Tuesday, June 26, 2012
THE GREAT PIG CHASE
Or how to nearly get heat exhaustion on a hot summer’s day.
As all such tales begin “I had a plan…” I wasn’t feeling well last night so I went to bed without showering, telling myself “I’ll get up at 6 in the morning and then I’ll plant those two new heirloom plants in the garden before it gets too hot tomorrow, Once they are planted and I’ve fed the animals then I’ll shower.” This turned out to be a mistake. What had been a simple plan ended up being a very smelly, sweaty me.
You know what they say about the best laid plans…first I didn’t get up until 8, I simply overslept. Generally I’m up early but for some reason I snoozed two hours longer than I should have. As soon as I realized how late it was I threw on the previous day’s clothes and grabbed the tomato and pepper plants I had purchased with my “will be reimbursed, mandatory purchase” mystery shopping money along with the Epsom Salts and calcium pill for the tomato plant and headed to the garden.
The plan being I’d stick the two plants in the ground, pour some water on them, feed the animals and scoot back into the house immediately because it was already in the mid 80’s and the temperature was climbing quickly. Today’s high is expected to be 106.
While planting the tomato plant I happened to glance up at the nearby grapevines to check to see if the grapes were ripe yet. NO, in fact they were starting to resemble raisins!
What the? Ds had watered them the night before, but the ground was stone dry. “Okay, so I’ll put a soaker on them.” I thought. Only the hose for that was not connected to the house. Great, that one is behind the air conditioner in Sid Snake’s territory. Sid is a large rat snake that hangs out near the air conditioner to catch rodents and frogs every summer. He’s harmless and he helps keep the mice down so we leave Sid be. Only he has a habit of startling me and I don’t like that.
Gingerly I peeked all around the unit and satisfied myself that Sid was not home at the moment and worked with the various hoses and splitters in the area until I found the right one for the hose I needed. 15 minutes later I was back in the weed infested garden area trying to figure out why the soaker wasn’t getting water. I finally got that hose going and decided while there I’d go ahead and set the sprinkler up for the main garden. This is where I ran into troubles and an hour later ds called wanting to know where I was. I was surprised when he called because he works nights and at that early hour has usually just gotten to bed and is unconscious to the daylight world. The day before had been his day off and he’d gone to bed early so he could get up early and help me with chores.
He immediately came out to help me and scold me for being out in the heat for so long. I’ve gone down for the count twice in the last 20 years due to heat, so I have to be VERY cautious with heat. When he came out he brought me a large glass of ice water and sent me to the shade while he argued with the sprinkler system. The temperature was climbing steadily. Finally he gave up and set the sprinkler hose near the newly planted plants to dribble into the ground around them and moved the soaking hose to the next grape plant. Then he escorted me “firmly” indoors.
As we sat cooling down we discussed various things and just as ds mentioned he’d got a text from C the other day wondering how we were he received another one from her. It read “Are you home? W let the pig out and the babysitter can’t catch it. I’m in Tulsa”
C is a good neighbor who is always there every time we need her, so we couldn’t say no.
Grabbing my son’s dew rag, which at our house is a large muslin tea towel that has been twisted into a roll and then is tied around the forehead, we took off for the mile or so drive to C’s.
The teenage babysitter was woefully sitting on C’s front porch holding a handful of bread and looking very upset. She said the pig, a young pot belly pig, had gone into the woods past the pig pens when W had let both pigs out. The larger of the two had ran back into the pen, but they couldn’t catch the little one and weren’t even sure where it was at that point.
I told her to keep the four dogs there and we’d drive up the road to see if we could spot it. I then asked 8 year old W and his 6 year old sister, G, if they had a bucket of feed that the pig really liked I could take with me. The babysitter gave me the handful of soft bread she was clutching stating “C said that it loves bread.” I then asked the two kids “when you feed your piggy do you call it in a special way?” Both shook their head then the girl said “Daddy claps his hands when he feeds them.” That was what we needed to know. I reminded them to keep the dogs there and if the pig showed back up to not run at it or scream.
Then riding in the truck with the air conditioning vent blowing on my still much overheated body ds and I cruised the country road at a slow speed looking for any sign of the little black and white pig in the heavy woods. We drove the two miles to the highway to make sure it wasn’t there and then doubled back.
No pig, great the temperatures outside the air conditioned truck was now in the 90’s and climbing. We spotted a place in the barbed wire fence that was down in the area I was betting we’d find the terrified piglet. My son told me to stay in the truck until he spotted the pig and he’d go through the fence and walk the woods just past the easement clearing.
Grabbing his dew rag he plopped it over his tightly curled red pony tail and ducked through the broken barbed wire fence. Moments later he disappeared into the woods.
Within a minute he called to say the baby sitter was hollering something at him and asked me to drive down to see what she was saying.
When I arrived she was very excited. G was running around like a wild child and hollering. So much for the don’t run or scream edict. W was no where to be seen. I found out later he’d been sent to the house for a time out because he had first let the pig out, then second would NOT listen to the baby sitter when she told him to not run toward the pig.
W is a very intelligent little boy, but he has self control issues so the baby sitter had been entirely proper in removing him from the situation. I reminded G to not holler telling her the baby pig was scared and just like when she was scared and her Mommy talked to her in a soft voice she needed to talk to the baby pig in a soft voice. G settled down immediately and asked how she could get her little pig. I told her to get some more bread because the pig would like some and then if she saw the pig again to throw a small piece to it and lead it back to pen and to clap her hands softly like her Daddy did. She immediately grabbed bread from the sitter and ran into the weeds headed for the woods where she’d seen her pig. I grimaced as she did because she was dressed in a swim suit and I could see the weeds scratching her little legs. The baby sitter immediately ran after her youngest charge.
