One sunny morning two springs ago, I was sitting at my computer when my son (who was home from school for the day with a nasty cold) came up to me and, while looking out the window said, “Mom, there’s a pig in the yard.”
I, without even looking up, replied, “No, there’s not.”
“Well,” said he, “then it’s a weird looking dog.”
I looked up this time, glanced out the window, and said, “Actually it looks more like a sheep.” At which point I returned to my writing, hoping this pig/dog/sheep would just go away.
In fact, though it had been heading east, into the fields and away from our yard, it suddenly turned around and headed back into the greener pastures of our front lawn.
I told my son to get the binoculars.
After applying said instrument to my eyes I saw that my son’s initial judgment was correct. It was indeed a pig. In my yard. Uninvited.
After going out on the deck and confirming – on film, even – that the pink creature appeared to be here to stay, I began to wonder what on earth I was supposed to do about it. Doing nothing seemed to be a very bad option. So did chasing it into, say, the garage.
I chose to get a second opinion.
Now there will be some of you who, if you’ve been reading me for long, know exactly who I called first. That would be the same person I called in the skunk vs. cat issue and the pheasant-though-my-front-window incident. That’s right: my husband.
It’s not that I’m an incapable woman, unable to handle things on my own or to think for myself. It’s just that, when faced with the bizarre or stressful, he’s the guy I’m glad to have on my side.
That and I always value a second opinion.
That and I don’t always have very good first opinions.
The phone rang in his office. Given that when I usually call it’s nothing exciting, he can’t have had any premonition of weirdness. That’s what makes these phone calls to him so fun.
Me: “You’re never going to believe what’s in our front yard.”
Him: “Not another window-breaking pheasant?”
Me: “No, but the animal kingdom is a good place to begin.”
Him: “Tell me.”
Me: (Wanting to play the guessing game a little longer but, realizing that I’m interrupting him at work, I capitulate.) “A pig.”
Him: Silence. And then laughter.
The upshot of the deal was that I called our three farmer neighbors who have pig barns – none of which are closer than ¾ of a mile away – and none of which were home. I then called our other neighbor over the hill and asked him if he just maybe knew anything about it. He didn’t.
I then called the sheriff, because it just seemed like the thing to do.
I was watching the pig out the window through all my phoning. He had found a nice little shady place beneath some pine trees that he kinda liked.
I couldn’t help but think of Wilbur. And Babe. And bacon.
The sheriff told me to phone around – as I had done – and that, if no one claimed him within a week, the piggy was ours.
“A week!” I thought, hanging up the phone. “What am I supposed to do with a pig in my yard for a week?!”
Well, as the day went on, one neighbor called, and, having established that the errant pig was not a baby, (“No,” I said, “he’s way bigger than that.”) he said it couldn’t be theirs.
We kept watching him. Sometimes he’d disappear only to show up again an hour later and return to his cool wet place under the trees.
Finally another neighbor returned my call and, sure enough, they’d sold some pigs that morning and it was possible that one of them escaped without notice.
They came over on their ATV. They searched. And searched. He was nowhere to be found.
A very large part of me was rooting for Wilbur at this point. I’d taken a shine to this wayward porcine. I had visions of him trotting off into the sunset, a smile on his face, savoring every breath of free air afforded him. “This is the life!” he thought (in my imagination), “freedom and the open road!”
But then they found him – so far under the pine trees that none of us had seen him – dozing the afternoon away.
He was rudely awakened.
And ran. And ran.
More help was brought in. Help that carried a gun.
All my imagined stories came crashing down. I didn’t want his break for freedom to end this way.
But, the truth was, he was “compromised”. He was out of the carefully controlled habitat that is required for piggies, which meant that he could not be sold commercially. He could either A) turn into a 4-H project or B) be shot. I don’t think that A) was ever really an option.
By this time my daughter had gotten off the bus and my son had filled her in on all the excitement.
We made sure they were both in the house when the shot rang out from the back yard.
The writer side of me wants a better ending to this story. Wants to turn it into a children’s picture book, with talking pigs and wise, encouraging birds. Wants to illustrate him – a bandana tied to a stick over his shoulder – as he trots away across the fields.
But sometimes reality gets in the way of all that.
I know that the truth of the matter is he would never have survived, had he wandered off and eluded his farmer.
But still, it makes me sad.
That’s why I write fiction. It’s much easier to control than real life.