On the Edge of Common Sense 8-23-10
August 23, 2010
I worked for a big cattle company in the Northwest and we kept “cookhouse pigs” for the crew. Every spring 30 or so little weaner pigs were brought from the sale barn and put in our pig facility, a long steel quonset hut.
I knew enough to vaccinate them for erysipelas, but I put off castration until the summer help, my annual veterinary student, arrived. As soon as he got settled in I put him together with a strong Basque sheepherder named Juan Garay and led him to the quonset.
I would stay long enough to demonstrate on the first one, then I left the eager student with Juan to finish the job. You could hear the ruckus two miles down the road! It must have stuck in my mind because years later I found myself describing my first big rock concert as “A cross between Cape Canaveral and castrating pigs in a metal building!”
Which brings me to my Wyoming friends, Louie and Ann and their experience with squealing shoats. Louie’s hired man wanted to raise some feedlot pigs for his freezer. Louie worked at the sale barn so the next Thursday he brought home five little piglets weighing in at 10 pounds each. The hired man was pleased and said he could take a couple more if they came available.
Next Monday for the special feeder cattle sale Louie’s wife, Ann, came along to help with the books. Since it was bitter cold they took the good truck because the heater worked better. During the day a cattleman showed up with a little piglet he had caught running wild in his feed bunks. Louie thought, how fortuitous! He gave the man five bucks. The hired man would be pleased.
They started home at the end of the day. It was dark, snowing, blowing and negative 35 degrees! Ann couldn’t hold the wiggling varmint so she drove. After much experimentation Louie managed to squeeze the squirming swinelet between his knees, the curly tail-end at the edge of the seat. It was 32 miles home, although it seemed longer. The piggy squealed all the way home! Every squeal piggy shot out a stream of all-natural, porcine-origin pungent effluence! It hit up under the dash and ran down onto the floor mats!
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To survive the lusty ear-splitting caterwaul and the accompanying colonic expulsions, Ann hung her head out the driver’s side window! Snow stinging her eyes, hands frozen to the wheel, she persevered by trying to think up names for the piglet. Louie sat in the wind tunnel with grim determination, hands locked on the stink bomb, trying to think up names for the hired man.
On arrival Louie had to be pried out of the cab with a tamping bar. They tried chopping his clothes but it was hard to do without hurting the piglet, so they let them unthaw in the old pump house. Eventually they were both hosed off and sprayed with Lemon Pledge. Man and pig survived, although the next summer they burned down the pump house!