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Turning A Sow’s Ear Into A Silk Purse

“Have you ever raised a pig?” the old man asked me. “Why yes I have,” I said with a smile. Like most people who listen to my rants, he didn’t believe me, but I was telling the truth… this time.

Her name was Pinky. I was in my late twenties. I was living in Adeline, Illinois, renting an old farmhouse, trapping and hunting to help make ends meet. The house was empty when I first saw it, and I bugged the landlord over and over until he let me move in. He told me not to go up to the third floor in the old house. It took me a few days to look up there. In the center of the room was a beehive, full of honey bees. Next to the hive was a basket of dinner rolls– not very old, I might add. I went straight to the landlord. “You went to the third floor.” he said with a smile. “The railroad goes right by the back of the house, and the hobos put the beehive up there.”

“What about the dinner rolls?” I asked.

“From the bakery down the line,” he said.

I went home, locked the door to the third floor, and never went up there again.

Anyway, the landlord was a pig farmer. He saw us struggling to get by and gave us a piglet– maybe twenty pounds and cute as a button.

“Feed her this corn for fifteen weeks or so, then call this guy on the card I’m giving you, and he will take care of things. You will have enough meat to carry you through the winter,” the farmer said. The next spring, the farmer asked me about the pig. “You want to see her?” I asked.

“That pig is still alive?” he asked in disbelief.

I opened the barn door and let him in. “Come here, Pinky!” I hollered. She came running to me, and when the farmer looked at her, he started laughing. He laughed until he had to sit down. “I should have you raise my pigs,” he said after he caught his breath. In the ensuing days, the farmer paraded many of his friends through the barn to have a look at Pinky, always resulting in tears of laughter.

I kept that pig for a few more months. She was very smart, like a loyal dog. So one day I decided to let her out of the pen, thinking maybe she would like to roam the yard a little. She came over to me, licked my hand, and went straight to our fence line, where she proceeded to root along every fence line in the neighborhood, looking up for a moment when I called, then continuing down the block, leaving broken fence rails and leaning posts in her wake. As I was chasing her, my neighbor corralled her into his lot, built for pigs, and that is where she stayed, destined to be a momma pig for the rest of her life. We visited her for a while, but eventually we grew apart. On a side note, that’s about the same time I learned to fix six different kinds of fences. The life experience itself was priceless. You wonder why things happen.

It wasn’t like I wanted a 470-pound pet, but I just couldn’t kill her. Oh, I talked the talk, but when it came time, I couldn’t walk the walk. My co-workers got wind of Pinky’s impending death and they put up “Save the Pig – Talk to Bob” signs everywhere. I responded with my own signs that read, “Pork Sandwiches – Two Dollars – Talk to Bob”.

Now I have the same dilemma twenty years later, on a bit smaller scale. I am currently caring for seven full-grown roosters, and I can’t get up the nerve to send them to the butcher. I did have only four roosters, but a friend of mine had three roosters that needed a home, and I thought “How much trouble could three more roosters be?”

I thought maybe I could make up some signs– “Chicken Sandwiches – Two Dollars” –but I think I will wait a bit. Once bitten, twice shy.

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