Young Pigs in Love


img_20161220_155021037-1Generations of homesteaders and farmers have relied on hogs for food, field preparation, waste disposal, and occasionally, companionship. The little buggers have personalities better than most people you will meet. Who knew a Christmas present would turn into a love affair?

A few days after Christmas, the entire tribe climbed into the War Wagon for a two-hour drive to buy a replacement rabbit for my youngest daughter. Unlike the unfortunate incident with Jennifer a couple years ago, the impetus for this trek was neither my fault nor the result of friendly fire.

Death is a frequent enough visitor to the Cunha farm that I finally broke down and put up a sign reserving him a parking space next to the barn. I figure the faster he is in and out on his business, the less time he has to notice job opportunities while skulking around.

I’m giving serious thought to diversifying into a discount pet cemetery. Nothing fancy. Just a hole and a marker for the budget conscious parents of pet-owning children.

We had acquired Winter at our local co-op. She was on consignment from someone who had a connection with the manager. I should have known better.

Most days you’d have an easier time asking permission to date one of my daughters than convincing me to hand over a proven breeder, but reproduction wasn’t a factor. This rabbit was to be a pet, something cute and fluffy that wasn’t destined for the dinner plate.

This is how a farm turns into a petting zoo; one sacred bunny at a time.

Putting aside my misgivings about the rabbit’s lineage, living conditions, and lack of liveliness, I relented to the pleas of the women in my life. The rabbit came with a cage and paraphernalia, so I’d break even, if it died prematurely.

It was dead inside a month from a nasty eye infection we couldn’t get under control. Mrs. Cunha has a pretty good track record of doctoring animals, but even the best lose one every now and then.

It’s just my luck that it was an eleven-year-old’s pet…and Christmas.

61c55ee6adc9f00717d5e37f06081d250ea6164726bb1b0e5apimgpsh_fullsize_distr-1I still don’t understand the vagaries of rabbit math any better than Chicken Math, but we ended up a hundred-some-odd miles away from the farm, at a stranger’s house, answering a Craigslist ad offering Lion Head rabbits for sale. Mrs. Cunha always finds something unsettling and mildly creepy about answering the Craigslist ad of a complete stranger. I revel in the Libertarian rush of two independent, like-minded people coming together for an exchange without Big Brother being any the wiser.

While Mrs. Cunha and the girls cradled bunnies and gossiped about people none of them mutually knew, the husband of the pair took me on a tour of the menagerie. Before me was an organized, well-maintained suburban homestead that offered neighbors and the Home Owners Association no substantive reason to be upset…but, of course, they were.

If availability of food ever becomes an issue, neighbors who complain about others keeping chickens will be last in line and charged three times the going rate for having been twats.

Milling about the yard amongst the chickens and beneath the elevated cages of quail and pheasant was a bristly black package of pork protein. Something about the way I watched the little boar must have clued the husband into my mild interest because the next thing I knew, I was handed a wiggling, grunting, four-month-old American Guinea Hog.

Mrs. Cunha appeared beside me without my knowing. We’ve been married long enough that she knows her presence is probably necessary when there is that much commotion and squealing going on. Even if her skills are not needed, Mrs. Cunha appreciates slapstick.

Just once in my life, I’d like to have the farm prepared for a new animal addition.

She was falling in love as quickly as I was. The feeling was second only to looking into the eyes of a newborn child. We were sure he would be delicious.

img_20161221_092635780_burst001-1I try not to hold it against people when they tilt their heads and shoot me a quizzical look at my choices in livestock. It’s not their fault the animals we husband are a tad unusual, but it does take me down a peg when someone says, “Never heard of it.”

American Guinea hogs are pigs and not available at any pet store I can think of. Your local Petco carries Guinea Pigs, which are actually rodents, but I’ve had to explain the difference several times already. English can be confusing, but this distinction eludes many people. Most folks hear “Guinea Pig” as soon as I say “Guinea” and assume we are some sort of quixotic rodent-wrangling ranchers.

Marketability is second to producing what meets the needs and desires of my family.

It’s always dangerous to draw conclusions about an entire breed based on one example. Any scientist, pollster, and jackass in a bar who says, “The rest of the world calls it football” will be quick to point out how small sample size skews and can often invalidate conclusions. Anecdotes are not data, but I’m optimistic, bad at math, and like to gamble. That’s why I play lotto, too.

Over the next couple of weeks interacting with Hamilton (named for the first three letters of the word, and not the crappy, Leftist play), his personality convinced Mrs. Cunha and me to modify his job description from “Dinner” to “Bacon Maker.”

That’s how we found ourselves on a two-and-a-half hour sortie the opposite direction to find Hamilton a couple of girlfriends.  Despite the reputation of my area of the country, we desired some depth to our gene pool.

Why is it every animal I want can only be found somewhere between Timbuktu and frickin’ Narnia?

img_20161221_092100811Muddy and mildly bruised from the extended fumble recovery drill of chasing down two gilts my wife and daughters selected from the dozen or so available, I sat in the front seat watching the landscape roll by and daydreaming of the little black, wiggling piglets in my future. The new additions to the farm grunted back and forth between themselves, nestled in a bed of hay in a wire dog carrier in the far rear of the passenger compartment.

