Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Another Laughable Piece Of Our Family's History

Here is a continuation of a few stories that my Dad wrote about our experiences with pigs.
In my humble opinion, it's not as funny as the first one, but I think you'll get a laugh or two from it. Enjoy!

We got our piglets home and into the pen. The problem now was what to feed them. We did what most people would do in that situation; we went to a local feed store and bought a bag of pig chow. Kim and I had heard of all of the nasty things that happen on a commercial hog farm like feeding pigs hormones, anti-biotics and animal bi-products, not to mention forcing them to live in cramped, polluted quarters. After I had fed them a few times I finally read the ingredients on the bag. The first ingredient listed was Bacitracin, which I knew was a topical antibiotic for humans. The rest of the ingredients read like a Twinkie's bar.
I called around on Monday and could only find one local feed store that sold un-medicated hog feed. They mixed it themselves and it was relatively cheap, so that was that. Watching them eat it, I noticed that it seemed pretty dry and would get up their snouts, making them sneeze and cough. I told Kim that the book says that pigs love milk, so wouldn't it be great to find a supply of milk to add to their feed. I started the next day by going to a major supermarket in town. I spoke to the dairy manager and asked him what they do with expired milk. He said that long before it expires they pour it down the drain, several gallons every day.

I asked if I could come by sometimes and get a few gallons before they threw it out. He asked what I needed it for. When I told him I was raising hogs I got the usual raised eyebrows, followed by the, but why? look. "Nope", he said, "Can't do that". I asked him why not. He said that if I got sick from drinking it, the store could get sued. "But I'm not going to drink it", I said, "the pigs are". "How do I know that?", he asked, "Because I just told you", I said. Obviously in the world of food regulations my word wasn't good enough. I tried again to reason with him, but to no avail.
It was the same story at every store I went to. Finally, almost as an after thought, I stopped at our local family owned grocery store. Here the manager was interested in my endeavor and we talked for a while about it. He told me about how his father had raised hogs when he was young too. He agreed to give me whatever day-old milk they had on hand whenever I stopped in, and wished me luck. After that I had an endless supply of milk to go with my all-natural feed. Our two pigs got a gallon at each feeding, which they devoured; like pigs.

This went on for a couple of weeks. Owning livestock was a new experience for us and was not at all like I expected. It was somewhere between having pets and children. You feel obligated to check on their well being far more often than a pet, I mean after all you're going to eat them. Whenever we would come back home we would drive the van through the pasture back to the pig pen to check on them. They would always run scared to the back of the pen, then once they recognized us they would come galloping up towards us, their ears flapping over their eyes as they ran.
One night we came home late. I drove to the back of the pasture and pointed the headlights into the pen; no pigs. Kim and I got out with a flashlight; we climbed over the hog-wire and started looking around. There was no sight of them until we got to the very back, where the pen started to slope downhill. Here we found them both dead. It was a tragic sight, something or some-things had clawed them completely from head to hoof, they had even ripped the tough skin open in several places. We stood there looking at them for a minute trying to make sense of what had happened. I figured it had to be wild dogs, because coyotes would have at least made a meal of them
We now had our second big failure as self-sufficient homesteaders. If it had not been for the impending Y2K question we might have given up. Instead we spent all day on Saturday raising and re-enforcing the hog wire fence, doubling its height in the process. This was something that we wanted very badly, something that we felt like we were being led to do. On Sunday we drove back to Mr. Floyd's.

So now we had two more piggies, encased in a virtual fortress of hog and barbed-wire. Up to this point we had discouraged our dogs from hanging around the pen, we weren't sure if they posed a danger to the pigs or not. Now, however, we would bring them with us whenever we went back there in the hope that they might patrol that area of our land while we were away from home. The extra-high fencing would also keep them at bay if their tastes ever turned to pork. One morning before work as I was walking the feed bucket back to the hogs. Abbie, our German Shepherd, went with me. While I was feeding the pigs, Abbie began to lower her head slowly and she got very stiff. She then started a long low growl that made the hair on the back of my neck stand up. She was staring into the woods beyond the pen. When I looked in that direction all I could see were trees. But then I could barely make out two white figures on all fours standing perfectly still, looking at us from about 75 yards away. I could see that they were two neighborhood pit-bulls, who had obviously been sneaking up to the pen when they heard us coming. I told Abbie to go get them and she took off running, growling and barking. The pit-bulls took off and thankfully we never saw them again.
Mr. Floyd had told us to make sure we wormed the pigs after a few days. Of course we said o.k. not knowing exactly what he was talking about. After it looked like our newest ones would live we called the vet again. He arranged for us to come by and pick up a couple of syringes. He noted that these were sub-cutaneous wormers, where you needed to pull up a flap of skin and inject it, avoiding any muscle. It just so happened that the day we were going to worm the pigs, Kim's brother David showed up at the house. I was kind of surprised, especially since it had only been a few weeks since the pig incident. As he walked into the house he looked at me and said Killed any pigs today?" I just smiled and said, "The day's not over yet", and what follows is the second reason of two that David does not come to our house much any more.

