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Helping pigs cheat death--in 1936. (The pig pen).

This is the story of the two hogs that should have died but did not--at least not right then.

It was the spring following a terrible harvest after the drought. We had butchered or sold all of our hogs except two sows since we knew we would likely run low on feed before the next crop came in. As the weather warmed and the pasture began to green we felt that the cows and horses at least could forage on the new growth of grass. For those two hogs we saved for breeding, however, we relied on the remnants of grain left in the corncrib. Those two went on short rations--very short--which we tried to supplement with acorns gathered in the woods and scraps from our table. Slowly they became thinner. Thin moved into gaunt. Yet to my brother Willard and me in charge of the livestock, their condition did not seem alarming. That is until the day I carried them their meager meal. They lay quietly except for their labored breathing, bundled together in a hollowed spot in the earth. I poured what feed I had into their trough. They tried to rise but tumbled back down, unable to stand or walk. When Dad returned home, he took one look at the pitiful creatures and said "They are done for. Put them out of their misery and bury them." He turned and departed, leaving the onerous task to us.

As soon as he was out of sight, Willard turned to me. "We are not going to give up on them that easily," he said. In the corner of the cluttered fruit cellar he came up with a bottle of homemade wine someone had given us years before. Then rummaging through the medicine cabinet that held bottles still from Chicago, he discovered an old vial of paregoric. What potency these two ingredients contained individually I do not know. Nor did Willard. Mixed together, however, we soon discovered they possessed notable power.

We began on the larger sow first. She looked so bony lying there. "Force her jaws open as wide as you can," my brother commanded. The half dead hog offered no resistance, and he poured nearly half the mixture down her throat. When I released her, her head plopped hard on the ground, her eyes rolled up and a noticeable quiver ran across her body. At that moment we were both sure we had finished her off. Then all of a sudden she squealed, rose to her feet and tried to walk. Quickly we sloshed the remaining elixir down the other one with almost identical results.

"They need nourishment fast!" Willard hollered. We ran to the kitchen icebox and grabbed whatever we could, including a gallon of whole milk reserved for our family supper. Those two hogs sucked up that milk and devoured the other food in seconds. Willard came up with another idea. "I think Edna Pettis separates milk from her cows and saves only the cream. Maybe she will give us that skim milk." Edna was our spinster neighbor on Pine Lake Road.

That is how we began our summer. We scavenged leftovers and garbage from all our neighbors within a mile. Those two hogs were like Scartlet O'Hara in Gone With The Wind who vowed to God never to be without food again. They would consume whatever we threw into their trough, gaining pounds to their former bony frames. Eventually the new corn crop ripened, and we kept throwing it to them. Although we had originally saved those two for brood sows, we did not breed them because they grew so huge that they would have crushed any babies they might have had. The stock dealer Who bought them could hardly squeeze them both into the back of his flatbed pickup. When he turned out of our driveway to the highway, Willard reached over and shook my hand. "Well, little brother, we did it, didn't we?" I beamed with pride and clutched the dealer's check tightly in my fist. I felt good all over.

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Author:Sarley, Warren D.
Publication:Countryside & Small Stock Journal
Date:May 1, 2003
Previous Article:My first pig. (The pig pen).
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