Lisa Hamblen Hood: Through the Fence 3-28-11
March 28, 2011
Money can’t make a man happy, but the lack of it can sure make him miserable. Having good pens, tools, horses or working dogs doesn’t make ranching easy, but it can make it easier and require a lot less time and sweat. When working or sorting livestock, sturdy pens, chutes and corrals could be the most important.
One of our neighbors has goat pens that look like something out of a John Deere magazine: perfectly straight, welded poles, neatly painted with a uniform coat of hunter green. Most of them have individual water faucets, concrete floors and rust-free gates that open into a lighted barn. On the other end of the spectrum were the pens at our old barn. They were a conglomeration of ancient, rotted timbers, bent metal posts, all surrounded by a tangle of rusted wire.
Several weeks ago, some FFA boys found out that a bad pen configuration can make a simple job quite difficult. The ag teacher had taken them out of school one morning to castrate some show hogs. When they arrived at the family’s house, they saw two piglets running loose in an open pasture with some cows. The boys shot a quick glance at their poker-faced teacher. His placid countenance darkened momentarily. Then he opened the truck door and said with a wink, “Let’s get ‘er done, boys.”
They rounded the pigs into a small corral that adjoined a wooden barn. It seems like it would have been easy for agile teenage boys to sneak up on a 30-pound pig and grab it. It wasn’t. Not because the boys weren’t graceful – they were. And not because they weren’t determined – they dared not be otherwise. It wasn’t because they were outnumbered. It was because the corral was a virtual obstacle course, complete with several trees, hay bales and a fallen log. Also, there was a hole in the barn wall just the right size for a pig to squeeze through.
Three boys would chase the pigs through the maze of obstructions while the other two waited just inside the barn to shoo the pigs out when they slipped through the opening. Each time one of the boys would creep up behind a pig, it would scuttle under the log, around a hay bale or tree and head back through the hole in the wall. It was kind of funny at first, but after a dozen replays, it ceased to be amusing.
Finally one of the boys snagged one of the little porkers as it skipped by. Two of the boys held it while the other boy swabbed it with Betadine. Then the ag teacher took a scalpel in his skillful hands. He’d performed that operation so many times that he could do it with his eyes closed. But, being the quintessential teacher, he used every moment as an opportunity for instruction, explaining each step of the process as he performed it. Those macho boys watched the pig’s emasculation with an air of curious indifference. They were probably glad to be seated in the dirt in case they got dizzy or fainted.
Recommended Stories For You
The remaining pig was wily and evaded capture with renewed vigor. Apparently, it had caught a glimpse of what had happened to his littermate and wanted no part of it. The ag teacher made one final lunge toward the pig. As he dove after it, he stepped on fresh cow patty and slipped on the slimy goo. As he fell, he reached out his hands grabbing the pig by the back feet and landed right on top of it. He lay there on the ground, arms still outstretched, trying to maintain his hold on the squirming, squealing pig. My son jumped into the fray and clutched the pig’s feet before it could wriggle loose. All the boys burst out laughing. Their teacher looked up at them, grinning sheepishly and said, “That’s how ya do it, boys!” as if that was his plan all along.
He whipped out the knife and altered the pig in a flash. Fortunately the teacher lived close enough to school to run home and change clothes. They made it back to school by lunchtime as he checked off another item on his to-do list.