You Get the Pig

ALL of your life you’ve wanted a pig; and now that at last you’ve got a place in the country, you decide to have a pig, no matter at what cost. For in addition to the prospect of a curly-tailed pig that will fraternize with the baby, there is the more material prospect of the pig eating the garbage. And the garbage is always a difficult problem in the burying when the soil is rocky and a ledge of shale awaits the pickaxe everywhere.

All the farmers in the countryside have pigs, until you really settle down to the business of getting one. And then the pigs vanish overnight. This farmer had two, but sold them; another gave his away to a friend; and the third had none at all, and never had any. With dying hopes you visit the last prospect, who is deaf, and bellow at him as he rides unconcernedly down a large field on a tractor which snorts and rocks in its job of turning a green pasture into loamy brown. As the prospect blithely ignores your shouts, you notice in the barnyard an enormous sow, prostrate in the mud, exhausted from eating, and with a litter of white pigs of the size of large rats. Like rats they run in and out of the barn, and like kittens they tumble over doorsills and frolic about in and out of holes around the barn. Innocence and quaintness!

Desperately you dash down the field after the deaf one, puffing and snorting as much as the tractor, stumbling over the brown clods of earth in the wake of the plough, and shriek at the farmer. Finally, when you’re gasping and no longer can run, after a long canter abreast of the tractor, the farmer emits a distinguishable ‘H-uuuh?’ and stops the engine. In the quiet stillness of the fields you plead nobly for a pig, just one pig. Leathery jaws masticating tobacco alone disturb the serenity of his face; and when your argument is finished, exhausting completely your supply of air, he replies laconically, ‘Too young; two more weeks’; and moves on, leaving you alone and raging, a sorry figure surrounded by derisive acres.

Verbally you wash your hands of all pigs. The baby has other things to interest him; and the garbage can be burned. But the vision of a young pig, slathering delightedly when you approach to feed him, persists. So when a friend arrives with a box two days later, contentment fills your heart. A hatchet rips the boards from the top of the box, and there stands your pig. He’s yours; you can do with him what you will (if he lets you do it).

This particular pig is about a foot long, and has, by virtue of the country humor of our friend, a pink-paper rose tied round its neck. Through manipulation the rose rests rakishly on one pink ear. The assembled company look at the pig and murmur how clean and white and cute he looks. The pig surveys them defiantly, with a malevolent gleam in his small red eye.

‘How old is she?’ asks your wife.

‘Two and a half weeks.’

‘Is n’t that a shame! So innocent, and away from its mother.’

The conversation is interrupted by the pig, who tumbles out of the box, slides through fumbling, outstretched hands, and gallops down the porch.

’Catch him! ‘ shriek all in chorus.

The pig does not wait to be caught, but eludes his pursuers, wriggles under the rail, and drops twenty feet on some rocks. Cries from the women; curses from the men; moans of sympathy from the baby. Expecting to see a dying pig, you look over the rail; but there goes the pig loping off through the grass, and before the hunt is resumed he has disappeared in a large berry-patch. The assemblage scatters to catch the pig. Thick canes from last year bar the way with vicious thorns, you stumble over a root and land on all fours, scratched into savageness, and come face to face with the pig. His snout is bleeding, also. You gaze stupidly into his face as he squats there, and he does equally as well for you. But, being quicker-witted, he wheels about suddenly, you see the waving white tail, and then all is the darkness of the berry-patches. Before you can regain your feet there are cries of, ‘I got ‘im,’ rebellious squeals, and the pig is returned to the box.

He must now be fed, and to feed him is a problem. The baby’s bottles long since have been discarded, and the pig is too young to eat. A rubber tube is found, and your wife volunteers to feed the pig, having practised previously for a year and a half on the baby. The theory is excellent. On the principle that liquids seek their lowest level, one end of the tube is held up high, dangling from a bowl of milk, the other stuck in the pig’s mouth. The pig gurgles, sucks, and laps noisily, but gets little. After most of the milk is on the floor and your wife’s dress is hopelessly stained, you reluctantly come to the conclusion that it won’t work this way. The bowl is filled up again and you douse the pig’s head in it; but though his ears and eyes are bathed in milk, his mouth gets none. And when the problem seems hopeless of solution, it is all ended when Master Pig licks milky fingers, grunts with satisfaction, and is put away in the box for the night.

The next morning the pig is still a novelty and, as such, accorded every attention. (The baby alone refuses to join the circle of admirers.) After matutinal inspections have been completed, it finally dawns that the pig must have a pen. Lumber carefully saved for a tool-house, chicken-wire that should be used for the garden, asbestos shingles laid by for a rainy day and leaky roofs, are dragged out from cover and the work begins. And on the slope that curves from the house to the lake, under two walnuts, — pretty things with their rough black bark and plumes of light green leaves, — the pen is constructed. Many things need paint around the house but the can of dark green paint frugally hoarded is flung with a dripping brush on the pen that hides beneath the walnut trees. And stakes soon stick their green heads around the pen for the wire and planks to be nailed on. Indeed, nothing is too much trouble to encompass the comfort of the pig, even carefully shingling a leanto at one side of the pen. Still, the pen looks tidy when finished: the gray shingles and green pen and green trough and, needless to add, a partly green pig. The trough is small and has the pig’s name painted on the end in white letters; it is big enough, at that, for the pig to stand in it while eating. And on the end of the pen near the house is emblazoned in white letters: