Sunday, May 11, 2008

One or two, yes, but a whole truckload?

At 75 miles per hour in one of those places where I-70 belts Ohio farmland, I got this horrible feeling of being watched. It was that kind of feeling that compels you t sit up straight, be more honest (and slow back down to the speed limit). I flashed through the mirrors for a patrol car. Nothing. Then a weird smell came into the car through the air conditioning vents. I went back to that semi-truck in the net lane over. These were the laughing faces behind that evil smell.

It was a semi-truck with a trailer full of goats! The truck had a banner sign saying all kinds of wonderful things about Dalmatia Рnot that place in troubled Croatia, but the happy little Ville of Dalmatia, PA. These were those naughty full-sized milking goats, not those cute little Nigerian Pigmies that they bring to the petting place at the county fair. With a population of just over 1500, who would have ever thought that someone there would need a whole truckload of horned, wicked goats? Seriously now, as good as it is, how much Sainte-Maure Goat Cheese Feuillet̩ can someone eat anyway?

When the truck arrives in ever lovely and always sunny Dalmatia, PA, how would someone receive that much evil?

My own experience with receiving a large number of mean-spirited animals in the back of truck isn't very good. My stepfather decided one day that the farm would be a much more productive business if Little Doublewide on the Prairie had 30 old sows for neighbors. These old pigs would live in the gleaming, corrugated-tin sheathed pole barn that he had spent weeks building just for such a purpose.

The sows arrived in the late afternoon. It was getting cold and we hurried to offload all the pigs, give inoculations and medication, feed and water them, and get them into pens of their own. That's when the truck driver said that the other truck would be coming in about an hour or so.

"What truck?" I asked.
"You know, the one with all the piglets." The horrible, fuzz-faced delivery man said.
"Hundreds of them."
"How do you which piglets go to which sow?"
"As soon they're off the truck," he said setting another cigarette on fire, "I don't care."

Those piglets turned out to be little squealers that fit perfectly into your hands. So I took one of them out of the truck and showed it to the first sow. She snarled at it and tried to bite the whelping little white Hampshire in my hand. Like humans, pigs come in every size and shape and color. Simple pattern matching would not reunite the piglets with their mothers. Something else was required.

My step dad eventually decided that piglets would be just smart enough to find their own mothers, so he took wire cutters and cut little pet doors in each of the sow's pens. The he released the entire lot of piglets at once. There was squealing. There was oinking. There were even piglets bucking like broncos at the rodeo. It took about fifteen minutes, but all the piglets found their own mothers. It took a little longer for those piglets who tried to trade UP and get a better mother, but in the end peace and harmony reigned as each piglet found his or her own teat and settled in for a meal.

There was an unintended consequence of having those perky pet doors in the sow's pens. The exercise yard my stepfather built for the pigs had food, water and even a couple of things for them to play with in case they were bored with the placid agrarian routine of eat, poop, and reproduce. Unfortunately, the floor was made of dirt and pigs have snouts honed by years of evolution to dig really well. And dig they did, but The Great Pork Jailbreak is a matter for another post.


Maria said...

I grew up on a farm in Iowa. We had pigs, goats, cows, horses, chickens and even a few sheep.

It was my job to bring our dinner scraps to the pig sty each evening after dinner and it genuinely scared me. They would see me coming from hundreds of yards away with my pail and start butting against the fence rails. Ugh.

I liked the goats though. Still do like goat milk, goat milk yogurt and especially goat milk cheese.

TerriRainer said...

OMG! I remember your story about the pigs under the double wide! Great stuff!

Will anxiously await the tale of The Great Pork Jailbreak!

:) Terri

Lavinia Ladyslipper said...

Wow, what an interesting post. I had no idea that baby piglets could find their own mothers...what an ingenious idea your step dad had.

We stayed on a working farm once, years ago, it was one of those farm holidays that they used to offer up here in Canada. Maybe they still do, who knows.

It was near Mennonite country...

The farm had cows, pigs, and chickens. The chicken barn was always locked and no one allowed in, on account of keeping it infection tree (they told us). It smelled horrible. So did the pig barn. The barn didn't have any lights on inside; the farmer told us that lights made the pigs go crazy. I felt sorry for the pigs living in darkness; surely there is a way around that?

THe cows wandered about the was a pleasant holiday; except for the smell!

Mrs4444 said...

You are a talented writer, Skeeter; I love the intro and look forward to the escape story...