“I’m hungry,” came a call from the middle row of seats.

“Holy crap. The pigs can talk,” I said, turning my head toward my wife. Mrs. Cunha shot me the stink eye. It dawned on me that I was playing with fire.

The reason there aren’t very many comediennes is because, as a general rule, the female of our species largely lacks a sense of humor.

Hamilton’s new girlfriends, already christened Petunia and Baby Girl by my daughters, must have smelled the delicious aroma of fast food as we pulled into the drive-thru. I could hear my porky piglet producers rouse themselves inside their pen. Their chattering increased the closer we crept to the order board.

I was busy with the continual internal debate of whether my fat ass would survive skipping Going Big or Super Sizing or whatever this place called their sneaky attempt to pry an additional dollar from my clenched fist in exchange for ten cents more worth of compressed potato flakes and sugar water when the squawk-box fired auditory shrapnel through the driver’s window.

Despite having visited a drive-thru literally thousands of times in my life, the voice burst is always jarring. Maybe it’s the screechy tone. Maybe it’s the sudden blast of noise from a direction devoid of human beings. Maybe I’m just wound too tight.

Apparently, Baby Girl and Petunia are both wound a little too tightly, too.

The phrase “Squeal like a pig” has basis in reality, let me tell you.

My spastic lurch wasn’t finished before both those pigs were on their feet, banging the sides of the carrier as they ran in circles, grunting, snorting, and oinking. My daughters covered their ears with their hands against the piercing racket, as I shouted our order back at the disembodied voice.

Order placed and pulling forward to the first window please, I hoped the hay the gilts were kicking out of the cage wasn’t contaminated by anything foul-smelling enough to remind everyone of this adventure the next time we climbed in.

As the car drew up to the window, I glanced over at Mrs. Cunha, who had a look on her face that was a cross between horror and mortification. I turned my head the opposite direction, not know what I would encounter, but half expecting to find a circumstance that would require zombie apocalypse skills.

Freddy Mercury sang that fat bottomed girls make the rockin’ world go ’round.

Now, I’m between 6’4″ and 6’6″ depending on the angle of the video surveillance camera and clock-in at three hundred-none-of-your-damn-business pounds, so I realize my commenting on a woman’s size is akin to Stalin chastising Hitler on his human rights record.

Having said that, I’m going to throw a couple of stones from my glass house.

img_20161230_123607555The young woman collecting money at the window within earshot of the pair of squealing, oinking gilts in the back of my car wasn’t ugly at all. For a hefty girl, she was reasonably attractive and probably has no problem finding a ride home long before last call. She was far from a Tess Holliday, but a carb holiday wouldn’t have killed her.

Women, especially the younger ones, are self-conscious, so she probably knows this about herself.

The look of hatred coming from the chubby cashier confirmed my suspicion that she had heard my little piggies squealing all the way home. I was afraid to hand over my debit card for fear of how many customers behind me I was going to “accidentally” be buying lunch for. At minimum, each burger would be spat on before wrapping.

As I handed over my card, I saw her eyes dart behind me, looking into the back of the car. Her eyes sparkled as they widened, and her mouth untwisted from its scowl into a smile.

“What kinda pigs y’all got there?” the young lady said.

“American Guinea Hogs,” I said, my chest puffing up just a bit.

“Never heard of them,” she said.

 

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Lincoln County Warriors


Southern graduations are big events, more festive than funerals and with fewer drunks than weddings. My eighth-grader and several of her friends reached a significant milestone this week; high heels. They also graduated to high school, but they seemed more excited about dressing up.

Fast maturing girls, who the rest of the year are barely taller than an Emperor penguin, towered and tottered to the podium on DSW stilts. Grandparents beamed, mothers wiped tears from their eyes, and fathers contemplated the merits various shot sizes and patterns.

Protecting daughters, livestock, and hunting dogs are all given the highest of legal presumptions for righteousness around these parts.

Some with an old school bent performed complex mental computations for the amount of gunpowder necessary to propel a images (49)payload of rock-salt. The boys, none of whom were overly impressed by either the pageantry or the promotion, tucked in their shirttails and donned their going-to-church Cabela’s caps for their first formal function.

Despite the “too cool for school” shuffle across the basketball court parquet, each of them understood half the audience was taking bets on who would stumble. That’s probably why they strode so deliberately. Where I live, it’s an even money bet any of these kids will be a graduate again, so nobody wants to be remembered as the dumbass who face planted in the gym as the final act of grades K through eight.

I understand being proud of your child who graduates the eighth grade, especially on the first attempt, but I would have preferred to have held applause until all the diplomas had been distributed. Row by row the students stood in unison and queued up for their name to be called in alphabetical order.

Once they called my kid, I was out of reasons to be there. And by the time they got to “P,” I had completely lost interest.

