Grandpa GoodNeighbor let me know that I've been posting too much business and not enough hilarity lately. I guess he's right and we've been all be nose to the grindstone. So I decided to talk about one of my favorite topics - and probably one of Grandpa GoodNeighor's also. I'd like to tell you about the youngest Good Neighbor kid, Jake.
Jake could handle this pig for sure.
Jake is one of my favorite people. He's helpful, cheerful, good natured, and unlike a lot of teenish kids - he actually looks at you when you talk. One time he called me Mrs. TheBigMan. I could have hugged him. In a world where a lot of young people would just as soon un-friend you on Facebook then tell you what they did that day, Jake is in a class by himself. He's a darn good kid and we think he is the beez kneez. So here's my best Jake GoodNeighbor tale. We call it "Operations Ham In A Can" or "How Jake Saved Our Bacon." Or maybe Operation Pig in a Blanket. Or maybe it should just be called "The Big Man vs Two Little Pigs." There was much hilarity....its about a misadventure a couple years ago, early in the summer.
I'll never forget the day that The Big Man strode boldly out onto the front porch, surveyed all he was master of, and declared, “Come on, lets go move the pigs.” I couldn't wait to move those stupid pigs. I dropped my garden tools and hurried to catch up with this man on a mission.
Now you know I hate pigs. All pigs. Especially pigs that that I can smell. So I was especially eager to move those pigs. Our pig-gettin' didnt work out that summer as it did other times. We ended up getting VERY young and small pigs - like "small as young cats" small. This was different from previous years when the feeder pigs we got were pretty good sized.
There we were standin' there in this guy's hog lot looking and these little tiny pigs and regretting all the time we...and when I say 'we' I mean, The Big Man... spent putting up the electric fence in the lower hen yard. Our big idea was to have them down there to hog down all the poison ivy that's been plaguing us. Then next year we'll plant decent pasture for the hens. But these “small as chihuahuas” pigs just weren't gonna get that done until they grew out some.
We really like this pig guy. He has a great set up going and so after we looked at those “small as little kittens” pigs I asked for the big tour of his place.., you know I always like to see other people's farm's. And I really wanted to see his sows. I had a mind to get a female pig, raise her up, then use her for a brood sow so I wouldn't have to buy feeder pigs ever year.
One look at that guy's 700 pound huge red Tamworth sow nearly had me runnin for the truck! That sow was as big as a rhino and the only thing that separated us from certain death was one TINY now-defunct strand of electric wire. So ended my career as a real pig farmer. We paid our $100 for the two mouse sized pigs and tossed them in the back of The Big Man's crappy little truck with the cap on it and away we went.
Since the pigs were so small that a hawk probably could have snatched them up we had to find other accommodations for them. The lower hen yard with its shiny new electric fence was not going to work at all. We came up with all kinds of crazy ideas and settled on a hastily thrown together pen near the turkeys so we could hear if anything tried to kill them up at nite. Problem solved. Right? Right.
Until we realized that we'd have to move them sooner than we thought. They were creating The World's Largest Mud Hole basically right outside our bedroom... and they smelled. Bad. Like real bad.
Finally they were big enough so they couldnt actually walk UNDER the electric wire in the lower hen yard. That's when The Big Man said he wanted to move them...and, well, I was thrilled.
All we had to do was move them to the lower pig yard which sounds easy enough.
Here is something non-farmers don't know about moving pigs - they are very very hard to move to another location. If they are little enough you can just carry them but by the time they are about as big as a medium sized dog - forget it. This is why old farmers have themselves better organized and know better than to pen up a couple of pigs outside their bedroom window.
The problem is that when pigs get all worked up they get overheated and can die. Easily.
