Searching for his place

Sunday, November 30, 2003 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 2:59 p.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

Standing in a pool of bloody water, John McBride pulls his knife blade, back and forth, over a 10-inch steel sharpener. He wears protective knit gloves and an apron spotted with red. It’s only noon, and he knows he still has seven more hours to go.

As one truck after another pulls up with a bed full of deer, McBride stays busy. He unloads the cargo, snaps off the lower half of the legs, strips off the skin using a winch and hangs the carcasses for refrigeration. It’s a repetitive process, but he prefers that to standing around.

He is one of six skinners working at Tune’s Locker in Centralia, and the group has seen about 30 deer come through so far this morning.

“As soon as we walked in at 7:30, we started,” he says, “and it’s been steady all day.”

He has been putting in 10-to 12-hour days, skinning more than 700 deer since firearms hunting season opened on Nov. 15, and will continue at Tune’s through December.

“You use muscles you haven’t used in a long time,” he says. “My whole body hurts. It’s no joke — this is hard work.”

McBride doesn’t mind the long hours and grueling labor. In fact, he drives more than an hour a day from Paris to work at the locker. He says he’s just happy to be making money.

And he says he’s thankful to be productive in society again.

Ten months ago, McBride walked out of prison for the third time in his life and vowed never to go back.

“I don’t want to see the inside of those walls ever again,” he says as he hunches over to light a cigarette behind Tune’s.

His life of crime started in high school after he dropped out in his senior year. He says he was a burglar and a drug user.

McBride insists that the criminal lifestyle is behind him now, though, and he looks forward to the future. The aspiring writer dreams of one day making a living with his poems, songs and short stories, and eventually he wants to start a business.

“I just want to live a quiet, comfortable life,” he says.

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