Gwen Petersen: In a Sow’s Ear 4-8-13
Big Timber, Mont.
The following true story could only happen on a ranch or farm. I’m talkin’ country kids. In a recent conversation, the subject of what ranch kids did for fun and games when they lived so far back in the boonies, air had to be shipped in.
“Heck,” said Linda, “we used to practice roping on the chickens. And when the milk cow came fresh, we’d try to ride her calf.” She paused. “The best though, were the pig races.”
“Pig races?” I queried.
“Uh-huh. Me and my brothers would have races with baby pigs.” Linda grinned, a devilish glint in her eyes.
I sensed a good story was about to happen. “Tell all,” said I.
“Well, there were six kids in the family; two of my brothers and I were pretty close in age. I guess I was about six or seven. Our dad farrowed sow pigs twice a year so a litter of piglets hit the earth every six months.”
“Okay,” I said. “But what about pig races? How’d you do that?”
“You’ll never guess,” drawled Linda. The wicked gleam in her eyes heated up. “My brothers would each grab a piglet. And so would I. Not too hard to catch one. We’d just yank ’em off the sow while they were nursing.”
“Didn’t the sow object?” I asked.
“Not if you belly-scratched the piglet. They like that. If we couldn’t scoop ’em up off the sow, we’d wait till they finished feeding and were curled up in a sleepy heap under a heat lamp. Either way, all three of us would carry a pig inside our jackets over to the edge of the pasture.”
“Go on,” I said. “I’m waiting for the race to begin. Did you make miniature chutes? Put grain in a trough at one end and a piglet at the other and turn ’em loose?”
“Well, that would have been one way, but no we didn’t build any chutes. See, to keep the little ones in the pasture Dad ran a hot wire a few inches off the ground around the whole enclosure. A piglet would bump his snout on the electric wire and … well pigs learn fast. Once they got a jolt, they stayed where they belonged.”
Linda’s quirky grin grew quirkier. “We’d draw a line in the dirt. Then, me and my brothers would stand side by side and count ‘one, two, three,’ set our individual piglet’s rump down on the hotwire. Boy piglets,” she said parenthetically, “were the best choices if you had ’em in a race before they got turned into shoats. They’d squeal and blast off faster than the Lone Ranger’s speeding bullet. Whose ever porker crossed the line first — well the losers had to give the winner his or her dessert at supper. Heck, once I had three pieces of pie all to myself. Mom thought the boys were sick and took their temperatures.”
Linda sighed, “We had to quit though. Our dad caught us. He walloped us good. When I think about it, I can still feel that thumping!” ❖