The flier has been up at the grain co-op for nearly two weeks now, but nobody around here needs to be told this Sunday is the 43rd annual sausage feed.
Which means just about any able-bodied man was honor-bound to appear in the basement of the community building Wednesday morning to debone, slice, grind, press, turn and tie nearly a ton of sausage for this town’s annual rite of community.
“If your body’s warm, you got to work,” said Dick Goedde, sporting his “Go Hog Wild” apron.
Aside from harvest, the sausage feed is this Palouse farm town’s main tradition. It started back when the community building was the high school wood shop, the upstairs was the gym and a kitchen on the balcony was too small for functions. To pay for a renovation, community members decided to hold a sausage feed on the Sunday before Lent. The date was later changed to the first Sunday in March.
“The first year, we made only 400 pounds,” recalled Lester Wolf, who advertised the event at the time by posting handbills in the Idaho towns of Bovill and Troy and as far north as Colfax.
A monster was born.
“It just boomed,” said Wolf. “It just grew. We’re feeding sometimes 2,000 people here now.”
Making sausage for 2,000 takes about 35 men from 9 a.m. until well after lunch. A well-run assembly line and a touch of farm-shop ingenuity eases the load.
Starting with 1,800 pounds of pork shoulder butts from Genesee Meats, about half the crew removes bones and cuts the meat into large chunks.
Wolf then sprinkles on seasoning.
“Secret recipe,” he said. “Like salt and pepper.”
Fed through a grinder, the mixture is then stuffed into casings with a machine that Paul Krick built around 1970 with an electric motor and a Model A transmission.
Replacing a hand-cranked stuffer, the machine was yet another case of mechanization brought to the countryside. Krick said he had to think of economics.
“The price of labor here is pretty expensive, so we had to cut down on expenses,” he said. “Everyone here costs two sandwiches.”
Rinsing and untangling the sausage casings, perhaps the most delicate and complicated task, fell to Henry and Claude Stout, ages 74 and 72.
“Seems like I’ve run through 700 miles of these guts over the years,” said Henry Stout.
Once stuffed, the casings were twisted and tied with a series of deft flips and loops. Cecil Thill then loaded links by the armful into boxes for smoking over green apple wood.
Thill is one of about half a dozen sausage feed veterans on hand since the beginning. The meaning of the ritual is not lost on him.
“All these good people,” he said. “This brings them all together for the good of the community, for one thing.”
The feed itself has other benefits, too, said Dick Goedde.
“One of the important things about this is you get to eat all you want,” he said.
Tickets for the sausage feed are sold at the door of the community building in downtown Uniontown. The charge for adults is $8, $4 for 6- to 12-year-olds, and $1 for younger children. Doors open at 9:30 a.m.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Photo; map of Uniontown area