Chub called back, as he started to work, "Would you take eight or 10 ears of corn down to Christmas Tree?"
I’m still a farm girl at heart, and I like being needed around our place. Today I’m needed by the kids’ pet pig. She rooted out under the lot fence, leaving her shelter with its nice bed of straw to hide out in the woods alone.
Could she possibly have known that babies were inside her? She was given to our Nancy and Walt by a neighbor who found her lost in his cornfield. Porky Pig Vemer Gerard, the kids called her. She and Red Gilt, a Christmas gift for Uncle Archie, who lives with us, had no contact with other hogs except the brief breeding experience. That didn’t teach them about delivering or mothering!
Somehow Porky felt she needed to be alone.
All four of us searched the woods for the missing gilt, and we warned the children that their pet might be a vicious animal if she had babies to protect.
We were tired and about to give up the search when Chub said, "She’ll come up when she’s hungry."
Walking back toward the house, Chub stopped suddenly and whispered, "She’s over here."
She was bedded down on dry cedar needles in the shelter of a clump of cedars with babies - lots of babies! The pet pig snarled and snorted at us without getting up. Nancy immediately renamed the pet "Christmas Tree."
There had been 13 piglets, but two were mashed. Actually, counting again, there were only 10 live babies, including the usual runt.
Nancy said, "I want that puny one for my very own."
This morning, as I approached Christmas Tree’s nursery with a bucket of corn, I was cautions not to cough, sneeze or clear my throat. Tthat young sow had accepted the responsibilities of motherhood, and she had an enormous litter to protect. I found the whole family sleeping in the warm sun. When I poured the corn into her old metal pan, Christmas Tree snorted and sprung up, scattering those 10 pink, squealing babies hither and yon. Then I took the bucket down to the creek and dipped up water. I skirted around beds of violets and enjoyed walking on some spongy green moss and last year’s wet leaves. Oh, the wonderful smell of the rain-soaked woods in spring!
It was just a few months back that I chopped out a big square chunk of ice at that same hole of water so the thirsty cattle could drink. While the young sow drank, I again counted 10 babies; all were doing well. Chub will drive Christmas Tree up to the barn lot when her brood can run along following her.
Returning to the house, I smelled cigar smoke and heard the old cane rocker creaking. Uncle Archie, 81, was happy. He heard the door close and called to me, "My red gilt had 11 babies in the night." He followed me out to see them.
We’re cattle people, but with Christmas Tree’s 10 survivors and Red Gilt’s new family of 11, we’ll need more shelter, a water line to the barn lot and hog fences to keep 21 new porkers from rooting up the pastures. We’ll all share the chores until the newcomers are ready for market. Uncle Archie’s in seventh heaven because he was a farmer with both cattle and hogs many decades ago.