jenn reidel
Hog Butcher to the World (Ohio Magazine)

The day the bull got loose in Camp Washington, Yvonne Burt was wearing a red coat. Yvonne was eleven, and with her best friends, Cookie Lyons and Ruth Long, she did what everyone else in the neighborhood was doing that evening—they went out looking.

Twenty years ago, loose stock was not uncommon in the "Camp," as the residents have always called it. The neighborhood had been the center of the Cincinnati meatpacking industry for nearly a century, and if the occasional cow or pig escaped its fate for a few hours to roam the streets, the residents of the Camp liked the diversion.

That night, the girls stopped for a breather outside the block-long Kluener slaughterhouse. Ruth saw him first. "Here comes the bull," she said as calmly as she could manage. Neither Yvonne nor Cookie fell for that one.

When the bull was about a house length away, Cookie finally looked up. "The bull," she screamed.

The girls ran. The bull ran after them.

A man saw them coming. he reached out and scooped the girls behind a hedge. The bull charged past. Yvonne instantly punched out their rescuer, and the girls took off. 

Yvonne's family had moved to Camp Washington in the mid-Sixties from Cincinnati's decaying Over-the-Rhine area. The Burts had been living in a tenement without hot water or a bathtub. When Yvonne saw the bathtub in their new home, she thought they were rich. Could she take a bath everyday? she had asked her mother.

Her father sold flowers for a living. When he made a couple of lucky hits at the race track, he moved his family to the Camp. It wasn't that far, just a westerly hop across Central Parkway, a skip over Interstate 75 and a jump into the Mill Creek bottoms.

The Burts were mountain people, part of the wave of Appalachians who flocked to Over-the-Rhine after the Second World War. Those who were able moved on to better areas such as the Camp. The original residents of the Camp were German, and they, too, were on the move, north and west, as their economic status rose and the Camp's fortunes declined. To motorists roaring past on the interstate, the Camp was just another declining neighborhood. To Appalachians like the Burts, it was the promised land.

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