Pig Tails


My sister and I leaned over the wooden fence of the pig yard. We never tired of watching the pigs wallowing in the mud, as they rolled around in the soupy mess grunting with pleasure. It was a hot day there on Grandpa Jones's farm near Madison Center and the pigs had retreated from the sunny part of the pasture yard to this wet spot to cool off. As they stood up from the wallow we scratched their backs with a stick. They were willing to stand still as long as we wanted to keep on scratching.

They had spent the earlier part of the day rooting around in the ground finding goodies to sample. As the day grew warmer they had retreated to the watery mud hole.

The water in the mud hole cooled them off and the mud acted as sun-screen. Much of the daytime the pigs would hide from the sun by stretching out to nap under the cover of the large burdock leaves which grew abundantly in part of the yard. No animal seems to like to eat burdocks, so that was about the only large vegetation left in the yard.

Later, at feeding time inside the pen, we watched them eat out of the trough. They really enjoyed "meal time" without worrying about table manners. They lined up, grunting and squealing while waiting for the "swill" to be dipped out of the barrel and poured down the chute through the wall into the trough. Then they noisily slurped it up losing some of the tasty liquid as it ran down all over their chops. [Swill was a mixture of sour milk and table scraps with some ground grain added]

The six pigs crowded up to the feed trough. They pushed and shoved each other, squeezing in to stand with one or both of their front feet in their food. Each one tried to push the others out. If one got crowded out at the end of the line, he would come around to the middle, stick his nose in between two of the others, and force his way back in. Pigs being kind of wedge-shaped, once his nose found a gap, he could push his way in, forcing out the last pig at the end of the line. That unfortunate one would circle around and try to find his "own gap" to crowd into.

My father used to say of a very greedy person, " I don't mind if he gets one foot in the trough, but HE gets both of them in."

It was said it was the sign of a healthy pig if its tail curled. Sometimes we reached over and grabbed a curly tail to see if it would straighten out and then snap back like a coil spring. Instead, when we touched the tail, the pig would straighten it out and when we let go, it would curl up again. We would laugh and try it again. The pigs didn't mind. They apparently could straighten the tail at will and then it would go back to the natural curl.

Butchering time was in the late fall often just before Thanksgiving when the weather was cold enough to keep the meat while it was being canned fresh or turned into ham, and salt pork. Usually someone secretly saved a pig's tail and it was found nicely wrapped under the Christmas Tree for some unsuspecting person to discover as one of his gifts. Maybe this was an old Welsh custom, I don't know. But most of the Jones and Lloyd families there in the hills did this. When the "lucky recipient" opened his nice present, everybody would laugh and made good-natured fun of him.

Writer's note: Probably you never knew this much about the rear end of a pig. Aren't you glad I shared it with you?? [Don't answer that!]

"Grandpa's Pigs"

These pigs are old enough to butcher or save for Breeding. [Note the curly tails]

Charles E. Page, September14, 2004