Arnold’s Free Ride

Being a single mom, one of my “Great Ideas” (at the time) was to raise piglets and sell halves. Not only would we make money but we would have yummy bacon and ham in the freezer. Soon we had three adorable pink and white piglets rooting around in a pen. Their names…Hammy Faye Baker, Arnold Snorztenegger, and Pinky-Jo Curly Tail.

At first all went well, they didn’t eat much and were very friendly, standing up on their little hind legs to greet us every morning. My “Great Idea” included going to various fruit and vegetable stands to gather older produce and feed them for free. We picked “pig weed” along the sides of the road and went to the Hostess store to buy all the past due cakes and bread to supplement their diet. They chowed down on pigweed and veggies like there was no tomorrow, but they would only sniff suspiciously at the Hostess goodies and fruit. Pigs are extremely smart and have an incredible ability to change food into fat at an extremely rapid rate, and soon they were three obese, waddling, 250 pound porkers.

About this time, Hammy, Arnold, and Pinky-Jo decided that there was more of the world to see than their little pen. After all, that yummy stuff they get every day had to come from somewhere… they did their level best… daily… to get out and find more. I tried hot wire. Hammy Faye would short it out shoveling dirt against it with her snout. We tried wooden boards. Arnold would run at it and throw himself, trotters scrambling wildly, up and over the boards. We tried hog wire. All three would stand up on their hind legs and put their front feet up on the wire, walking slowly forwards until the wire bent enough that they could just clamber over the top. They were three little piggy geniuses.

One day I received a phone call from my neighbor down the road. “Your pigs are out.”

The boys and I hitched up the horse trailer and high-tailed it down the road where we found the pigs corralled in a rather large pasture/pen. I was able to back the trailer into a corner. With the door open against the fence on one side, it made a fairly good trap. We attempted to get the pigs into the corner so they could have nowhere to go but into the horse trailer. They ambled unconcernedly up to the trailer when herded, but at the door they stopped and eyed the dark interior suspiciously. Suddenly, Hammy let out a grunting snort and all three scattered like startled deer.

I tried to jump in front of Arnold, but he plowed through my legs at a gallop with me spread face down across his back.

You would think a grown woman riding a half-grown pig would be tiring, but I swear he enjoyed it. All three pigs hurtled around the pasture like little pink racehorses, with me hanging on for dear life. About the third lap around the pasture I lost my grip and fell hard, bouncing like a super-ball across the mucky pasture.

As I lay gasping for breath, Keegan and Garry (my two boys) quietly walked Hammy Faye and Pinky-Jo up to the trailer where they loaded quietly. Arnold refused to get into the trailer. I drove the other two pigs home, and got a bucket of pig feed and a lasso.

Back to the neighbor’s I went, Keegan and Garry happily anticipating the fact that Mom was about to do something entertainingly stupid once again. I lassoed Arnold around the neck and found that a combination of pouring little piles of food in front of him and pulling him from pile to pile would get him to follow me. Unfortunately, I lived about a half a mile up the road. At this rate it would take at least a day.

I looked around and spied the neighbor’s tractor. It had a large bucket on the front and a blade in the back. Keegan started up the tractor and pulled up next to Arnold. Garry poured the last of the pig feed into the tractor bucket while I pushed and pulled, finally shoving Arnold into it. Keegan lifted the bucket about 2 feet off of the ground while I clambered in along side of Arnold to “steady” him. At first, Arnold wasn’t sure he liked this, but as we headed up the driveway and onto the road headed home, he quickly relaxed, even standing with his front feet on the rim of the bucket, ears flapping in the wind like some bizarre Cocker Spaniel.

I can only imagine the picture we made: two young boys driving a tractor with their mother, both legs dangling over the edge of the bucket, hanging onto a lasso tied to a large pig that was showing every indication of enjoying the ride immensely. I won’t go on about the looks we received from passing motorists, but Keegan and Garry waved happily at their slack jawed faces as they slowly passed us.

Soon after that, I sold the pigs. I could not butcher them. I have not raised pigs since then… I can’t. They have too much personality. Some days when life gets me down, I look back on that period in our lives with Arnold peering happily over the rim of the bucket… and I can’t help but laugh.

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