My Sister’s Pig—Leah Wilcox Tells a Pig Story
(source= chaimai.com…or stoned pig)
I’m about to share a short story. A true one, with only minor embellishments. It was written by my sister, Leah Wilcox, who actually is a published author (which should be ample incentive to read on). Leah lives on ten acres in Central Oregon in a house she built with her husband. She has four kids, and a few animals. One of the finer joys of my life is my correspondence with her. We both love to write; I feel smarter and funnier in her company, and I think I may be a living writing prompt for her. Though not in this story.
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Before I share Leah’s story, I offer the cast:
Pig is a pig.
Buck is a steer, an emasculated version of a bull.
The Babies: probably calves, most likely Chase’s project.
Chase is Leah’s son. He is 18, has rancher aspirations, and used to like to head butt Buck (as shown).
Shae is Leah’s daughter. She is sixteen and very clever. See her with the feed can. See her run. See her narrowly escape.
Mitch is Leah’s husband, pragmatic but appreciative of the lighter side of life, and very industrious.
Betty makes appearances at the feed store. I know no more about Betty. But I think she’s got an awesome name.
Leah’s Pig, by Leah Wilcox:
Pig is a rebel. She refuses to get fat. But she eats with a vengeance! She attacks her dish like she’s afraid it will run off, pinning it down with her snout and pivoting ’round it on piggy-toes while she snarfs down the contents. Such snorting and gulping and smacking! I almost envy her unabashed indulgence. . . with clinging morsels lingering on her chops she leaves the scene sort of humming “hmmm. . . .hmmm-snort”, her smug air reminiscent of a model leaving Cold Stone for a swimsuit shoot after downing a “Love It” with 3 add-ins. “I try to gain weight, really, but I can’t. No matter how fast I eat ice cream, my metabolism is just faster!”
Pig isn’t skinny, really, she’s muscular ~ short and stocky, like a shot-putter in training. Like me, come to think of it, only her muscles are more defined. I wonder if she makes the robust Buck feel self-conscious? He pushes his weight around and Pig, who always pushes back, gets the better workout. Does she purposely provoke him because she knows pigs get butchered in the fall? Maybe he’s really a work out partner, or a fitness trainer, not a jealous antagonist after all: “Come on, Pig! Let me have it! Show me what ya got! My grandma can head butt better than that, and she’s rump roast!” That would get me riled. And what ever he says does rile her. Makes her squeal like . . . well, like a stuck pig.
It’s too bad she doesn’t have any sheep to herd so we could be miraculously moved by her uncanny intelligence and have duck at Christmas instead of pork. “That’ll do, Pig.” Mitch might even dance a jig for her. Somehow her steer wrestling, as spunky as it is, does not have the same effect.
During the summer I found myself admiring her exceptional ability to maintain abs of steel despite incessant and hearty eating. She was my inspiration. I actually considered putting a picture of her on the refrigerator with a caption reading, “Eat like a pig”.
Now, as butchering time draws near, I find her metabolic heroics troubling, even irritating. Am I jealous? Won’t her leanness promote my own? These are the questions I ask myself. But ultimately, what is bacon without the fat? Ham. And I’m not a ham fan. So I try feeding her more. She doesn’t resist. She breaks into a sprint when she sees me heading toward her pen with the feed can in hand. “Slow down, Pig!” I urge. “Be lazy! Sedentary! I insist!” But she insists on making a workout of it. Not just at feeding times, but in random intervals throughout the day. She’ll be basking in the sunshine, rooting in the lush grasses over the drain field, when suddenly, she’ll shoot off across the pasture like a cougar bit her backside. Her stubby legs, which barely keep her long, sturdy frame off the ground, unaccountably move her at frightening speeds—then abruptly, she slams on the brakes and begins to graze again.
“We need to shut her up in her pen.” Mitch suggests. I nod my head knowingly. We are lounging on the deck nibbling fudgecicles, watching her swim laps in the pond. After 20 down-and-backs, she allows herself the brief luxury of a mud mask, then without warning, she’s off again ~ racing Buck to the salt lick.
