Nutty Nell

The adjective indicated his temperament.

Nell was secure at last. And being adaptable, where affairs gastronomic were concerned, it was but a day or so before he learned to devour coarse flour and water. And then he ate so much flour and water that he had no room for garbage.

It would not do to say that faithfulness and loyalty were among his virtues. Nell tolerated anybody who fed him. But he accepted food only on his own terms. The moment you approached with the pan of food, Nell would try to nudge it from your hand altogether; failing in that, he would stand in the trough, so that you would either have to wait until he was tired of standing there, or simply pour the food on his back. He received it usually on his back. And when he did n’t get what he thought was sufficient, he would express his displeasure by grunts and squeals and by pushing the trough around the pen with his nose.

This is surprising, until it becomes noticeable how his neck has grown, and you realize that the pig is no longer a baby pig but growing up. Where formerly the boards met the grass on all sides of the pen in neat lines, now jagged holes appear, where Nell has rooted. And all the stones have been removed by him to the lake side of the pen, and there he stretches out day and night, scorning contemptuously his house with the gray shingles.

Indeed the pen is fast losing its original look. It changes with the pig. One morning you find that the post holding up the pig’s house has been rooted out and the house itself has been torn down by the pig. By this time the pig has risen above his environment, changing it to suit himself, instead of changing himself to suit his surroundings. And, with a contemptuous disregard of the family, he has begun to whiff malodorously. If your wife would come out openly and say, ‘ I told you so,’ it would n’t be so bad; but a reproachful look when the breeze blows landward from the lake says, with more emphasis than words alone could do, ‘I told you the pen was too near the house.’

As summer wanes, the pig becomes more blatant and noisome, pushing the tin basin (which has superseded his trough) around his pen. Tin and rocks! What a din! Zip, crash, bang, boom — Nell bounces the tin pan from one rock to another, around the pen, showdng how he feels toward everything. At night, when the flowers nod quietly in their slumber, and no noise breaks the stillness of the darkness, Nell continues his activities. Ofttimes visitors, unaccustomed to country noises, having at last accustomed themselves to the tinkle of glass in the pantry as the chipmunk tries for the butter, are startled by a loud crash from the direction of the lake. Useless to persuade them that it’s only Nell being savage with the basin.

Then, too, while you like children theoretically, there is a constant juvenile flood of visitors to the pig. And just when you are trying to concentrate mentally on some difficult bit of writing, when absolute quiet seems the one thing you simply must have, Nell lets loose with a series of inharmonious snout-thumbing grunts, and there are loud howls of delight from Nell’s callers. And after you have returned to earth again and are at just the right mental state to continue what you’re doing, squeals and grunts fill the air in a wild cacophony and off troop the children with:

‘Good-bye, pig. Nice pig.’

You wish devoutly that Nell was a nice pig.

And while the pen falls to pieces slowly, you wonder idly whether it will last till autumn, when Nell will be reduced to toothsome hams and succulent bacon. You erase one dream fulfilled from your mental calendar, and speculate about a goat. A goat is admirable because of his wise, cynical look, and, moreover, he has undoubtedly a sense of humor that the pig lacks. So you decide that next spring you will certainly buy a goat.