The Manager took me out to the courtyard, to a grey concrete basin on one said. He explained that they wash the tails with a mild detergent here.
Then we went into a low building with cardboard-covered pallets on the floor. The tails are dried here, turning them often.
We then went into a workshop. Inside was a flurry of activity. On the right were two men working with bundles of black tail hair. They were tying off the hair with white string and boxing it up for shipment. I was told this hair was going to a brush factory in England.
On the left in back were two men working with hand-fulls of hair. They would throw these bunches over large metal upright combs I later learned were called "hackles". The combs would straighten the hair. They set the straightened hair to one side in back of them.
A middle aged woman wearing an apron was strapping slats around bunches of hair, making what appeared to be a barrel. She put the barrel between her knees. She then took a butter knife in her right hand and pulled several strands of hair out of the barrel and placed it in her left hand. She did this swiftly and repeatedly until she had a fistful of hair. She then tied a piece of string around it and laid it down to her side. Once she was done, she barreled up the "drawn" hair a second time, and pulled it through. She did this one more time with the hair. The manager told me that this process eliminated short hairs and a lot of bad hair.
After doing this a total of 3 times, she went on to the next batch while another man took the drawn hair and brought it to another building where women were sitting at tables. This room had a lot of light. The women each had a bundle of hair on a white piece of butcher paper on the table in front. They were going through the bundle strand by strand and inspecting each hair! Amazing I thought. Any hair that was bent, twisted, discolored, curled, tapered or not right would be set aside. The poor quality hair would be used in furniture (mattresses, cushions. I was told they sold some to Honda and Mercedes for seat cushions). Each bundle would be looked over by at least two of the women. When they were deemed of good quality, they were placed in a tray and taken to a final setting where a man would make sure the ends were even and tie them up for packaging. It was a lengthy process, but these people were very skilled.
After the visit to the workshop and tour of the facility, we went back to the Manager's office, where I talked about quantities, quality and pricing. I said I would place an order when I got back to the US. The Manager invited my contact and I out to dinner at his house that night. After a rest at the hotel, I was picked up by some dour looking men in the lobby and driven to the Manager's house. He lived in a sad looking building that looked like a shack. It had a tin roof and adobe walls. I had to duck my head when I went in. We were met by the Manager's young wife. She was very pretty. She invited us in and took our coats. Dinner was in a side room near a kitchen. There was a big round dais in the middle of the table, and everybody was drinking beer from little glasses. Each course was toasted with words by one of the men. There were no women present. "Gumbeh!"