How to slaughter a sheep

I was hanging out, having a cup of tea with my neighbor when he pointed at my leg and said, “That’s horse blood.”

I said, “Yeah, you’re right – I helped kill a horse this morning. How did you know?”

“Every animal’s blood is a little different color. You can tell the difference between sheep, horse and cow blood stains quite easily.”

I thought about that exchange this afternoon as I looked down at my pant cuff, freshly spattered with the blood of my own first sheep. I had helped with half a dozen sheep slaughters before, but this one I had bought at the market, tied down, slit the throat and cut up into its 12 ustukans for serving guests, mostly on my own. I wondered if my neighbor could match this color of red correctly.

I had the help of my landlord, Bolot-baike, only a couple years older than me, but still old enough to receive that respectful brother-title baike. I was adamant on doing each step on my own, with directions only. I may speak Kyrgyz like a 7-year-old, I may even look funny, but with two days shy of 30 years under my belt, there are a few things I’ve learned to do. Like which end of a knife to hold.

“You hold it like this, Baatyrbek,” Bolot-baike showed me, using my Kyrgyz name.

“Oooohhhh, thanks Bolot-Baike!” I answered enthusiastically, “I thought I was supposed to hold it with my butt. So, I learned something today.”

Truth be told, I did learn a little more than that. Like how to find the cartilage between vertebrae under half an inch of meat. Or how to rip out the hip sinew with my teeth. And I did make a few errant cuts; the guests may grumble a bit about that hunk missing from the side of the spine. But then again they’re my guests, and they would be grumbling about the host.

imageHow to slaughter a pumpkin (not quite as bloody)

Turning 30 is a bit of a milestone. Every year is I suppose, but I’ve spent so long defining myself as a “twenty-something” that I’m not sure how this fourth decade is going to go. The thirties are a whole new ballgame. Or, slaughter, or whatever.

It felt almost like a rite of passage. Like I had been turned loose in the jungle with nothing but a loincloth and a stick and I had come back with a tiger. Except I was standing outside my front door, wearing a jacket and holding a knife over a tied up sheep. Sheep are quite possibly the lamest adversaries in the entire animal kingdom. You really get the sense that God was not giving us a compliment when he had Jesus continually refer to us as such.

So my sheep laid down its life for our little bit of humanity, my friends, my neighbors, the people I’ve grown so much to love over this past year. Plus now if I’m ever lost in the woods and a sheep walks by, I know I’ll be ok.

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