Saturday, May 3, 2008
The Butcher from Brisbane
"Hi. I'm Mick, and this is my brother Rick. He's a carpenter, and I'm a slaughterer."
The sizable Australian is gesticulating with his half-quaffed beer, amusedly lamenting his inability to end lives more effectively.
“I kill about 209, 210 animals a day. It’s a nice round number. It should be more,” he roars, undulating to the prospect of upping his slaughterhouse's output. With sharp-crested brown boots and a to-the-scalp buzz-cut, the Brisbane native is in New York with Rick—who, by building houses by hand, occupies an equally masculine realm as his brother—and is full-heartedly singing the enthusiasms borne of killing animals for a living.
“I love hamburgers,” he says, addressing whether or not butchering has changed his culinary habits. “I also love swine—do you call swine ‘pig’ here?” He interrupts the taxonomy questions with a blunt promise. “Bring me a bird right now and I’ll kill it.”
Mick’s job consists of shooting cattle and swine with a captive bolt pistol, firing into the front of their heads to stun them before slaughter. His sanguinary occupation notwithstanding, Mick is genial, loquacious, and engaging, and, according to cell-phone pictures, in possession of a very hot girlfriend.
He says that he rides the swine while they’re still alive, that he mock-milks the cows, and that he generally loves his work. Mick doesn’t seem so cut-throat by nature, which makes all the more stupefying the thought of condemned beasts subject to the insouciance of this man, whose oversized hands must make difficult the hanging of his one stud earring on his right lobe.
Mick is a paradox: an eminently simple man with a self-concept that spans a thousand fathoms. From his tone and comportment, one gathers that Mick pseudo-aggrandizes his station, envisioning himself as natural selection’s assassin, the animal kingdom’s Darwinian enforcer. He stands increasingly upright at mentioning his slaughterhouse exploits, and seems to think, magnanimously, that everyone does something as carnally blue-collar as him and his carpenter brother.
It is rare, especially in Manhattan, to meet somebody from the old guard, the type of industrialization-era laborer who isn’t helpless with his hands. Instead of droning over spreadsheets or dissecting affidavits, he enjoys the immediate fulfillment of task completion: he stuns, he slaughters, he goes home. His job description is terminally simple, yet—for Mick, or someone so constituted—endlessly satisfying.
As my friend Sarah observes, “In New York there are guys. Those people (Mick and Rick) are men.” Indeed, the down-under twosome are somehow fuller, more virile, even more contented, than the mere “guys” in their presence. They are this generation’s Paul Bunyans—folk heroes without the slightest inkling as to their own immensity.
Stay Sizable, Slaughterer