Our farm is fenced for cattle. The corral was not hog-tight, but when
neighbors gave our children a bred gilt we added temporary barricades, a roof
shelter and straw for bedding. “Porky Pig Vemer Gerard,” they named her. One
Sunday morning Porky’s sanctuary was empty!
Chub found where she had overturned the clumps of straw in her makeshift
shelter and rooted her way out under the good wire fence. Perhaps this cozy
spot was no fit place for her to have her first babies? Rain in the night
obscured her tracks, so Chub walked over to the stalk field before breakfast
but reported, “There’s no sign that Porky Pig has been there.”
After church and lunch, Walt, Nancy and I joined the search, and we spread out
searching in the woods east of the house. I warned the kids that Porky was
probably not the usual tame pet she had once been and that they should stay
back if they found her. Finally, the four of us met and talked about
motherhood and brute instinct. Resting on a downed tree trunk we debated, “If
you were a mother-to-be pig, where would you find better shelter and more
privacy for delivering those first babies?”
“Looks like we’ll have to let her starve until she comes up for food and
water,” Chub said, and we started walking back to the house. Suddenly Chub
nodded sideways and said, in a hushed voice, “She’s over here!” Our
mild-tempered Porky Pig Vemer Gerard, motionless, snarled at us as she cuddled
seven pink, sleeping babies. Instinctively, she had made a cozy bed under a
cedar tree’s low branches; fallen cedar needles insulated her brood from the
cold, muddy ground. I wonder if she knew the day before that they were inside
She eyeballed us as unwanted strangers, and we stood back. “Christmas Tree --
that’s your new name,” Nancy shouted. I shushed her and Chub said, “We’ll
have to put a ring in her nose so she’ll stay where we want her to stay.” We
put her and the seven babies in the lot the following weekend.
One afternoon when we returned from work, there was Christmas Tree, turning
sod upside down with her snoot. She had undoubtedly spent the day ruining part
of the expensive new alfalfa field to get grubs and other earthy goodies. We
chased her back into the lot and drove stakes to block her escape route.
“You’ll get rings in your nose, Sunday,” Chub said.
On Saturday, he made a loop in the end of a long piece of No. 9 wire, hunted
up the pincers and the sharp copper pieces to clamp in her nose.
Early the next morning, Nancy and Walt hung on the board fence to watch the
show. Chub and I finally trapped Christmas Tree in the corner of the lot and
pressed our bodies against hers, holding her motionless against the fence.
When Chub slipped the wire loop over her snout, all hell broke loose!
Christmas Tree screamed bloody murder, her seven squealing porkers scattered
in every direction. Nancy cried, and Walt couldn’t look. Pincers. Ring. Snap.
One ring in. Then another and another. We released her, and instantly it was
Ringing the hog was harder on Chub, the kids and the seven porkers than it was
on Christmas Tree. As for me, I’m a mother, and mothers accept what has to be
done. I’ve never known why Sunday morning is the time for castrating, clipping
eye teeth and ringing hogs’ noses but Dad did these things on Sunday morning,
too, and Mom never questioned it. Why should I?