A Fine Mess

I continue to fight through the big wave of tasks, hoping to make it to the calm water of next week. I keep my list with me and doggedly cross off chores, one after another. I butchered the last four chickens. I moved the sheep to fresh grass. I dropped off my truck at Mike’s house for last-minute repairs. I was feeling almost optimistic yesterday afternoon, despite the 45° F rain and high winds, when the pigs got out.

Correction: when I let them out. Sigh.

I was carrying a brimming bucket of restaurant scraps. After a summer penned in the back acres, the pigs had to be moved to the barn. Last year my three pigs at the same age had followed me and my bucket happily to the barn like dogs. Leon had watched, grinning, from the excavator. I had assumed this year would unfold similarly. Especially considering the cold, driving rain.

But no. I opened the gate, showed the pigs the bucket, they followed me with interest about three yards — and then they kicked up their plump porcine heels and lit out for the territory.

It was 3:30 PM. D had arrived ten minutes earlier to hunt in the back acres. He had paused his car at the barn to check in with me and I had told him I was about to move the pigs. “Need help?” he asked.  “No, thanks,” I replied. “They’ll follow me to the barn.” He was almost to his hunting shelter when he glanced back over his shoulder and saw five large hogs cantering and corkscrewing in all directions.

He immediately turned around. It was cold and raining with gusts of 50 mph wind. He was bareheaded in camouflage gear meant to keep him warm in a dry tent.

“Oh, you can go,” I called with false cheeriness. “Thanks, but I’ll deal with this!”

He ignored me.

The pigs were loose on twenty-two acres, and loving it. They galloped around merrily, pausing to root and to snack on raspberry brambles. The rain poured down.

It would be hard to summarize my feelings over the next hour and a half. Fury? Despair? Mortification? There was also definitely sick panic as at one point the pigs raced past D, made their way down the back of the cabin knoll, and galloped across the unfenced eight-acre back field. From where I stood on the knoll they were tiny dots heading for the nearby Olympic trails in the woods. Oh my goodness, my pigs are going to be loose on state land on the first day of hunting season!

I started to jog out through the mud in what I knew would be a fruitless attempt to head them off. I was much too far away. Then I saw D walking behind them, banging on a bucket. I had been sure they would follow Leon’s high berm into the state forest but, thankfully, pushed by D, they turned and galloped back.

I tried everything I could think of. Bribing the pigs with food. Driving them with a stick in my hand. Pulling their electric fencing and resetting it in a new area. I even carried out fresh cow manure, always a pig treat. Nothing worked.

Just looking at D, standing in the rain and wind, smote my conscience. Though I was wearing a thick jacket, my hands were numb and my nose was streaming in the cold. Every ten minutes or so I would yell to him, “Why don’t you go get warm?” or “Thanks! You can leave now! I’ll figure it out!” or even “Go ahead, you’re missing your hunting!” (Though why any self-respecting deer would have ventured out among rampaging hogs, I don’t know.) He never bothered to reply.

In fact, he said almost nothing to me, though I did hear him swearing fluently in conversational tones to the pigs. I believe he mentioned something about turning his muzzleloader on them, the stupid, effing #*($%#*&#s.

It was 5:15 PM. We were tired, cold, and wet. Dusk was starting to fall when we finally succeeded in getting the last unruly pig into the barn. I threw the doors closed. I herded the big pig into the sheep stall to join her brothers and sister. Then I opened the barn doors again.

D was standing there, looking at me, his mouth twisted satirically. At last he spoke.

“No, thanks, they’ll follow me to the barn?”

I was an idiot. Thank you, D.

4 Responses to A Fine Mess

  1. tricia park says:

    OMG I was laughing so bad… DH is like, what is so funny- he was not saying anything funny but was talking about something sad. I read him your story. He said ours did that remember. DS said which ones and which time????
    Pigs are way too smart and crafty. Now if they had the small brain like a chicken, leading them along and loading them would be so much easier. course they would just get confused and lay down- like hens can often do.
    So glad they are loaded and headed out.
    Yup, you need a trailer someday!
    Hope things go smoother for the trip and unloading.

    • adkmilkmaid says:

      LOL, Tricia. Only someone who has been there really grasps the impossibility of herding pigs! 🙂 The guy who helped me also said flatly, “You need a trailer.” Someday!

  2. Coleen says:

    I too got a good laugh out of this one. Not at your expense, but at the memory of our own pig herding experience. It was a dark and stormy night… (okay not stormy, but cold) and I got a phone call that someone had seen “a bunch” of pigs on the side of the road a mile from here. “Didn’t know who else had pigs, so I thought I’d call you.” Long story short, they were our pigs, and we herded them back home with a four wheeler and four very nice neighbors. Same pigs were a nightmare to load when it came time to butcher them. I was fortunately away at a conference, but my husband and a good friend chased them for several hours in the rain. Such fun! But we learned a lot from the experience.

    • adkmilkmaid says:

      LOL Pigs! I think the biggest problem is that they have nothing to grab. They are shaped like smooth torpedoes and they are STRONG! My number one take-away is to create a situation where they WANT to go in the direction you want them to go… and every minute you spend figuring out your fail-safe plan ahead of time is a minute you won’t spend in fruitless running and gasping and swearing and desperation. 🙂

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