April 10, 2002

A little reminiscing "This Little

"This Little Piggy. . . " c. Ryan Rhodes, Aug. 10, 2000

Although I'm not an avid fair enthusiast, I do enjoy moseying around county and state fairgrounds when I get the chance. I like losing myself in the sights, sounds and excitement surrounding fair activities. I can even admit to visiting the assorted livestock barns on occasion. But I always approach the pig pens with a certain amount of trepidation.

Being raised within the city limits of Harmony, MN, I rarely was exposed to some of the more laborious aspects of farm life. Despite my relatively farm-free childhood, I can admit to baling hay a couple of times, running headlong into an electric fence, and being carried by a sow for about 10 feet by my groin. I've never felt the same way about the swine community since.

It was the summer before my eighth grade year and my good friend, Joe, had invited me to go camping out near his farm. At that age, the chance to go camping out in the country was a really big deal, especially when I had a horde of illicitly gained fireworks I had to dispose of before my mother found them and ran them under the sink.

Joe's father was also eager to have me come out to the farm, because it essentially meant that he would have access to another person so that chores could get done an hour ahead of schedule. However, I think he was secretly dismayed when he learned his son had invited me to go camping. At just over 90 pounds, there wasn't much I could do beyond comment on the acrid smell of pig manure. This wasn't very helpful.

Regardless, Joe's dad decided that would be a good day to move a large pregnant sow from a free range pen to the farrowing barn about 60 yards away. Joe took me over to look at the sow we were going to move. This animal was so big, I thought a buffalo had mistakenly entered the pen. To top it off, the beast was covered in mud and pig manure, which made it look like it had recently risen from a fresh grave. I was scared.

Joe's dad emerged from the farrowing barn with a length of gate and three broom handles that looked like they had been thrown into the Grand Canyon twice. I was informed that, if the sow developed an attitude, I was to give it a couple of whacks on the snout. After a few quick practice swings, I was feeling more unsure of myself than ever.

Joe's dad then handed me the length of gate and told me to use it to keep the sow from getting around me. After another quick glance at the sow in question, I wasn't sure the entire Minnesota National Guard could keep that sow from getting around me.

With Joe standing about 15 feet away from me with his own broomstick and gate, his dad worked his way into the pen to isolate the pregnant sow and guide her into our little makeshift gateway. After about 20 seconds of his dad whooping and hollering and whacking the backside of the sow with his broomstick, the sow came cruising out of the pen with pure irritation flashing in her eyes. As luck would have it, she focused 150 percent of her irritation on me. And I knew it.

In a display of dexterity never before seen by a hog, this sow reared up briefly on its hind legs and pivoted its attack directly at me. I remember seeing Joe's face at that instant. His eyes seemed to say, "I wonder what kind of flowers his family is going to put on his casket."

I wasn't licked yet: I still had my broomstick. Milliseconds before impact, I brought my broomstick down as hard as I could on the back of the sow's neck. Although the broomstick broke neatly in half, the sow acted as if I had simply scratched an itch that had been bothering it for awhile. In the next instant, the sow's snout forced its way through my gate and slammed squarely into my groin. It was at this point that the physics behind my 90 pound body versus an infinitely heavy and strong sow became painfully evident. With a flick of the sow's massive head, I found myself balancing precariously by my groin just inches away from the gnashing jaws of a very irritated sow. There was no way this could end in my favor.

After riding the fulcrum of the sow's snout for about ten feet, the beast changed direction slightly and slammed me soundly on the gravel drive. I struck my head so hard I finally saw those stars I had seen so often in cartoons. In a parting insult, the sow planted its left hoof squarely on my stomach, knocking what little wind I had left from my body. Drifting in and out of consciousness while gripping half a broomstick, I couldn't for the life of me understand the appeal of farming.

As I writhed and moaned and kicked up gravel dust, wondering for all the world if I would ever father children, Joe's dad sauntered up and stated with a matter-of-fact voice tinged with contempt, "You let the sow get by you, huh?"
So, to all you avid fair goers and 4-H enthusiasts, I salute you, and I offer up these words of wisdom: Bring along an extra broomstick. You just may need it.

Posted by Ryan at April 10, 2002 10:34 PM
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