We love bringing our piggies home from the breeder. They are ridiculously cute, exceptionally curious, and downright hilarious.
We went to the farm of one our breeders and picked out 4 Gloucestershire Old Spot hogs. It was a little muddy since, you know, rain. And the walk from the pig shelter to my truck was a little longer than I prefer. If you have never seen a piggy being handled or handled one yourself, as soon as their little hooves leave the ground, they scream. It's a scream that says, with no room for misinterpretation, "I AM GOING TO DIE RIGHT NOW! OH NO I AM DYING! DID YOU KNOW I AM DYING?!?!"
(For the animal lovers out there, which we are, this is the only time their entire lives that their feet are off the ground. From this point on, and even up to slaughter, they live an almost entirely stress free and happy life.)
So I've realized that this is what "Wee, Wee, Wee, all the way home," really means. It is not some quaint wee wee wee you do with your kids before bed to help them sleep, unless you find screaming like you're dying works for that.
When we arrived back at the farm, I backed the truck up to their paddock which is an enclosure of electric hog netting. We've only ever used hog netting with our piggies. They've always done really well and trained to the fence almost immediately. We've only ever had one escape and it was with our big boy Bubba because the fence was off and he just really wanted to lumber over to that fresh vegetation on the other side.
Anyway, you can probably see where this is going.
I climbed into the back of the truck and grabbed one of the pigs. I have a canopy on my truck, which makes getting around in a situation like this tricky. I hop up into the back of the truck and scoot toward the pigs, then I grab one around it's chest and scoot back out as it does the Porcine Death Scream in my ears and wiggles wildly with the strength of a mini bulldozer.
I hopped out of the truck and quickly set the little blighter down to avoid dropping him. He did not seem to think "Oh look a nice home prepared especially for me with a nice pile of straw over there," but rather "RUUUUNNNNN!!" And bolted for the fence-line. This has never happened to us before. The piggies always just stand there, then start mulling around contentedly until they hit the net a few times, squeal, and subsequently realize that avoiding the fence is a good idea and rarely touch it again the rest of their lives.
He immediately started running up the hill toward our neighbors house. I thought I could get him to turn around if I got out in front, but no. Pigs, you may know, are either the 2nd or the 4th smartest animal on the planet, depending on which list you look at. I locked gaze with those intelligent eyes as I put my arms out wide. He faked a move to the left like a foot tall Michael Jordan and then raced around my right side, sending us further up the hill. I'm not sure what happened at this point. I know I got in front of him; I know I somehow got on top of him and next thing, I was carrying him back down to the enclosure. I placed him back inside, and this time, he did what they usually do. Just stood there for a bit.
Ok, I thought, that happened. It wasn't too bad, we got him back, it won't happen again.
I grabbed the next piggy, determined to walk him all the way to the shelter and set him gently inside. Instead he twisted his body and I had to drop him right where I put the first one. And yes, he too was gone. In the opposite direction this time.
He was moving so fast and so determinedly down the hill toward our house that Allison gave him up for dead and was already doing the calculations for the financial loss. I just started running. I honestly never thought a pig could move like that. He had gravity behind him, but also the joy of freedom combined with the certainty of death that transformed him from a baby sausage into a full grown thoroughbred, galloping with surprising grace.
He passed the ducks without a thought, dispersed a small group of chickens who were unsure of this completely insane new animal, and headed straight for cover in our laurel hedge. A hedge that is 10 feet wide and 100 feet long.
I was in the hedge moments after he was and started pressing my way over and under the branches, trying to get a visual. I didn't see him anywhere, and reached a small break half way along the length of the hedge. I had a feeling, and popped out the other side of the hedge, where the road is, and looked down toward the mailboxes. At that moment the porcine wonder burst out of the hedge and ran straight for the main road - a very busy country road where the accepted speed limit is something like 75 mph.
Instead of racing across, he spotted me and decided to make an abrupt left turn into the ditch along the road. I had a chance to cut him off through my neighbors yard, which slopes aggressively into the waterway. I thought I got ahead of him but instead jumped down into the water filled drain just behind the pig, further assuring him that he must never stop running. This gave him an added boost of adrenaline, and now he was out of the ditch and running directly down the center of the road toward oncoming traffic, his gait becoming more sure and his stride more desperate.
There is a sharp curve on this road, making visibility limited. A truck pulled around the bend at this moment and I began flailing my arms. The pig, for it's part, ran courageously at the truck, imagining that whatever the new black beast was, it was better than the crazed farmer running from behind.
Thankfully the truck stopped, a young guy, maybe 18, got out of the passenger side and tried to take it all in.
"You don't see that every day do you?" I said, making small talk.
The pig sensed his opportunity and cut across the road and into a neighboring field. At this point I was resigned to the idea that we would be doing this dance indefinitely, until my body finally gave out. The pig ran down the slope, heading into the field, and the forest and valley stream beyond. But instead of a wide open gallop to freedom, he sunk deep into the overgrowth along the edge of the field and was stuck. He is, after all, only a foot tall.
As I lifted him into my arms, running now on meager reserves, I knew we had an understanding. He still attempted the scream but it wasn't what it once had been. It was more of a wheeze and as I started the long journey back up the hill with the bacon bit in my arms, fighting occasionally to escape, we both decided it wasn't worth it, and we wouldn't be doing it again.
The other two piggies did what they always do. They got in the enclosure, stood there and looked at each other; happy to be with friends, to have food and water, a place to root up grubs, and a nice warm shelter filled with straw with which to bury themselves for a long nap.
I, however, am still sore days later, and as you can see from this picture taken right after the events, have just a bit more gray hair.