My hands tingled by the end of the second row and were completely numb by the fifth. With the loss of feeling, all I could do to show support for the last couple dozen kids was slap my flippers together like a circus seal.

As the Zimmerman twins collected their sheepskins, all I could think was, “Thank the sweet baby Jesus laying swaddled in a feed trough that this torture is over.” The hard wooden bench of the hide-a-bleacher pulled away from the gymnasium wall for the occasion had numbed my ass as thoroughly as the continual clapping hand numbed my hands. I hadn’t ridden that much pine since I played basketball in middle school.

images (50)I was beginning to get the feeling back in my legs when the first of five Homeroom teachers took the podium with a thick stack of award folders, which the crowd quickly learned contained certificates suitable for framing.

Now might be an appropriate time for some mathematical computations. The gym had seven rows of fifteen graduates fidgeting on folding metal chairs. By my math, that’s 105 teenagers who managed to not touch their cell phones for an hour and a half. I suspected they might have been confiscated, but I clearly saw several outlines in pants pockets. What surprised me even more was approximately fifty teenage boys went an hour and a half without noticeably scratching their nuts.

What I’d like to know is when did it become possible to make the Honor Roll with B grades?

This “A/B Honor Roll” phenomenon confuses me. It really seems like standards are slipping with awards like “Highest Score in Week Twelve of Fourth Period Spelling Re-Test” are passed out. It felt like an attempt to give every graduate an award. I figured the diploma was the award, but since everyone was getting one, it wasn’t sufficiently unique. The plan might have worked out had it not been for a half dozen overachievers who hogged up multiple awards. One of those high-aiming turds cost my little girl “Best Essay Comparing and Contrasting the Series Mortal Instruments and The Infernal Devices.”

images (51)Don’t get too high-and-mighty, Olivia Wilson. Big boobs and Daddy’s money will only get you so far in life. I’m sure you will have a successful career at Little Rosie’s Mexican Taqueria after your second or third unplanned, teenage pregnancy.

There were also awards for a bunch of things I had never heard of, which I suspect are pushed by the federal government in exchange for money from Uncle Sugar.

The one award I recognized, perfect attendance, was ironically enough awarded to a kid who wasn’t able to make the ceremony.

As part of the graduation weekend festivities, we all piled into the War Wagon and headed to Fayetteville for some antiquing. The Fayetteville town square is home of the Lincoln County Courthouse, Probation Office, and by my count, six thousand or so antique shops, each housing booths for several dozen junk vendors…uh, I mean purveyors of finely crafted masterpieces.

I blame those Frank and Mike guys from The History Channel for convincing everyone with a pickup truck and access to their Grandmother’s attic that they are high-end antique dealers. For the most part, I came away believing “antique” is a fancy word for “garage sale.”

One of the shops was a standout with a couple of furniture pieces I gave serious consideration to purchasing, if I wasn’t anticipating one last move in the next year or so. My wife bought a bone china tea service that while pretty is more or less lost on me.

images (52)For reasons that are not entirely clear to me, I nearly bought a scythe. I have two electric and one gas string trimmer in my garage which probably do a much better job, but the scythe seems like something I should have for no better reason than the macabre imagery. It would be a hell of a conversation piece over my fireplace.

Instead of the scythe, I bought a draw knife that I want to experiment with.

At seven bucks, I won’t feel bad if I ruin it. I don’t believe in owning things I can’t or won’t use.

I use my Grandfather’s handsaw. I use my other Grandfather’s felling ax. My wife and I use my Grandmother’s silver tea service. My favorite hunting rifles are literally over a century old, and if I do my part, will shoot circles around the kids toting the latest Plastic Fantastic.

Disappointment weighed more and more on my shoulders as I shuffled from store to store asking in vain for Meerschaum pipes. I’ve smoked a pipe since my mid-twenties and have what I would call a functional supply of briar pipes. Believe it or not, you have to let wooden pipes dry out because they absorb condensation from the combustion of the tobacco. You can actually hear the pipes gurgle from the accumulation of moisture.

573453257_tpMeerschaum pipes aren’t prefect. They gurgle, too. The joy of a Meerschaum is that it is smoking a work of art. Each of the stone pipes is hand carved  by an artisan, and if you seek out the old ones like I do, you can get the additional enjoyment of making people nervous because the carved images are often risqué, politically incorrect, or both.

A ribbon of smoke curling from the top of an African Hottentot’s head is one of life’s litmus tests to screen out Liberals.

There was no joy to be had in Fayetteville. Of the handful of shops with pipes, every single one was what pipe aficionados divisively call “drug store pipes.” Literally, the types mass produced on automated lathes. They are the Yugo of the pipe world.

Luckily, I was able to indulge another of my offensive vices; Confederophilia. The Fayetteville Courthouse boasts a memorial to the three thousand sons of Tennessee from Lincoln County who fought in the War of Northern Aggression. There was no mention of how many didn’t come marching home to suffer the subjugation of Reconstruction.

Let’s not forget to remember these men this Memorial Day.

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