As winter comes, things become harder and harder for the Peck family. The apple crop is bad, yielding only a few barrels, and no bitter pie apples at all. Mr. Peck goes out early every morning trying to shoot a deer but has no luck. He also develops a bad cough and stops sleeping with Mrs. Peck in favor of the barn for its warmth.
As feared, Pinky does not have a litter, despite being mounted by Samson twice. She is too big and eats too much for Robert to keep as a pet. Early one dark Saturday in December, Robert loses his best friend. After chores, Haven and Robert come inside for breakfast, but their cereal tastes stale, and the milk tastes flat. "Rob, let's get it done," Haven says solemnly, and without another word, they start getting ready. Mrs. Peck and Aunt Carrie sense what is going on and help their man get ready, also wordlessly.
They go out to the shed, and Robert watches his father sharpening the butchering tools. They carry the tools over to Pinky's corn cratch, and Robert tries to wake her up, saying, "Come on, Pinky. It's morning." Pinky doesn't respond, so Robert has to hit her with a switch to get her up. Haven starts to light a fire to boil the water they will need for curing the pork, while Robert herds Pinky toward the stall in which she had met Samson. He has to use the switch several more times to get her in, which probably hurts her, "but what did it matter now."
Robert gets down on his knees and hugs Pinky, getting a last whiff of her "good, solid smell. Haven brings his tools into the pen and puts them on the ground, keeping only a three-foot crowbar. "Help me, boy. It's time," he asks Robert. Robert sees his father with the crowbar and, having helped him carry it, knows that it must feel as cold as death in Haven's bare hands. Haven tells Robert to back away, but Robert says, "I don't think that I can." "That ain't the issue, Rob. We have to," Haven responds, and Robert moves away. He turns his back to his father and his pig and waits for the inevitable sound of the crowbar striking flesh. He doesn't have to wait long, and, for a few moments after it comes, Robert hates his father. He hates him for killing Pinky and for every other pig that he has killed in his lifetime, however many hundreds of pigs that has been.
"Hurry," Haven tells his son, and Robert moves to Pinky's side, helping to roll her over onto her back. Haven pushes her head down to expose the main artery and sticks her with his blunt knife deep and way back, then brings the knife back toward himself. Blood pumps out in floods, staining the ground and steaming in the light snow. Robert, still holding Pinky's feet up in the air feels her quiver in death between his legs.
Haven works silently and speedily. First he removes the guts, which go into a steaming pile on the snow. Then the two of them sink hooks in Pinky's jaw and drag her into the boiling water. They scrape the bloody body until it is free of hair and then saw it in half. Haven works at a furious pace, faster than Robert has ever seen anyone work before, and finally he turns his son away from the pork to talk to him. "Oh Papa," Robert sobs, "My heart's broke." "So is mine," Haven responds, "but I'm glad that you are a man." At this, Robert breaks down crying, and Haven holds him, letting him get all of his grief out. "That's what being a man is all about," he tells his son, "It's just doing what's got to be done."
The ox is Solomon; Mr. Tanner's boar hog is Samson.