Ted Conover's "Rolling Nowhere"
Undercover in an industrial slaughterhouse
"The cattle arrive in perforated silver trailers called cattle pots that let in wind and weather and vent out their hot breath and flatus. It’s hard to see inside a cattle pot. The drivers are in a hurry to unload and leave, and are always speeding by. (When I ask Lefty how meat gets bruised, he says, “You ever see how those guys drive?”) The trucks have come from feedlots, some nearby, some in western Nebraska, a few in Iowa. The plant slaughters about 5,100 cattle each day, and a standard double-decker cattle pot holds only about forty, so there’s a constant stream of trucks pulling in to disgorge, even before the line starts up a little after six a.m."
The sun has not yet risen over the mountains east of Portola, California, but in the early morning dimness I can see that Pops is already stirring. I watch from the shrubs across our "jungle," as the mound of blankets and plastic sheeting which contains Pops shifts and gets thrown back. Stiffly, Pops rises to his feet. He glances over at me, still wrapped in my own blankets, and I not. That means "good morning." It's been a long night's sleep - like most tramps, we "rolled out" just after sundown - but November mornings in the Sierras are cold, and I wait until Pops has fire going before climbing from my bed on the ground. Dressing is not necessary - we sleep in our clothes to help keep up warm - so the first business of the day is to heat the coffee water. Pops has the "gunboat" (cooking can) ready, but pouring the water from the plastic-jub water bottle is hard this morning because chunks of ice keep blocking the mouth. I hold the jug while Pops pushes the ice back with a twig, and the water pours.