News from Vermont # 225 -- Emotions with an Oink
November 26th, 2010
Morse Farm Maple Sugarworks
Morse Farm Maple Sugarworks
November 26, 2010
Hello again Maple People,
I'm sure you've all heard about the cow's famous "lunar leap" but I've got a story about two little pigs trotting way up to the Horn of the Moon (for those who don't know, the Horn of the Moon is the western-most section of East Montpelier). The other day my brother Elliott drove in pulling his high-sided trailer. Elliott, East Montpelier's Assistant Animal Control Officer, had been called about two pigs that were on open range up in the Horn. The word was that they had already fully excavated one lawn and were heading for another one; folks up that way were starting to squeal about these potential new "land developments". Elliott had been told the pigs were docile and he thought they would follow grain right into his trailer. "Yeh sure" I thought, recalling a young pig I once found way out in the woods.
Some 35 years ago I was logging deep in the woods with a guy named Levi Gray. We had just had our lunch and were about to resume logging when all of a sudden a little black and white pig ambled up the nearby brook. The fat little guy kept coming toward us and ended up right at our feet, rooting around for bag lunch remnants. We knew the pig was a long way from home and needed to be returned. Although he was quite tame, he shied away when we reached to touch him and repeated attempts made him all the more shy. Pigs'll never run far like a cow or a horse but they're smart and proficient at feinting, bobbing and weaving. We spent the next half hour in a furious bout with the rascal, our leaps netting only fleeting hoof grasps and wild dives into muddy voids; our shouts of strategy echoed throughout the forest. At last Levi, the younger of our duo, made a desperate lunge that enveloped the pig. Quicker'n a flash, I clamped onto two hind feet and raised the beast into the air. Levi rushed to empty our burlap tool bag and held it for me to deposit the screaming devil into. Unfortunately our struggle was not without bloodshed; at some point in the melee the pig had bit me deeply in my left index finger leaving a scar that I bear to this day.
When Elliott asked if I'd like to accompany him to the Horn of the Moon that day, I grabbed two pair of thick leather welding gloves, thinking of my experience so long ago, and jumped in his truck. We knew we were close when we approached a small group of people gathered across the road from a lawn that resembled a war zone. Elliott backed the trailer up to a roadside bank and we joined the group of people. In the group was Sandy Conti, East Montpelier's Chief Animal Control Officer. Sandy, seasoned in cats and dogs, looked rather out of his element holding a lasso and staring down two white pigs. The pigs, one about 150 pounds and the other half that size, were very sociable. In fact when Sandy approached the larger one with his noose, the guy simply accepted it like a scratch on the rump. Having grown up around the creatures, however, I knew the futility of lassoing a pig and I think the pig did, too. A pig's head is shaped just wrong for a lasso to grasp (think roping a pyramid). Sandy's repeated attempts were met with quick circular strolls followed by nonchalant "shake offs" and all the while, Mr. Oink seemed to be laughing at us... "umphumphumphHAWHAWHAW".
We humans were getting down right frustrated with the caper when I finally suggested to Sandy that we make a halter to fit around his neck and in back of his front feet at the same time. Sandy, a complete gentleman, handed me the rope and said "Be my guest". Remembering how my grandpa would have done it, I fashioned the halter. When I knelt down and fastened it to the pig, the beast's temperment took an immediate about-face; he knew he could not escape this hitch and started screaming like a banshee. Our group, with the addition of a small army of passers-by, promptly grabbed hold and "towed" the flailing beast onto Elliott's trailer. Once there, he toppled onto his side and began crying in the most mournful way I have ever heard. The smaller pig, in the meantime, was easily caught and coaxed onto the trailer to be with his wailing friend. The wailing only stopped when we closed the trailer's tailgate and released him from the halter. We transported them to a nearby horse farm for temporary housing until the pigs' owners could be found.
They say pigs are among the smartest of animals and I'll not only agree but add "emotional" to the mix. I'll never forget the change in that guy's attitude; he went from "Let's have fun with these foolish humans" to "Oh my God, they're thinkin' 'bacon'" in the shake of a curly little tail. If truth be known, in fact, I had to hide some tears of my own over the mournful sounds I heard that day...although I'm a meat eater, I'll no doubt lay off pork for a while!
The owners claimed their animals a couple days later (not without, I might add, paying for some re-landscaping and a little pig food!). I 've always wondered how fairy tales get started..."cats and fiddles, jumping cows, falling Humpty Dumptys". Who knows, maybe years from now there'll be one about "the sobbing pig...way up in the Horn of the Moon".