A month later she’s still roaming our ten acres like an ultra marathoner. Neither Mitch nor I have the heart to cage her. We even begin to regret the purpose for which we brought her to this exercise haven. I start to consider the possibility of an extended stay. The steer wrestling has improved and she and Buck form an effective brute squad for delinquent deer who try to use the pasture as a shortcut to my flower gardens. My contemplation leads to a discovery: I like Pig and Buck. I admire them. I esteem them greatly. They are more than walking food storage to me. I prepare to inform them at feeding time that we will keep them on over the winter. We will feed them our sitting food storage, if we must.
“Betty at the Feed Barn says we better butcher Pig soon” Chase reports. Heavy, heartless news.
“What does Betty know about it?” I demand.
“She’s a pig farmer, mom.”
“Anyone can farm pigs at a feed barn.” I snap back.
Chase, who always avoids my logic, continues: “She says to butcher them before they get thick around the neck. When they get thick around the neck their meat gets tough.”
Something about “thick around the neck” triggers the memory of a childhood song: “I love you, a bushel and a peck, a bushel and a peck and a hug around the neck, a hug around the neck.” I wish Betty would butt out. I feel nauseous. I summon an image of pig to mind: Taut, muscular hind quarters, muscular back, no calves to speak of . . .neck? My heart sinks. I think it may be thick. The only thick spot on her! How did she not remember to exercise her neck? Pig! What were you thinking? Is it too late for yoga? If only I’d encouraged her to focus on more elongating exercises and less wrestling. (sigh)
There is one bright spot. We are chronic procrastinators. Surely the inevitable will be delayed.
That afternoon I feed some of our spent cornstalks to Buck and the Babies. In the process I discover some unused cobs. I husk a few and bring them to Pig, who is uncharacteristically lying in the dust next to the fence. Does she know? As I give her the cobs I am haunted by guilt. “These are purely a token of my affection.” I try to assure her, and I am sincere. “I won’t be offended if you don’t eat them.” She gnaws them half-heartedly. I feel like a traitor.
(Buck the steer figures in these photos… illustrating how Leah’s kids liked to test their mettle against this very social bovine)
Buck and Pig were still here when I started writing this. While I have been facetious about my intereactions with them up to this point, I find I am unable to make light of our parting. I have always been fond of the idea of raising animals ~ of self reliance. But I have an entirely new perspective on what was intended when God gave Adam and Eve and their posterity dominion “over the earth, and the fish of the sea, and the fowls of the air and the cattle, and over every creeping thing which creepeth.” It seems ironic that in raising animals to provide meat for our family I would unwittingly discover a spiritual connection and deep affection for them, but so it is. Buck and Pig are gone and I miss them. I feel a very real sense of gratitude for them. It sounds trite. Cliché. But I mean it. I tried not to get attached ~ reflexive defenses, you know. But I couldn’t help it. I dreaded sending Buck to the auction and having Pig butchered, but I had no idea it would affect me so profoundly once it was done. Not that I feel it was wrong. We could not afford to keep them just to feed them. But somehow, without my intending it, they became much more than a pig and a steer to me. Certainly not the least among God’s creations. I hope, in the next life, we can be friends ~ maybe even workout partners.
“And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it became pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make her wise, she took of the fruit thereof,
and did eat, and also gave unto her husband with her, and he did eat. And the eyes of them both were opened . . .”
On a happier note, we have a hen that hatched out 4 chicks on the sly in the old chick house Chase built. It seems fitting that Chase would build a chick house.
She has more eggs under her, but almost a week later, it seems fairly certain they will not hatch.
Chase said, “She is an unhappy momma, sitting on 3 eggs, with 4 chicks. When she gets off her 3 eggs, she will be a happy momma with 4 chicks.”
As am I. –Leah Wilcox
Thanks for reading Leah’s pig story!