So The Big Man and I stood there scratchin' our heads and wondering how we were going to move those stupid pigs clear to the other side of the property, thru a complex series of gates, and down the hill to the lower henyard - henceforth known as PigTopia. We couldn't take them in the back of the truck. We couldnt walk them (that whole Babe the Pig thing is a Disney production I assure you). So somewhere in my back of my mind I recall an old pig farmer saying the easiest way to move a not-so-big-pig was in a wheeled garbage can. Aha! We had a couple of those so we got the garbage can and went in for the pig. How hard could that be?
Any actual hog farmers out there are about bustin' a gut right now thinking about the logistics of grabbing an angry and scared pig out of The World's Largest Mud Hole and foolishly thinking that we could actually get him into a dark and scary trashcan..
There was slippin', and slidin', and a great deal of swearin'... and mocking by the pig that refused to go quietly into the can. He saw our circus coming from a mile off and wasn’t buyin' it for one hot second. Finally either exhaustion or fatigue wore Pig 1 down and we had him trapped in the can, so we flipped it up, and smacked own the lid. Whew! So we set off across the yard at a slow and easy pace.
Which gradually got faster and faster the more we realized that Operation Ham In A Can was only going to work for so long. We had created a nightmare inducing, wheeled, hellish pig jack-in-the-box! Pig 1 was panicking at the sudden herky-jerky movements of being trundled across the uneven ground. The howling and barking delights of Dog 1 and Dog 2....who thought this was hilarious... wasn't helping either.
As the pork in the box became even more panicked, the jumping and scrambling to get out of the can intensified. This sent the dogs into even wilder howls and barks. We trundled faster, panicking the pig even more. By the time we rounded the corner and started down the hill to the gate we were nearly at full speed. But we made it safely. Once we crossed into PigTopia we tipped the can over on its side and the pig toppled out, looked around at the new surroundings and wondered off quietly rooting up this and that.
Feeling fairly confident about our success we headed back up the hill for Pig 2. Somewhere behind us we heard the sickening squeal of Pig 1 finding the electric fence. We walked on.
Standing there beside The Worlds Largest Mud Hole we realized that Pig 2 was significantly bigger than our first victim. So there was no way we would be able to get a bigger, and much stronger pig into the same can. We'd have to find another way.
So The Big Man decided that what he'd do was get in there, wrassle that pig to the ground, hog tie him, then we'd transport him down to the pig yard in one of the wheelbarrows. I'd like to point out that this was not my idea. But as long as I wasn’t involved in the pig wrasslin' – well, you know, who am I to tell someone that they are wrong?
I cant even begin to describe the scene of my husband laying flat out in the mud, laying half on top of an extremely angry pig. The pig wasn't going quietly. You know all those random movie trivia fact games where you learn that they use pig squeals in horror movies for the sound effects? Who would believe that? I am here to tell you there is no more horrible sound that an angry pig. The noise was awful. I mean, the worst noise you could ever imagine. And loud. Real loud. It sound like..like.. well, a stuck pig. I still get chills.
Since I was being helpful standing there hanging on the fence, not laying on the ground in the mud wrasslin' a pig, I looked around for the sheriff or whoever might show up to find out who we were axe murdering. I nervously fussed with the handle of the garden cart. My job in this big plan was to rush over and hold the garden cart while The Big Man plopped the soon to be hog tied pig into it.
The Big Man and Pig 2 continued their to the death cage match. Somewhere in the battle the pig ripped the gate clean off the hinges. There was no possible way I was going in there to help. At last the pig was down for the count and he was, in an academic way if not effectively, hog tied.
Now it was my turn. The second part of this two pronged pig progress was called Operation Pig In A Blanket. We had an old blanket in the garden cart and the pig was supposed to just lay there quietly, wrapped in it, while we rolled him down to the Pig Pasture. I pushed the cart over to the fence..
Just then, The Big Man threw an enraged pig over the fence and into the garden cart. We knew then that this just wasn't going to work out the way we hoped. And by the way, the pig screaming wasn't even remotely over. It had gotten worse and as we started across the yard with the flailing screaming thrashing pig. We suspected that things may not end well for Pig 2. Mentally I went thru the list of things I needed to butcher a small pig...well, sure we could probably have a hog roast if the pig really did have a coronary.... I knew where the shovel was to dig the pit and y'all know I'm a pyro so the fire would be no problem.
