By C.L. Beck
Lately I’ve related two anecdotes from my exceptionally brilliant career as a chicken farmer. It was during that hen-filled stint that some bright person gave the suggestion we should also raise pigs. The idea was so enticing that I talked my husband, Russ, into trying it.
“What shall we call them?” I asked, watching our new little pigs in their pen.
Russ grinned mischievously. “How about naming them Pork-Chop, Ham-Hock, and Bacon?”
I grimaced, covered the ears of our three-year-old and whispered to Russ, “Be careful what you say; Davey doesn’t know we’re going to eat them eventually.”
Russ whispered back, “When were you planning on telling him—as Pork-Chop was sitting on his plate?”
“Obviously before that,” I said, releasing our squirming son.
We watched the oinkers rooting around. Snorts of discovery echoed through the barn. Davey spoke, “We could call them the Three Little Pigs.”
I smoothed the blonde cowlick on his head and said, “That’s a story, Sweetie. It’s not really a name.”
The silence stretched between us as we pondered other ideas. Russ fidgeted, apparently tired of taxing his brain with pig names. “I still think that Pork-Ch—“
“—How about Winken, Blinken and Nod? That’s cute,” I said.
Davey nodded his agreement. Russ raised his eyebrows and stated, “That’s a bedtime story about kids going to sleep.”
“Pigs have to sleep, too, you know.” I harrumphed, waiting for a better suggestion.
Silence reigned. A mouse stuck its nose from under the water trough and then dashed for the feeder. Winken—or maybe it was Blinken; it’s very hard to tell three pink pigs apart—scrambled over, snatched the mouse and gulped it down before I could cover Davey’s eyes.
“Look, Mommy, the pig ate a mouse,” he said.
“Uggg,” I said.
“Cool,” Russ said.
“Cool,” Davey echoed.
And to think I was worried about his tender sensibilities.
My pig manual stated the animals were as smart as dogs. It was true. It didn’t take the porkers long to realize that when we picked up the trough, mice scrambled from beneath. The pigs dashed about, snorting and slurping down rodents. Hearing the ruckus, the cat slunk in. Apparently, oinkers have the ability to extrapolate information. They eyed the cat hungrily. From then on we kept the cat out of the barn.
One day an idea hit. “Why don’t we teach them to come to a whistle?”
Russ shook his head in disbelief. “You fed the chickens oatmeal and hotdogs. And tried to herd grasshoppers to them.”
“You told Daddy about herding the hoppers,” I accused, looking at Davey. He shrugged and grinned.
Russ continued, “The neighbors already think our grain elevator doesn’t go to the top. Now you want to train pigs to a whistle?”
“It might come in handy.”
“I’m sure. Maybe we could use them as substitute hunting dogs, too.” Russ replied.
Months later, we got a phone call. “Your pigs are loose.”
We hopped in the car and sped down the road to the next farmhouse. On arrival, we bailed out. There stood Winken, Blinken and Nod, munching ripe strawberries from the patch.
“Here piggies, nice piggies,” I called. They ignored me.
“Here piggies, stupid piggies,” Russ said. For obvious reasons, they ignored him.
He watched the pigs with their berry-red lips and dirt-blackened snouts. “How’re we going to get them home?”
“Herd them,” I suggested.
Russ replied, “That’ll work about as well as a grasshopper roundup.”
Then it came to me. I gave their food whistle and all three turned with a grunt. They waddled over and stuck their snouts in the air, sniffing for scraps. Probably oatmeal or hot dogs.
Russ said, “Walk back with them and we’ll follow in the car.”
I nodded and started down the road, whistling. Three one-hundred-pound pigs trooped behind in a line, snuffling and snorting all the way home. It was my agricultural moment of triumph.
I’ll freely admit to everyone—except Russ—that when it came to chickens, I was no Colonel Sanders. But hey … when it came to pigs, I was the best pied piper in the county.