Along with cattle and chickens, we had pigs on the farm. Hogs, pigs, swine, or porkers that needed care, smelled worse than any other animal, in my opinion
Dad butchered his choice for our table, and the meat was processed at the town locker. Mom rendered lard, and even cooked head cheese—a nauseating memory.
I carry a picture in my mind of slopping the hogs. With a huge five-gallon bucket in each hand, carried against the hip and banging into the knee, it’s no wonder my back is in bad shape today. Farm labor is exactly what the name implies.
Farm kids are expected to make animal sounds, and we needed to call the hogs to slop. “Soo-ie,” with the last syllable really high pitched, called hogs. We said “come, piggy, piggy” to the feeder pigs.
At one time, Dad kept gigantic 500-pound Yorkshire sows who put out litters of nine to fourteen piglets. The sows often laid on a few babies, and during farrowing time we kids were not allowed inside the pen.
A few were vicious animals even when they didn’t have piglets to feed. For the safety of his family, Dad didn’t keep those sows long.
The pen was west of the house, behind the outhouse and beyond the fruit trees. They gave birth in A-framed shelters that had corrugated tin roofs and were scattered throughout the enclosure.
When finances became more lucrative, Dad built a hog shed over a concrete slab east of the barn. Then the farrowing was done inside, where piglets could scamper around in clean straw, able to escape the ponderous weight of their mothers.
Dad brought runt piggies into the house. Mom swaddled the tiny pink newborns in toweling and either warmed them on the opened oven door of the kitchen stove, or near the heating stove in the living room.
It was common to awaken in the night to tiny clicks across the linoleum kitchen floor. Once they showed life, we’d bottle feed them.
One little guy survived with a gimp leg. For some reason, Dad didn’t want him to join the swine herd. We named him Tiny Tim, obviously after the little boy in Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Tiny followed us around like a puppy as we did chores.
I couldn’t stand it when he was butchered and hung up in the corn crib.
I refused to eat bacon or chops for a long time, thanks to my brothers’ taunting, “We’re eating Tiny Tim.”