I told him he was just in time to help me worm the pigs. "No way", he said. I explained that these were just two little 30 pound piggies in a relatively small pen. All we had to do was hold them down and inject them with the medicine; he could take one and I would take the other. After a while of arguing he finally relented and agreed to help. We went back to the pen and David and I climbed in. It did seem like a much less intimidating task than the prior fiasco in Alabama. That is until we tried to catch one.
Pigs are fast. David and I spent about five minutes just trying to get close to our individual pigs. They would wait until you were about three feet from them and then burst away in trail of dust. The feeling began to get all too familiar. "Alright", he said, "I'm not doing this again". We agreed to focus on one pig at a time; we would both catch it and I would hold it while David injected it. Even this took several minutes of chasing and squealing, until finally David had one blocked from the front while I snuck up from behind. I leapt onto the piggy's back and then held on for dear life.
It was like jumping onto a small rodeo bull. It's amazing the strength of an animal that small. I was shaking and rocking; the pig was squealing for it's life and David was standing there enjoying it all. "Come on, Come on!", I yelled. David laughed and got down on his knees next to the little pink hog and I. "Quit moving, I can't stick it if you're moving!", he said. "Quit moving!?, Are you kidding!?" I struggled to hold onto the pig, his thorny little hairs made It feel like hugging a porcupine. David was having trouble pulling out the skin while trying to inject it at the same time. I had a good grip, so I pulled out some skin for him. "There, go go!", I said. David pushed in the plunger and we were done, I jumped up and Mrs. Piggy ran to a far corner.

"You're right, this is easier than running a pig down dead", he said with a smile. I took a few minutes to catch my breath. Kim gave me the other syringe and we started trapping the second one. Of course this was going to be much harder since she had already seen what had happened to her sister. After about five minutes, David was standing behind a tree while I ran her by. He jumped on her back and the pig went crazy. He didn't think it was nearly as funny as when I was holding my pig down. "Go, Go!", he shouted. I had the same problem of trying to get a piece of skin, the pig was so tense that its skin became as hard as steel. "I can't get any", I said. David was being thrashed about, the pig was screaming a long ear-piercing screech and I was fumbling for just a little piece of skin.
David finally pulled out a piece for me and I quickly jabbed it and pushed the plunger down when suddenly the needle bounced off. I quickly stuck it in again and pushed it the rest of the way. Another scream rang out, but this time it wasn't coming from the pig, but from David. "Ow!! That was me!!", he yelled, as he sat up and the pig ran off. "Uh oh", I heard Kim say from outside the pen. David was holding his hand and looking at me with a half-crazed grin that said "You did that on purpose". I realized that the first stick of the pig was actually a stick of the brother-in-law. I asked him if he was okay, but he just climbed out of the pen and started walking towards the house. Kim was checking his hand and wondering out loud if pig-wormer could be dangerous to humans.

Again Kim called the vet. I could just see his assistant telling him those crazy pig-people were on the phone again. He assured us that there was no danger to humans. Even David agreed that there was some consolation in knowing that he would be worm-free. We see him mostly at family gatherings now, and though he still does all of our heating and air work, he prefers to come over when he knows we won't be home.

I hope you enjoyed that story, I always do when I go back and read it.

With smiles,


  1. That was a great story! THank-you and your dad for sharing it!
    I wonder why we have never "tried out" pigs... :)

  2. Oh my goodness, Livvy! I can see it all so vividly in my head lol:) Pigs are great - they really are, though none of ours have died on us - hopefully they never will! We're going to get 9 in the Spring!!!

    Thanks for sharing,

  3. You got a Blog Award! Go here for Rules:
    God Bless!
    Love the story :D

  4. Funny story! Your poor uncle! And the poor pig's!