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instead of one; then one and a half it was

His job was that of wielding the nine-pound chopper that cut through the ribs of two-hundred-and-twenty-pound hogs. It was a Herculean task.
      “I’m as good as ever I was!” boasted Old Dennis. It wasn’t true, but they didn’t tell him so. Gradually, in the last few years, they busied him with other jobs about the plant. They kept him occupied, happy. Overseer, they said. Dennis, you’d better oversee this, oversee that. You’re the expert. The nine-pound chopper had grown heavy for the old arms, after half a century of service. But when important visitors came through he was often called from this or that job over which he was puttering.
      “Here’s Dennis,” they said. “Fifty years with the company. Show them how a real hog chopper does it, Dennis.”
      He would step to the platform, king on his throne once more. He stood there, poised for a moment, chopper in hand. At his feet, dressed and pink and glistening, the great hog carcasses slid past him on their way to your kitchen. As each came directly in front of him he lifted the chopper high. Down it came through the massive shoulder of a two-hundred-and-twenty-pounder. It was miraculous that he could wield this instrument with such precision. Two ribs made the cut a New York shoulder. Three ribs made it an English shoulder. One and a half ribs made it a picnic shoulder. And when Old Dennis’s eye, in that fraction of a second, measured one and a half, then one and a half it was.
      “I’m as good as ever I was!” boasted old Dennis.
      But he often took two swings of the nine-pound chopper now, instead of one, to cleave his way through the huge shoulder.

ex Edna Ferber, the story “Blue Blood,” in her collection Mother Knows Best (1927) : 247-248 : link

Edna Ferber (1885-1968)
wikipedia : link

Edna Ferber, because recently saw (most of) George Stevens dir., Giant (1956), based on her novel (same title, 1952).
quite a production: Rock Hudson, Elizabeth Taylor, James Dean (amazing; died during filming), Dennis Hopper, Elsa Cárdenas, a young Sal Mineo (goes to war, returns in a coffin).

4 January 2024