Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Art of Pig Watching

Perhaps you spurn the art of pig-watching and consider it a waste of time. Perhaps you have never had the opportunity to watch too many pigs and are ignorant on the subject. And perhaps you have just never been so lucky.

But those of us lucky enough to have had the opportunity and taken the time to spend an hour or two on a good day pig-watching are permanently blessed with a deep knowledge of what life appreciation is all about. If you have never watched a 300 pound sow in a 6-inch deep mud puddle you have no yardstick to determine what real contentment looks like.

It doesn’t take much to maintain a pig’s ordinary, run of the mill daily happiness factor. Typically jolly fellows and girls, they live and let live and require little emotional support. I have never seen a depressed pig.

But it takes a good puddle to send a pig into the kind of ecstasy that stays with you.

My first pig venture with Gretchen and Gertrude and the inimitable Festus (described in an earlier Blog) were eventually followed by a couple I referred to as Ma and Pa Kettle.

Beautiful black Hamps with a white band completely around their middles, their naming was somewhat of a misnomer in that unlike the original Hollywood Kettles whose cleanliness and personal habits supposedly left a lot to be desired, MY Kettles were very tidy people.

Their bathroom habits were discreet and their bedding area was moved, at intervals chosen by them, to different pasture spots almost every night resulting in a clean bed.

However, due to the odiferousness of the pig reputation in general I chose a spot for the pig lot down in the northeast corner of the main pasture. (closer to my neighbor’s place than mine.) This made pig-watching a little inconvenient but we’re kind of short on entertainment here in North Missouri so I didn’t mind making the trip down the gravel to the pig pasture.

Whenever company came the entertainment agenda always included a jaunt “down to see the pigs” and we would lean on the fence posts and discuss stuff and watch the Kettles in their pursuit of the maximum pleasure derivable from three acres of grass and the mud from a small spring that ran along the side of their yard.

Sometimes in the summer when the spring dried up, being a true spring and only wet when it was actually spring, I would try to fill the trough with water at least once a day just for the show. It took the Kettles about 45 seconds to upend the trough , scoot it out of the way and plop into their very own self-made mud hole. Little eyes blinking in rapture, snouts whiff-whiffing and smurfing in the muddy ripples, squirming contendedly on one side, only getting up to drop with a splat onto the other side like a Brooklynite in Miami taking the sun…their pleasure was downright contagious and kind of inspiring.

In no time, because of the shallowness of the mud, they would begin to look like Oreos in reverse..soft gooey on the two outsides with a strip of dry and bristly in between. Often they would drift off to sleep on the wet bed of their cool and pleasant spa and not wake until the sun had dried the mud on their sides and turned them into what would then look like Navajo bake ovens.

But generally I did my pig watching at days end, when after work I would stop at the barn, fill the bucket with feed and head on down to the pig lot and spend a relaxing half hour watching the Kettles enjoy life.

Pigs are not all that dumb, (although not as smart as some people would have you believe) and the Kettles soon came to recognize the sound of my truck turning the corner a quarter of a mile up the gravel as I turned off the blacktop. Heck, maybe they heard the truck before that. Who knows how far pigs can hear when they are thinking about food?

I might never have known about there ability to anticipate my arrival at all but one night they, being just too clever by half, had managed to get under the fence and decided to come to meet me. The sight of the Kettles trotting up the road, in happy silhouette just there where the gravel of the road to the east met sky, was a sight to see. They were so pleased with themselves it was impossible not to be happy with them.

Sorry to say, this was the end of pig farming for me. That one taste of freedom was too much for the Kettles and their desire to see the world was beyond my pig fencing skills. But I do miss the pig watching at the end of the day.

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