Working with animals is a sure way to run across some interesting situations. I miss that part of my old work.
A Tale of Love and... ?
Back when my husband and I worked on a Paris, Kentucky, horse farm, we met a very nice lady who worked in the office, one Mrs. Sturgeon. She lived on a small farm of her own near neighboring Scott County, where her son kept a few Thoroughbreds he trained for the Ohio circuits. The place had once been a real, working farm, with all kinds of livestock. When we met her, there was nothing on it but horses and the inevitable selection of dogs and cats that such places invite.
Mrs. Sturgeon, however, loved to swap stories. Her favorite was from the time when her family raised hogs. On a hot summer afternoon, she pointed out the area where the pigpens had been, and where the milk cow had been kept, just general details from a happy time in her life. As we began to discuss the personalities of various pets we'd all had, the lady lit up suddenly and asked if she'd ever told us about her pet piggy. No, she hadn't, we replied, so she set in to explain.
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Miss Piggy was a Poland China piglet rejected from a litter their old sow had borne. In a time when such an animal was precious, they took the lonely, starving creature into their own home to bottle feed it. Someone decorated the little black and white spotted animal with pink ribbons and set her loose on the floor. She was so cute, they ended up keeping her as a pet. The children in the family set up such a riot when the word came that all the little ones would go to market soon, there was no question. Miss Piggy stayed.
Her allowance went far beyond mere survival. She became housebroken in a short time. The children loved to give her baths, and she loved getting them. Miss Piggy ran and played with the other pets, who showed her no jealousy or bigotry. They taught her to lead, and she wore a special leather harness for that purpose. She learned to fetch and do other tricks, for nothing more than love and sheer joy. When the family ate, so did Miss Piggy -- and the same foods.
She grew, from a tiny infant with a huge pink bow around her neck, to a sleek young sow. Eventually, she became all her genes meant for her to be: huge. The tiny, delicate hooves that had tapped merrily over the floors of the house seemed suddenly to make them groan and crack.
Something had to be done, and murder wasn't it. The family wouldn't hear of Miss Piggy being sold in a common auction. A solution was reached when a friend agreed to take her for breeding purposes -- she was a fine, well-bred potential mother -- and came to take her away. There was much crying and hugs offered to that pet pig, and many sweet carrots sent along to sooth the pet's humor.
Miss Piggy had walked into the truck at the end of a leash, making the new owner scratch his head and hide a wide grin. She did not, however, fancy a ride in the open air of a stock hauler, and let everyone know it as loudly as she could. Still, it was the best solution they had at the time.
In a few weeks, the man who took Miss Piggy away called, asking if they'd take their sow back. What on earth would make him want to give such a fine pig back, they wondered. The man sounded confused as he explained that their pet wouldn't have anything to do with the boar. She refused to have him near her, and he couldn't keep her as a pet like they had done. Further more, she had stopped eating, and refused to have anything to do with the humans on the farm. She'd even resort to rage if the chance offered, and attempt an attack for no good reason.
Mrs. Sturgeon's family loaded up and went to visit, perhaps to arrange her return. The alternative was slaughter, an unmentionable thing in light of the affection she'd gained among them all.
After they got there, someone among them gasped, "No wonder!" The stench was awful. It was, after all, a working hog farm. Very little can beat pig poop for sheer power. The methane aura lay close on all the buildings. So they made a few suggestions to the man, who was hoping to raise some fine piglets with that sow.
He was willing to try anything, he said. Gathering up some help, the farmer cornered his massive boar in a corner of a cement-floored pen. In that rude arena, the men set about scrubbing the prospective mate until his hide was clean and scentless. Then they cleaned out the breeding pen the same way. With long poles, Miss Piggy was urged into a chute that led in that direction, and given a nice cool bath. She grunted with surprise, then turned herself politely here and there to help get at the tough to reach spots.
The breeding boar, polished within an inch of his tolerance, awaited his bride. Everyone held their breath when Miss Piggy's gate opened and let her into the spotless pen.
It was love at first sight.
There were ten little black and white Poland China piggies to prove it, all in good time. And in a clean bed of bright straw, too.