Saturday, March 30, 2013

New Pigs - Squeal and Grunt

Fourty two and a half miles from Arkansas Children's Hospital in Little Rock is our farm- The Shamrock and Thistle Farm. For these three years past, the little postage stamp of green we call home has been devoid of that favorite of farm animals - the pig. Twenty miles north of S and T Farm lies Morrilton Arkansas nestled between two ridges of highlands between the Arkansas River and Interstate 40 on State Highway 9. Eighteen miles north of Morrilton through relatively flat plateau, past Heifer Creek Ranch (Highland Cows), is Center Ridge Arkansas and State Highway 124. State 124, scenic and smoother than one would expect, rivals, and in some cases exceeds State Highway 9 for its sharp curves and 40 to 55 speed limit and back changes. Eight miles after taking a left on 124 in front of Nemo Vista School one encounters, to the right, a dirt road aptly, but obscurely, named with a small blue road sign at the apex of a ninety degree left hand curve, is Lost Corner Road. Aptly named because we had passed it and would have wound up lost if the directions we had been given were not so precise, "Exactly eight miles..." the farmer had said. Another 2 miles, we were told, you will see a mailbox with the farmer's name on it. "B____" and a "cedar box I built to hold my garbage in there besides the road." Two miles later, in Aaron's Jeep Grand Cherokee, we saw the mail box but no cedar box wherein the farmer "holds" his garbage. We pulled into the drive. The large split level house was abandoned. A small creek ran past it at the base of a ridge, picturesque, but no farmer, no pigs, and an eerie feeling like we had driven into the plot of a slasher movie. We pulled around the circle drive and decided to continue down this dirt road in the hopes of seeing another mailbox with "B_____" on it and the elusive cedar garbage box. About a 1/4 mile more and there it was. No mailbox, but a cedar one at the end of a dirt drive, pock marked by deep ruts and holes. In places where there was not a rut, or a hole, there were large rocks that had probably been in their places for millenia. Rain hitting the ridges that bordered this farm apparently had run down to this sunken road and washed away the top soil to reveal the boulders, that, we hoped, Aaron's Jeep was made to traverse.

I have given you this detail to not only show you where we went and how we got there (it is important to set up the end of the story in this manner) but to set up where I am going with this post.

During the hour and a half drive I mentioned to Patt that I hoped where we were going was a nice farm. We've had too many experiences in picking up animals we have bought, of driving on to a farm littered with scrap metal, garbage, disjointed buildings barely standing, over crowded with, perhaps not abused, but neglected animals that have become wild through a lack of the farmer's attention. We pulled into the drive and found beautiful scenery, a clean crisp farm with good fences, well constructed barns surrounded by paddocks with safe looking fences and gates - not the Martha Stewart kind of prissy barns and paddocks you see in the magazines but efficient and safe and clean. We are also greeted by a pack of dogs and a teenager who informed us, though we arrived at exactly 5:00 PM that his father who works an hour and a half away had not yet arrived but since his cell phone went directly to voice mail, he must be almost there. We checked our cell phone and saw that, we too, had no bars.

The teenager gave us a quick tour of the place and before too long his father pulled into the drive. We shook hands and introduced ourselves and without hesitation he put on his work jacket as the air had become cool and he walked us towards where we thought he kept his pigs. However, he instructed us to get into his old farm truck that never left his 130 acre "pasture", he driving, me in the middle and Patt riding shot gun in the single cab pickup, his teenager and our large dog crate in the back. We bounced and jiggled down yet another trail, over rocks and into gulleys, down a hill. As we came to the bottom another beautiful vista appeared to as, a valley nestled between the two ridges, a creek to the south and a large pond or small lake up top of the northern ridge. This lake, we learned, captured run off from the rain. We stopped briefly to pick up two 5 gallon buckets of feed for the hogs (to keep mama hog busy while we stole her children) and headed to the flat piece of earth on which the hogs were kept, surprisingly by a small pen of hog panels and an immaculate house which kept the piglets, and a decent sized pasture of nothing but a single strand of solar powered electric fence about knee high. Behind this electric pen were two very large boars and a couple of sows and a pack of mid sized hogs that would soon go the butchers.

The farmer, I'll call him TB, instructed his son to hop in the piglet pen and catch us two girls while Patt and I stood ready with our crate, still in the bed of the pickup, because the tail gate would not lower - the truck had over 400,000 miles. I won't tell you the make and model. If it were a Dodge I would have.

Teenager had some trouble with the lightning quick masses of muscle, so I, in my newly cleaned work coat hopped into the pen to help him. I picked out the one Patt wanted, corralled it up against one of the panels and reached for it, grabbing it by a hind leg with one hand and attempting to cradle it around its belly with the other. The little 20 pound piglet put all of her dense musculature into action and drug me to the left and right into their mud-hole. But I caught her! I leapt over the hog panel and walked her quickly, covered in pig mud to the crate and shoved her in. By this time TB had finished feeding the big hogs and had come back. He asked,

"How'd you get mud all over you?"

"The little pig went at tackled me!" I said. He laughed and hopped into the pen to catch another little girl. He wound up crouched inside their little house and with a cacophany of grunts and squeals emerged with another little black and white piglet. With of our new pigs in the crate we piled back into the pickup and bounced and jiggled back to the drive way where the Jeep was parked, lifted the crate up over the stuck tailgate and into the back of the Jeep. We closed the hatch, said our good byes and we headed home.

The inside of the Jeep smelled like hog, hog manure, hog mud, and sweat both from the two little piglets in the crate and from the big piglet driving - me! With windows cracked we headed home with the piglets screaming, squealing, and grunting the whole long way home...

And, here is Squeal and Grunt our new friends on the farm.

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