The “Polish Mule”
Christmas was “The Best of Times, and the Worst of Times”, for my 17-year-old friend.
The “Best of Times”, was dreaming about a New Set of “Hogan” Golf Clubs -The “Woods” made from Persimmon. The “Irons” with stiff steel shafts & forged club faces milled to perfection. Balls hit correctly on the “Sweet-Spot”, felt like hitting butter. The possibility of getting Foot-Joy leather golf shoes was beyond imagination.
The “Worst of Times’ was dreading to deliver boxes of his father’s Homemade “Kielbasa” to dozens of his Father’s Business Customers. These wealthy, cultured Industrialists couldn’t possibly welcome Julian’s “Little Bags of Mystery” into their homes. (Pork Parts, Seasoned with Onion & Garlic (and Julian’s secret spices), encased in animal intestines). It’s disgusting just to describe “Kielbasa”.
Much more to have a 17-year-old self-conscious son deliver it in person to distinguished gentlemen, or their refined wives. (Dozens of deliveries in the city, suburbs, and Southeast Wisconsin were required before Christmas.) The body odor, from a car filled with dozens of boxes of “Kielbasa” in the back seat, lingered well past Christmas, regardless of the number of showers taken, or soap, used. Teenage girls stayed away in droves. They called him, “The Polish Mule”.
My friend’s Ego was scarred for Life.
At his Father’s Funeral, Customer after Customer, shook my friend’s hand to offer their condolences. Each Man & their Wife (without exception) said, “We will miss your father. He was a kind & generous man. We will also miss his wonderful, delectable “Kielbasa” Christmas Gift. It was a delicacy that All of our family & friends waited for with great anticipation at Christmas.”
Now it was the “Best of Times. And Worst of Times”. Again. It was the “Best” to hear the Captains of Industry & their cultured wives praise his father. It was the “Worst” to be embarrassed for being embarrassed about delivering his father’s “Kielbasa”. His father taught him an invaluable Lesson: “Esse quam Videri”: “To be, rather than to appear.” Substance over style. People admire what is True, and Good, and Real. They Thirst for the Genuine Article. (They spot the “Knock-Offs” a mile away.)
The customers knew the enormous Effort and Love that was required for Julian to make his homemade “Kielbasa”:
- The kitchen table was stretched to its limit.
- Then rolls of brown paper covered the table.
- Platters of “Choice” pork products were hand-stuffed into a large meat grinder.
- The ground results were spread onto fresh brown paper.
- Onion, Garlic, and Julian’s “Secret Spices” were hand-spread over the ground meat with the precision of a “watchmaker”.
- The resulting product was hand mixed and stuffed into another machine that pushed the ground delicacy into long tubes of animal intestines, that were twisted & bound, at 8-inch intervals.
- The finished product was wrapped in Butcher’s paper, and boxed for delivery.
Julian spent incalculable man hours making enough homemade “Kielbasa” for ALL of his customers. Perhaps, St. Peter got a whiff of “Garlic & Onions” when he shook Julian’s hand, and said, “Merry Christmas, Julian. And Welcome Home, in Heaven.”