The Betty Ford Institute For The Criminally Insane is proud to announce the winner of our annual art contest. Hugo Streicher has been awarded the Pavlov Golden Palm for his entry entitled “Just Whistle While You Work”. Congratulations, Hugo and I know you will treasure your prize, a miniature designer plate of Dr. Ben Carson generously donated by AstraZeneca whose motto, “We honor diversity in depression”, reflects the values of that caring company. We are very appreciative of the contribution Hugo has made as the manager of the pet crematorium and his diligence and hard work as the assistant meat manager in our guest cafeteria. We have asked Hugo to tell us about his life as a Knacker and we know you will be inspired by his touching story.
DREAMS COME TRUE by Hugo Streicher
All my life I wanted to be a Knacker. My grandfather was a Knacker. My father was a Knacker. My mom wanted me to be a doctor. She was always real sick and took a lot of pills. Maybe she thought I could cure her with more pills. She was a good cook and made real tasty beef roasts and what-not. My father drank a lot and had strange dreams. He liked to tell us the ones about the dead pigs singing songs and playing cards. We quit going to church because he thought the pastor reminded him of his favorite dead horse which made me happy because I didn’t like church with all those mummies on the wall looking at you.The small town I lived in had people saying strange things about what my dad would do to the dead animals. I didn’t believe these things because my father loved animals. I remember being with him since I could walk and we would go on his rounds to all the farms to pick up the used animals. Sometimes in the winter they would be frozen to the ground and I would help defrost them so we could get them on the van.I will always remember that special time when we roasted hot dogs in the cold snow. My grandfather was a Knacker who lived in Germany where he was well known for inventing a special furnace to burn dead stuff..He even had a letter of appreciation from a Mr Himmler that I am not supposed to tell anyone about. He was very smart and after the war he came to America and used his business talents to start over. One of his ideas was to use the Knacker van to move furniture and other household goods for people when there was a lull in hauling the dead animals Some people complained that their belongings would smell bad after they were moved. Seems to me that some people just like to complain.To me it smelled like home.
When I started grade school I had trouble making friends so my father suggested I invite some of them home to play doctor with the dissection kit I got for my birthday. He even had a large goat he was saving just for such an occasion. I never did have any friends. Maybe the other kids were not as dedicated to a career as me.
People say that being a Knacker is a simple job that even a moron can do. It’s not. You have to use your head because every situation is different. Maybe a cow died in the barn so how do you get her out and into the van? Not easy. And what about the dispatch service that all professional Knackers offer? Not many people can take a 22 rifle and dispatch an animal with one well-placed shot. People think they are so smart until they try to do it themselves.You also have to know your psychology when you have to pick up someone’s large pet. Dealing with women and children when they are crying and carrying on because their pet died can really get on a Knacker’s nerves. The one thing to always remember is to never hit them. A loud, stern voice telling them to be quiet so you can get their pet to the furnace usually does the trick. If not, then you can use threats but just remember not to hit them. Also, you are not to use dirty words or tell them their pet is better off dead and you would be too. People ask me if it bothers me to see all those dead animals. What they don’t understand is the dead speak in a different language and if you would just be patient you will hear them speaking to you. They always say they are happier dead than alive and thank me for picking them up. When you think about it, there is really not much difference in a live or dead animal.
After high school I made my first friend .My dad and I were always going to Mr Owen’s farm where the animals for some reason were always dying- the young as well as the old ones.That’s where I met Beatrice. People called her simple-minded probably because she had only one leg. We got along really well and she loved going with my dad and me on our rounds. My dad said she had the makings of becoming the world’s first woman Knacker.I remember the first time we kissed which was the first time I kissed a girl. We were in back of Mr Schmidt’s chicken coop tossing dead chickens in the van. My father had gone to give Mr Schmidt the invoice and before I knew it she was kissing me all over. Even today when I see a dead chicken I think of that magical first kiss.We would talk about getting married and having a son to carry on the Knacker line in our family, We would dream of getting a new leg for her and someday owning a chain of franchise crematoriums called “Hugo And Beatrice’s” with a gift shop and a lunch counter like Woolworth’s.
Then something strange happened. My dad and Beatrice disappeared so I decided to come to the Institute to live. I like it here but I do miss picking up dead animals. It made me feel important. As for career advice for our young folks I would say to give serious consideration to becoming a Knacker. Yes, it’s hard work, but as you can see, the rewards are great.