Recently I was invited to tour the Meaty Meadows sustainable hot dog farm. Located just a quick twenty-minute drive from downtown Humpleberry, Meaty Meadows is a lovely seven-acre estate nestled right up against the Humpleberry Hills. I jumped in my car and made the trip to see how one of the most delicious and nutritious of American delicacies is actually made.
As I pulled into the parking lot I noticed that Meaty Meadows was not some slick, corporate farm, they still use all of the buildings from the abandoned chemical factory that used to operate here. They even left up the old warning sign, posted twenty years before, after the big Humpleberry Chem accident, warning anyone in the vicinity that the immediate area was lethal to humans. I got a great feeling that Meaty Meadows was a place steeped in tradition and dedicated to preserving local history.
I was met at the entrance by my guide Gus, a tall, lanky fellow, who wore thick, coke bottle glasses and was missing all of his teeth. When we shook hands some of his skin sluffed off onto me. He told me that was a normal, everyday thing at the hot dog farm, at least that’s what I thought he said, he mumbled so bad that I just had to make up a phrase in my mind.
We saw the fields first. Did you know that fifty percent of all hot dog meat comes from an animal called the Weiner Horse? It’s true. I saw them up close and personal. Their long, meaty bodies and thick coarse hair makes them the perfect animal to turn into hot dogs.
The beautiful Humpleberry Creek runs right through the property. Fed by snow melt and runoff from the local landfill, the creek was bright green and smelled of eggs. I noticed the horses busily lapping it up. When I went in for a closer look, Gus pulled me back. He mumbled and for a second I thought he said, “If you touch the water you’ll die,” but then I realized he was simply telling me that this water was for the horses and not to disturb them.
Next we visited the factory floor. It was an amazing symphony of chemicals, steam, screams and blood. All of the workers kept coming up to us and saying, Hot Dog!, with real excitement and enthusiasm. We saw the giant horse grinding machine, the horse squeezing machine and the horse crushing machine. It really was a lot of fun. Gus had a smile on his face the whole time, especially when he showed me the horse roasting machine. It seemed like everyone really enjoys their work.
We took a break for lunch and guess what we had? Hot dogs! Gus poured me a glass of hot dog water and put his dentures in, finally I could understand what Gus was saying. He let me in on a fantastic secret. He told me what the phrase, Hot Dog, really means.
Apparently back in the day, when the hot dog was first invented, it was considered a vile, low grade, un-healthy snack that you wouldn’t wish upon your worst enemy. If you didn’t like someone, one way you could show it was to offer that person a hot dog. In a sense it was a polite way to say, Fuck You! Gus informed me that anytime someone says, hot dog, they are really saying, fuck you. Wow! I was learning so much.
After lunch Gus took me downstairs to the hot dog room. It was behind a giant metal door, padlocked shut with heavy, rusty chains. Gus started shaking and wouldn’t go any further. He had taken his teeth out again so I could only guess what he was mumbling. I think he said, “This is the hot dog room,” but it could have been anything. He handed me the keys to the lock and ran away.
I opened the door and got my first look at the famous hot dog people of Meaty Meadows. Their skin was hairless and pale and their malformed hands were shaped like hot dog buns. Each person stood in front of a machine that squeezed out a hot dog every thirty seconds. The hot dog person cupped the new dog into their bun hands and gently set them on a tray. It was amazing.
Right before I relocked the chain they all turned to me and stared with their dead black eyes. In unison they said, “We are the survivors of Humpleberry Chem. We are the hot dog people. If you stay past dark you stay forever.”
“Hot dog,” I said to them with a smile. I chained the door and headed to find Gus.
The final stop on my tour was at the receiving dock. Remember when I said that only fifty percent of the meat for a hot dog comes from the Weiner Horse? Well the other fifty percent comes from recycled hot dogs! Talk about sustainability. Every day truckloads of used hot dog meat arrive from baseball stadiums, carnivals and old folks homes to be processed into the new batch of hot dogs. It was so cool to watch a dump truck drop a gigantic pile of brown, rotting hot dog leavings, right there on the ground in front of the loading dock.
Gus stared at the pile of meat, tied a bandana over his face, mumbled something and grabbed a shovel.
After the shoveling and a brief stop for another refreshing hot dog water, my day at Meaty Meadows was over. Gus walked me back to my car and I thought I heard him mumble, “Stay away if you want to live,” but I think what he really said was, come back anytime.
I told Gus, "Hot Dog," and headed back home.