Posted 02-11-2004 at 03:33:22
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At last count I have twenty-six new little piglets running around the south pasture. I get no end of pleasure from sitting out there in my lawn chair and watching them. Everywhere they go, they go not by two's, or three's, or four's, but in waves of twenty-five. I know. I said there's twenty-six of them out there. I'll explain that in a minute.
It's almost as if they have some kind of telepathy working. Their movements are smooth, almost choreographed. It's kind of like watching a flock of birds, or a school of fish, scooting along on the ground. Red ones, white ones, black ones, spotted ones. One white one with a single black spot about the size of a dime on one little hip. One little red one with black spots that's about half the size, and twice as loud as the others. One tiny little solid white one from the latest litter, that, up 'til yesterday, hadn't learned the rules of piglet traffic.
This one is either dumb as a stump, or is just a 'free thinker'. Either way, when the wave goes left, little Mr. Independent goes right. When they go right, he goes left. When they go, he stays put, and vice-versa. Sometimes, when the wave is running full out across the pasture, he runs into them head on, gets knocked down, and for a wild moment there you think he's going to get up and merge with the traffic and follow the course set by his peers. Nope. He will invariably get up and run the other way.
Most piglets seem to know there's safety in numbers. All except this one. Up until yesterday.
I had finished feeding, and pulled up my chair, per normal, to watch the babies cavort while the sows had their dinners. Watched the wave go from the little pole barn to the feeders and back again. From the little pole barn to the pond and back again. Grunting and squealing, a hundred little hooved feet kicking up enough dust to choke you to death. All except the little free thinker. He went to the feeders and back, and to the pond and back, all by himself. In his own time. At his own pace.
As a matter of fact, he was on his way back from the pond, (all the others were clustered around the feeders, weaving in and out around the sow's feet), when the sand hill cranes decided to fly over.
In my opinion, a Florida sand hill crane is the modern day version of a Pterodactyl (I just want to mention that I spelled that successfully without having to look it up. Don't ask me how.) They are big birds, standing at close to four feet tall, with wing spans of up to seven feet from tip to tip. They fly much like the Pterodactyl must have, with their necks extended, sailing on wind currents, exerting little energy except on takeoff, when the beating of their wings sounds a little like a helicopter. They make a sound that is difficult to describe. The best I can do is to say that they sound like forks scraping across a ceramic plate. Scree-e-e-e-eehc! Scree-e-e-e-eech!
This particular pair, effectively buzzed my little lonesome renegade, and the effects of that buzzing was startling.
He was halfway between the little pole barn and the pond when the massive shadows fell over him. In mid-stride he froze, and if I had been able to read his mind I suspect that he would have been thinking something like...
He dropped to his belly in the dirt and tightened himself up into as small a piglet package as was possible. Somehow, instinctively, he knew what I had to ultimately look up in the Encyclopedia.
'DIET OF THE SAND HILL CRANE: Sand Hill Cranes are opportunists, eating aquatic invertebrates, insects, worms, SMALL MAMMALS, young birds and eggs, seeds, grains, bulbs, berries, lichen and aquatic plants.
Yep, there he was, right on the menu, and out there in the middle of the pasture all by himself, and at two to three pounds maybe, soaking wet, he was little enough to be classified as a 'small mammal'.
Fortunately for him, the cranes were not looking for something to eat. I'm not really sure if they would eat him, even given the chance, as piglets are tough to catch, and probably about as easy to crack into as a coconut, but one thing's for sure, he wasn't taking any chances.
As soon as the cranes were out of 'piglet plucking' range, he covered the twenty some yards from his current location to the feeders and in the wink of an eye he had buried himself firmly into the crowd, with nothing but his little white tail showing, and even that was quivering slightly.
I sat and watched the piglets until it got too dark to see them, and from that point on, the little free thinker had become part of the wave. In fact, he became the 'middle' of the wave. He WAS the wave. He got jostled, and trampled, and run over, and I imagine that was why he abandoned the wave to begin with, but he held his ground. I guess he figured that being jostled, and trampled, and run over was a sight better than being snatched off the ground by a bird that to him was about the size of a 747.