We bumped and careened across the yard. The squealing writhing pig was fighting for his whole worth and had broken free of the ropes! He started to squirm out of the garden cart! This was it! He was going to get out! We were doomed!!! And just when all hope was lost....
“Hey! Do you guys need help?!?”
I whipped my head around just in time to see our neighbor kid, Jake, come a-runnin around the gate.
Right as the pig was about to flip the garden cart over Jake made it to the careening cart and grabbed ahold of the pig. Being a sturdy kid Jake held him fast and we made our way across the rest of the yard, but even with its eyes rolling into the back of its head and foaming at the mouth, the pig still had some fight in him. We pushed the cart faster, and now that gravity was working with us the garden cart took on momentum of its own. We were hurtling down the hill at great speed!
We crashed thru the henyard gate and down the hill and into PigTopia sending hens scrambling in all directions. Jake had run ahead and opened the gate for the electric fence and just as we crossed into the pig yard, the cart caught on a rock, and toppled over sending Pig 2 tumbling out into a heap.
Pig 2 lay there like a slug. I turned and looked uphill. The Big Man had also collapsed into a heap. He lay there like a slug. Both were panting and had the same dazed, crazed look on their faces.
“Doin' OK, baby?” I called, hopefully. A grunt was my only response.
Meanwhile Jake and I were trying to catch our breath, both leaned over, hands on knees, holding ourselves up. “Jake!” I cried, “Where did you come from?”
“Well that pig sure was makin' a racket and I figured you needed some help.” He offered.
We both started laughing and I sputtered, “Jake! You saved our bacon! Really!”
I walked him up to the gate thanked him and asked him to tell his mother that he was my hero for sure and that I'd call her later. Jake's house is nearly a half mile away. He had run the whole way to our rescue. I'll never forget the sight of him hard charging over the hill and to our aid. In a day where kids are usually thought to be self-centered, over indulged, and glued to some video game, Jake is in a class by himself. Eager to help, always a smile, and he's darn good in a pig carrying crisis as I now know.
I looked back down the hill. By now the hens had started to gather. Mostly around The Big Man who still laid in a heap. The pig hadn't moved either. I walked down to make sure that both were still breathing. So far so good.
I got the hose.
As The Big Man began to gather himself up, mostly because the hens were starting to peck at him, I hosed down Pig 2, who still hadn't moved.
“He's not dead yet.” I called to The Big Man.
“Neither am I,” He replied, “But the day ain't over either.”
Anxiously we watched to see if we were having roast small pig or if that pig would rally. Eventually the hog started to move about and then settled into the new field. When we were confident he was going to be OK we headed toward the house, passing the goats who were horrified by their new yard mates. Debbie the milker stomped and snorted her disgust. Vita our grand champion milker tried to charge the fence. Little Nibbles, cute but not really useful, refused to come out of the goat shed.
“Good thing that's a one way trip.” Declared The Big Man.
"Um...." I started to say but I bit my tongue. I kinda had planned to move them at mid summer... but after all the brouhaha I figured I should just keep that to myself.
That summer went well with those pigs. For the most part the hens stayed out of the hog side and the pigs never got out of their side. The goats hated those pigs all summer. But they didn't have to endure the pig-stinky-awfulness for long. Eventually the weather turned cold and our thoughts turned to bacon. Fresh pork. And pork roast. And pork loin. And pork chops..... shortly after Thanksgiving we had our hog harvest and loaded up the freezer.
One snowy day that winter I sat down to a big meal of 'taters fried in lard and a big slice of ham. When I did, I raised a cup to dear Jake, our ham hero who saved our bacon.
And that's what happened.
Happy Tuesday everyone! Go bacon!