Friday, October 23, 2009

Pigs Escape! or How I got my Pig Mojo Back

This past spring we decided to add to our managerie of useful animals that help feed us by bringing home two piglets to our forest garden homestead. The idea was to raise our own pigs for pork. We would give them a good life in a modest pen in the forest, next to our chickens. They've been eating scraps from our table and excess garden produce, but mostly standard corn and soybean mixture feed. I happened to be home in the afternoon and not at the office when I received a call from our son, "hey, [the neighbor boy] just called me and said he got off the school bus and he was greeted at his house by pigs in his yard." I thought this must be some kind of joke, because I had checked on OUR pigs just two hours previously and they were lounging in their pen without a care in the world. This certainly had to be someone else's pigs. Yeah, right! No one in several miles of our house has a pig. Isn't it strange how our brains go into denial when faced with known, but terrible facts.

I tried to keep my cool as I walked (in a marathon walking sort of way) down the hill from our house to the pig pen. No pigs. I carefully inspected the pen, as if I really expected the pigs to simply sprout back up out of the ground and reappear. The fence in one corner was mangled badly with deep rooted out areas beneath it. It seemed such a small opening for such large animals to fit through. Unbelievable! How did this happen! I began to feel a slight panic feeling. A strange horror film flitted through my mind's eye. The frames of the film blurred by...our almost fully grown pigs running pel-mel, but unknowingly, toward brutal death trying to cross the highway in front of our subdivision to reach the corn field on the other side. The film slowed down and I see my pigs colliding with a BMW. I zoom in. I see the BMW is driven by a vegan suit and tie wearing CEO who's brother happens to be the chair of the local zoning board. The film's trailer ends with "Man jailed for pig neglect, disturbing the peace, and maintaining a common nuisance of the farmyard variety". The short film fades with an interview clip of our most skeptical neighbor..."the chickens we eventually tolerated, but this! they should throw away the keys." Now fully in panic mode, I phoned my wife pleading for assistance if she wouldn't mind closing her shop to come and herd pigs. What better way to spend the lovely afternoon.

Now sweating and in full panic mode, I ran down to the neighbor's house where sure enough our pigs were casually inspecting a whole new world known as the neighbor's front yard (see photo above taken by neighbor boy). One problem is that this yard was a quarter of a mile from our house. I ran back home, jumped in the truck, hooked up a small trailer I had just bargain purchased a few weeks before and headed back down the road. "How will I get these pigs back" was all I could wonder. Two neighbor boys were gracious enough to help me try to herd these porcine escapees into the trailer. No way were they going near the trailer. At this juncture, let's put this into context. We live in a subdivision. A unique, old, very forested subdivision, but still a subdivision none-the-less. I have neighbors who do not appreciate our chickens...and the clock was reading about 4pm...pretty soon people would be arriving back home from work. It was hard not to feel panic at the prospect of these dignified professionals arriving home at the site of pigs running amok in their neighborhood. I thought, "what in holy hell am I going to do?"

Then the neighbor boys, who were meanwhile pulling out their phone cameras and snapping shots to text and send to friends, family, and the police, started herding the pigs down the road back to our place. I stared with some astonishment, and little by little we got the two pigs in a narrow strip of land, heavy with briers and poison ivy, that lay between the creek and the road. We gently urged them on, me whistling and cooing as they curiously rooted and sampled every species of plant as they went. Then at the half-way point back down the road to our house I got my pig mojo back (side story: I raised various breeds of pigs on my parents small farm from age 11 through age 18, winning many awards, including best showman....which involves a very high level of professional knack with steering a pig exactly where you want it to go with the grace normally given to the dance floor - you might think wow, when would that skill ever come in handy, but...) Here I was herding two escaped nearly fully grown porcines down a subdivision road. Carefully navigating the flight distance between me and the two pigs, at an angle which would slowly move them in the right trajectory back toward their pen, we were only 30 feet from the gate. Elizabeth arrived in the Rav...deftly swinging the car at an angle to the road to block any hasty retreat of these swine...for a split second the Toyota Rav was a black suburban with tinted windows. My wife an FBI agent dressed undercover in black leather, sliding the vehicle 180 degrees blocking any escape. A sting operation, making sure these pigs would serve out their days where they the pen! Meanwhile back at the ranch, the neighbor boy opened the gate, stepped aside, and sweet jesus both pigs languidly found their way back in to their lovely mud and straw covered pen.

They seemed relieved. I was overjoyed, but in shock. Pig mojo back. Ham and bacon preserved for future meals. Perhaps at least a couple neighbors none the aware. My wife said, "You are a pig whisperer," but wondered if the expense of the feed and the trouble to keep these pigs was worth it. I'll let you know in two weeks when we have pork chops covered with baked apples.

1 comment:

Toni said...

"The mud is always softer on the other side of the fence." Glad you got them back, I've helped get the cows back in the barn lot a few times, but not pigs. Will you have fresh side and cracklins in addition to the pork chops?