma’s kitchen table, the butcher shop was another place where I acquired math skills, wit, and experienced a plethora of trash talking.

Every now and then Bob’s butcher truck would lope it’s way down our driveway to take care of a downed cow or a scheduled freezer-filler. Our dinner was regularly prepared from a white, paper wrapped package stamped with red capital letters identifying the cut of meat inside. One day, those white packages of ground beef had an extra word, “PATTIES.” My mom peeled back the white paper and plastic liner to reveal perfectly square hamburger patties. Oh. My. Goodness. I thought that was the craziest and best thing ever. My friends never had square hamburgers at their house, this was so cool! Clearly, I was easily entertained.

This was back when cartoons were only aired on Saturday mornings and most people only had six TV channels to watch. Few homes had cordless phones, let alone a cell phone, and if you needed a flash while taking a photo, you had to wait for it to warm up. So square hamburgers were exciting and I attributed this novelty to the magic of the butcher.

While his sparkly blue eyes twinkled with mischief, his heart was bigger than his butcher truck. He would regularly help my family carve and serve food at annual pig roasts, wedding receptions, graduation parties and any family function requiring a large piece of meat (Which, by the way, contradicts the nasty rumor started by Editor Dennis Box that I am a vegan).

Bob also served in various leadership and volunteer roles in the community and I saw him reach out to help people in need on numerous occasions. One of those occasions happened to be after I used my dad’s fancy meat cutting knife to carve my Halloween pumpkin. I accidentally snapped the blade off in the eye of my jack-o’-lantern. Bob helped me get a replacement ASAP before my dad came home from a hunting trip. Unfortunately, the handle was not as worn as the original, so I was unable to pull off the substitution seamlessly. I ended up admitting the mishap to my dad, as I am not a very good secret-keeper when it comes to hiding my guilt.

Bob Jorgenson, his sense of humor, round belly and cheerful eyes continued to be woven into important events of my life. The butcher made his appearance at my school graduation celebrations, wedding and was there for my family during times of great loss. I’m fairly certain my own wit and love of practical jokes would not be what it is today, without his influence.

I’ve only ventured into the butcher shop a handful of times since it has been Olson’s Meats, and although the counter arrangement is different, the smell and feel of the place still brings back some pretty vivid memories. So if you happen to stop in to pick up your side of beef or a hunk of roast and see a misty-eyed blonde girl blocking the counter while she enjoys the moment, cut me some slack. Or bust out a double deck of cards and join me for a quick swing of Enumclaw Rummy.