A Tale of Three (Now Two) Piggies
As a young boy, I felt more of an affinity with animals than with people. A big fan of EB White, I knew I would be much more comfortable hanging out with talking pigs and mice than with the kids down the street. They seemed much more intelligent, and their lack of opposable thumbs meant that they were probably just a bad as I was at throwing snowballs or swinging baseball bats. My earliest career aspiration was to be a veterinarian, to care for my sick brethren. Noting my interest, my parents helpfully took me to the Veterinary Operation Theatre at the New York State Fair when I was nine years old. I sat down excitedly on the bench in the audience, watching through the glass window at the little dog sleeping peacefully on its back in a sterile environment, surrounded doctors in scrubs. Somehow, I had a fantasy that was all that happened in operating rooms. They gave you anesthesia, you slept, and woke up better. I didn’t quite realize that most operations actually involved cutting. I was doing ok with it, until I it looked like they were pulling something out of the dog. What it was I am not certain, as everything after that was a bit of a blur. Somewhere between that realization, the bruise I got on my head from it hitting the bench as I fainted, the taste of bile in my mouth as I threw up my snowcone as a precursor, or losing my cotton candy, which fell out of my hand as I went down and was subsequently trampled by helpful bystanders, I changed my mind. Unless I was going to open up Oneonta’s first Christian Science Veterinary Clinic, this career path might not be an option for me. I wisely shifted gears and decided one day I would become a gentleman farmer instead.
Flash forward thirty-five years. While I never attained the proper socioeconomic status for gentleman farming, I did manage to acquire 8 acres and an old barn. Slightly edited childhood dreams began to look more plausible as I started to consider living here fulltime. All around me my friends and neighbors were beginning to raise animals or grow vegetables and herbs. My neighbor Spencer told me he and his wife were raising a couple pigs for meat. They would be keeping some, and selling the rest of the pork to neighbors. He and his wife were interested in the growing movement of knowing where your food comes from. They were being very conscientious about what they fed the pigs, and were raising them humanely. Until their death, that is. I should back up for a second and say although I do love animals, I am also an inveterate carnivore. I eat all kinds of mea, and just about anything that hasn’t climbed high enough up the evolutionary ladder to use a hairdryer or have a hangover is fair game in my book. Where I differed from Spencer was that maybe I wasn’t quite as comfortable in knowing where food came from. Eating dead things is fine, but eating something you watched grow up might be quite another story, especially something that might have talked or danced in a book, cartoon or animated film. Still, I am a Gemini,and used to living a contradictory life and was interested in seeing what kind of set up was needed to raise a few animals. I went by one sunny spring afternoon to see them. Spencer brought me over to the rustic pigpen finished with rough-hewn timbers, he had built, in which wandered three of the cutest little pigs I had ever seen. White, clean, and frisky, they exuded more personality and charm than your typical toddlers and tiaras contestant with their little pink snouts. In my head, I immediately named them Wilber, Babe and, and… well, they were the only two celeb-u-pigs I could think of. The other would have to be the nameless extra for now, like one of the kids who sat in the booths at Arnolds on Happy Days. I began to have second thoughts about this whole concept, or at least my being able to do something like this, and I wondered if they let them ever sleep in the house, while telling Spencer I would definitely be interested in buying a part of one of them come fall. I reconciled myself to this by vowing never to visit the pigs again while alive (and secretly hoped that maybe one would learn to talk, write or run agility courses at championship levels before their number came up and be spared their planned fate).
Earlier this summer, I ran into Spencer in Hudson and he handed me a flyer for a pig roast he was having at the end of July. I was looking forward to it, but honestly felt a little bad for whomever the first pig to go was, hoping it was not Wilber or Babe but the nameless extra (who I mentally recast in a horror or disaster movie where, in the tradition of nameless extras, he would naturally be the first to go). The party was on one of those perfect lazy late summer afternoons. There were some people I knew, and I got to meet some of Nicole and Spencer’s great friends, family, neighbors, and their adorable kids who were running around.
There was a band and plenty of amazing food. Over a pit, near the kids tree house, splayed open, was one of the pigs, cooking away. I tried not to look at it, preferring to wait until it was cut up into something that looked a little less like it could talk if it didn’t have an apple in its mouth, but morbid curiosity got the better of me. Covered with the glaze Spencer’s wife Nicole had prepared, there was no way to tell if it was Babe, Wilber or Arnolds Extra/Victim Number One.
It didn’t really matter though, because it was delicious. I am looking forward to when the other two get butchered in the fall and I can buy some pork. After all a pig, is a pig and their meant to be eaten. I even think I might try doing something similar myself. I do like the idea of raising my own food, sharing it with my neighbors, and as an adult, I might actually feel more of an affinity with people than with animals. Unless of course, I end up with one like Arnold, the pig from Green Acres, that would be a different story altogether.