Posted 04-18-2004 at 11:45:44
[Reply] [No Email]
Today was ‘handling’ day. Forty-three piglets caught, checked out, given shots, and the males castrated. Low Rider was one of the last pigs to be caught. Being a male, and since the decision had been made to treat him the same as the others, he was marked, ear tagged, given shots and castrated. As if he didn’t have enough problems.
As is our normal procedure, Fred performs the surgery while I hold the pigs, so by now I had been scratched, bitten, kicked, and soiled by twenty some odd little boars who were not as prepared or willing to give up the items we were after as quietly as we would have wished. All except Low Rider. Weighing in at a scant eight pounds, I expected him to be easy to handle. What I hadn’t expected was for him to lie sedately through the procedure and then almost instantly after, to fall quietly asleep cupped in my hands. Dang it.
“Oh my God, he’s so cute.” I said, stupidly.
Low Rider’s brown eyes drifted closed and he let out a hitching little sigh, as my fingers found the soft spots at the backs of his ears and began to scratch gently. I didn’t have a thing to do with it, the fingers had taken on a life of their own. I knew better than to become attached to this little piglet. He had a grim future and I in no way planned to develop a soft spot for him. No way. Even if he reached his weight potential, who wanted to buy a pig with one and a half legs on each side? Even a meat pig. It was laughable. Now when he was still small, it was cute to watch him scoot around. Would it still be cute six months from now? Or would it just be sad? What would happen to him had he been born in the wild? Chances are, with the transient habits of wild hogs he wouldn’t have lasted as long as he had. He would have been left behind long ago to fend for himself and would have died.
“He is, isn’t he?” Fred confirmed. “Shame he has to be out there with all the others getting knocked around and having to struggle to get his food. Doesn't seem fair really.”
I felt the first stirrings of maternal concern as I got a mental picture of him struggling to push himself into the milk line with only those two little stumps to aid him. No wonder he was still so small. No matter how I fought it, I knew that I was a goner. Despite being disadvantaged, Low Rider was clean, small, snowy white and dang-it-all, sweet as honey, and he was worming his way into my heart. I had let my defenses down and pushed common sense to the side and now I was paying the price.
“You know,” somebody said, “we could put him in that little crate of Rocky’s and feed him on his own.”
“The metal grate in the bottom might be hard on his back legs, though.” Fred said, looking at me.
Oh. I guess it was me who suggested the crate.
“But we could scatter hay in the bottom of it. That would help.” I suggested, beyond caring now, allowing myself to be dragged willingly into becoming fond of Low Rider. He still slept on his back in my hands and the weight of him felt wonderful.
“Well.” Fred said clapping his hands together. "Whatever we’re going to do, we need to do it. We’ve got more work to do.”
“I know.” I said, still cupping the little pig. Now I was reluctant to let him go. “I know.” I said again, stalling.
After twenty years Fred knows me better than just about anybody on earth. He knew I was wavering. He also knew that we were taking on a heck of a responsibility. Everything is cute when it’s a baby. What was Low Rider going to be like when he was three hundred pounds? Was he going to be miserable? Were we delaying the inevitable?
“It’s a mistake.” I said lamely. “Here.” I handed Low Rider to my daughter. “Put him in the crate and put some hay in there. Give him a bowl of water.”
“Does this mean we get to pet him?” She asked. Up to this point we had never had a ‘pet pig’. Especially one that could grow to five hundred pounds. I looked her in the eye and squared my jaw.
“Yes.” I replied firmly. “Well, and often.”
(to be cont.)