The dogs raced after her. Because we feed their dogs when C’s family travels they all know me and my come here whistle. So I whistled and all came running. I locked them in the front yard and then trudged down the road to see if I could get in front of the pig and help herd it back toward the house. At that point no one had eyes on the piglet.
Meanwhile in the heavy woods my son, looking like a very warm redheaded warrior of days gone by, was slowly making his way back toward the house searching the area that G had said she had seen the pig in. He was watching closely for snakes and other problems because this is a wildlife area, but still very nearly stepped on a hen turkey who suddenly sprang up and took flight in front of him. She startled him, but then he watched her in awe as she would fly up, then fall down like she was injured, then try to fly again. He’d seen this tactic by mother birds before so he checked the ground where she’d originally taken flight from. Sure enough, there was a ground nest of brown speckled turkey eggs not far from his feet.
As he gazed at the nest he heard a rustling in the woods next to him. Praying it was the piglet and not our friendly neighborhood cougar he slowly turned and looked toward the sound. For the longest time he saw nothing, then “what was that?” “There it is again.” Focusing his eyes in the deep shade he finally realized it was a pig tail.
There laying in the shade panting was the terrified piglet. He threw bread scraps toward it and it eagerly gulped them down. He slowly edged toward the little guy thinking if he could get close enough to it he might be able to grab it. Fighting off images of the pig feeding scene in “Hannibal” he forced himself to think “Babe” and remember the last time he’d chased a pig at his great Uncle’s as a teenager. That pig had been much bigger and all the cousins had worked together to get it into the truck, but still the pig never tried to bite anyone, so it was a good thought. He definitely did not want bit.
Just as he made his grab the pig suddenly scooted past him running toward the clearing where the baby sitter and I were wading waist high weeds in our shorts and wishing we had jeans on. By that time I had stick tights where no one wants them. OUCH!
G, who had been sent to get a bowl of water and a banana for the pig, had just got back to where we were and I told her to stay outside to the fence to keep the pig from getting out and across the road to woods we would most definitely lose him in. She obeyed for a long time. I asked her the pigs name. She said she didn’t know, that it was new.
My son texted C and asked her. We were both thinking if we could call it by name it might calm down. By now the pig was frantic and was having nothing to do with any of us. He’d catch glimpses of us and then run another direction.
We spread out in a search grid pattern and slowly worked our way back toward it’s pen. No one could see the pig anywhere. Where did it go? C texted back “Rudy.”
My son who can calm any animal down, he’s like a whisper in that way, started softly call “Rudy, here baby, Rudy.” No response.
G climbed a tree to see if she could spot her “baby”, somehow the dogs had got out of the yard and were back to “help”. I spent most of my time whistling to the dogs and praising them when they came. As I stood petting the pit bull I caught a glimpse of something running down the side of the pig pen.
At first I thought it was the first pig, that had been returned to the pen immediately, but then I realized it was the one we were looking for. It rounded the corner and was sprinting down the driveway headed for the road. I turned to tell G to run fast back to the driveway to keep the pig out of the road, or and to not let cross it to the woods on the other side.
That’s when I discovered G had crawled through the fence and was no longer where I had told her to be. She scrambled to try to get her pig, with the baby sitter fast on her heels.
The black and white piglet was in full out run, it was in the clear and headed for FREEDOM and there was no way they were going to get there in time. We were all fast on the move, but it looked like we were about to lose the piglet for certain.
Suddenly out of nowhere appeared a much larger black and white critter easily loping along. Lassie, the untrained border collie was letting her instincts kick in. You would have thought she had been professionally trained. She circled the piglet and gently cut it off from its run for freedom. Then working it as, if she’d been herding the sheep she was bred for all her life, she slowly worked the pig back to the gate to the pen where G was waiting to let it in. I couldn’t see G at that point, but my son could and he told me the little girl had suddenly realized the dog KNEW exactly what to do and had gone to open the gate for the stressed piglet when Lassie got it to that point.
The dog we’d all worked to keep away from the piglet so hard saved the day. It took her less than 10 seconds to stop the escape of the pig and to put it where it belonged. Then proudly set down by the gate to accept praise from everyone.
We all gave Lassie all the loving and praise she so richly deserved. It was now 100 degrees.
Inside the pen the older pig was busily scolding the truant piglet, who was trying to hide under the older sow. I am certain it was saying “those mean people tried to TOUCH me!”
As soon as we were certain the piglet was where it should be the babysitter said “W is in SOOOOO much trouble! I’ve got stickers everywhere and I’m way too hot!”
I told her that once everyone calmed down someone needed to explain to W that he couldn’t be letting the piglet out because it was so dangerous for not only the piglet, but for everyone concerned due to the poisonous snakes in the area and the heat.
We stayed long enough for G to show us how she could swim and do handstands in the above the ground pool then we drove quickly home.
Back at the house I moved the soaking hose while my son fixed us lemonade.
Inside I took the lemonade with thanks. My son said “Mom I love you, but you REEK! Go take a shower!.”
He didn’t have to tell me twice. I started the shower warm, and then steadily turned the temperature down to cool my body down without shocking it. I was exhausted and hungry. Not only had I not had breakfast, and it was now nearly noon, but we hadn’t fed the animals yet. Cheez!
Feeling slightly better I wandered to the kitchen looking for nutrition. There I remembered quickly what a good son I have. He had more lemonade and toasted cheese sandwiches waiting on me. He’d also already feed the animals. I am so blessed!
So as we set enjoying a good lunch of sandwiches and lemonade and cooling down we sang the praises of how important a good farm dog is. God bless Lassie or we would have still been out in 100 degree heat.
We also agreed we’d learned a lesson. Never underestimate the instincts of a herding dog.
Jan who owns three GOOD farm dogs, but was still surprised by Lassie’s skill in OK