Pig tales chapter one
When I was a kid I spent the first part of my childhood chasing peat bog faeries (real ones not musical ones) around my family’s hill sheep estate in Lochaber.
Wellies on, and my hair tied in “bunches”, I used to hang upside down from a 5 bar gate by my feet; spotting fairies was easier upside down because they live in a topsy turvy world.
I grew up before nursery school existed, and so when you went to school you just went to school. Ripped from the bosom of my tiny, isolated family, I left the cottage and was put into school with no acclimatisation. Me and my school friends had to just adapt and survive like the little animals we were.
There were only a few faeries in the school garden so I had to make friends with the kids. That’s when I made my oldest friend, and she told me that my hair was not tied in bunches they were actually called pig’s tails. At the time I thought it was a horrible name for my bouncy appendages, but now I have met pigs I would wear them like a crown.
In January 2017 I fulfilled a 13year old task on the “to do” list and got pigs. I wanted them to plough up the croft. We have a very impressive amount of peat here (it’s what attracted me to the place – all those faeries for my children to chase) so you can’t get machinery on much of our land.
Lots of people had told me how intelligent pigs are, and therefore tiresome to keep. One neighbour had found his had not just disconnected the electric fence from the battery, but then carried the battery off and buried it!
I had little experience of pigs, but my parents had some and all of it sounded scary – escaping and taking the back door of the house off its hinges, or attacking people and putting them in hospital.
I started with two weaners that we could raise to be boars. If they were that smart then they would surely build a good relationship with us if raised fairly?
Soon followed two sows, both called Peppa, and then we needed a boar to cover them, who was of course called George. I was a bit scared of George because I had been warned about boars tusks so often, but on my first dealings with him he seemed very clever, and listened to what you said. He was obviously a character – Peppa I didn’t like him so he locked her in her ark and moved in with Peppa II.
That worked well until the other night when I looked out to see him in the chicken pen and trying to get into Peppa I. I raced out to get him before something got injured, with a bucket of feed.
“GEORGE” I called in a friendly way. He looked up and ran at me with an expression that said nothing but “BUCKET!!“.
He’s a large pig, with that prehistoric boar shape, big upright ears, and the markings of a saddle back but in a beautiful red roan and white. He probably weighs about the same as my smallest horse. I’m not going to lie, as he charged over for the bucket, leaping up the steep slope into the garden, I was a bit intimidated.
I quickly sealed him into the garden and went inside. With no one to help me and Amelie to get ready for bed I decided to leave him there until Amelie was out of the shower and before it got dark so I could safely take chicken feed from the barn to the hen house without getting molested when I put Bob, Curly Sue and Jersey (chickens) to bed.
After a short heated discussion with Amelie about getting out of the bath I left her to put her PJ’s on grabbed a bucket and went to the barn. George heard me getting feed and was there in a shot.
Is that bucket for me?
Yes George, but don’t come in here.
There’s 10 dogs in this barn and they WILL try and bite you.
Not scared of dogs or bites.
You should be
I bite back.
Now I’m scared. Please don’t come in.
And he sauntered off, but by the time I was at the gate to the car park where I intended to lure him back to his pen, he was beside me with a sense of urgency that unnerved me again.
Is that bucket for me?
Hi George, yes, your bucket and one for Peppa II too. Can you follow me nicely?
He looked up at me and I could hear him thinking “she’s still scared“. I was still scared.
Do I have to be scared of you
Do I have to be scared of you?
I gave him a scratch to show that I’d rather be affectionate than scared and he politely followed me out to the gate to the field.
Can I have the bucket now?
He appeared very excited, and I felt scared I was going to get mugged.
Why are you scared?
Are you going to mug me?
Why would you say such a thing ? he whispered and sauntered off up the road.
George where are you going?
I don’t think I can stay here and put up with this sort of rudeness.
I’m sorry George, I didn’t mean it, come back. I said to his rear as it trotted off up the main road.
LOOK I have a BUCKET
I know, but I have had enough.
What do you mean you have had enough – enough food?
No enough of this suspicion that I am going to hurt you. I know where I am not appreciated.
George you are wrong, I like you very much.
Too late, I’ve got the notion now.
Notion of WHAT?!
Adventure. You know sometimes a pig just needs to feel the wind in his ears.
I was distracted from the conversation by a wet haired Amelie on the decking, naked from the waist up, yelling at me that “George is leaving” as if I hadn’t noticed. I tried to run after him, but he just started to run too. I stopped and called him again, but he was acting on his adventurous senses. Now Amelie was having a very loud nervous break down about the fact I had left the pen open and Peppa II was going to escape. Cringingly I raced back to secure the pen knowing that the pod guests must be able to hear all of this. I suspected they were trying to enjoy an evening by the fire pit and we were ruining it.
I popped indoors to explain to Amelie that had she got dressed as I asked this would be less stressful, but as she wasn’t I’d have to leave her in the house whilst I took the car up the road to find George. For once in her tiny life she seemed to appreciate the severity of the situation. She definitely wanted George back.
I headed up the road and as I rounded the corner at the pod one of the guests was standing beside her car pointing up the hill with a look of confusion on her face. I tried to do sign language for “yes I know, it’s my loose pig, I’ll get him back, nothing to worry about”.
I quickly found him; he hadn’t been in any sort of a hurry. I stopped the car and jumped out with the bucket.
George come on darling; this isn’t a great plan.
No I think you’re right, I was thinking this too.
You can’t leave the sows unattended.
Never mind the sows I’m not fit to climb these hills.
He trotted back to me.
We made a pit stop at the pod for him to meet the guests who tentatively stroked his wiry back. He was very accommodating, but his sights were set on home. One of the guests said she’d come down to the house with me and get her phone that was charging, so the three of us set off and she asked “so is this a standard way to spend your Thursday night then?”
“What, casually walking my pig, you mean?”
“Yes I guess that’s what I mean”
“Would you believe me if I said this has never happened to me before?”
I could tell she didn’t.
I decided George would be best in the stable and put him in with a hurdle tied across the door so he couldn’t get out ( I hoped), but left the gate from the stables to the garden open just in case.
It was perhaps an hour later when the German Shepherd started shouting “Schwein! Schwein!” loudly and I realised George was out.
I decided I’d have to just keep him in the garden until morning, and closed him in – except I couldn’t find him.
“George?” I called into the darkness, and tip toed up to the panel fence at the end of the house.
“Geeeooorrrge” I called again as I rounded the corner to be confronted with his big prehistoric front quarters.
Jesus George you made me S H I T myself!
Stace you scared me.
You said you wouldn’t scare me.
I really didn’t mean to, it was an accident. OK you are going to have to stay in the garden tonight.
Can’t I come in there with you? He mounted the back door step sideways under the hand rail.
George you’ll get stuck! And no, you have to sleep in the garden.
Wherever you like pet.
But there’s no ark, and no Peppa to cuddle.
Well you should have thought of that before you left your ark and your favourite Peppa behind.
oooooohhhh this step fence is great for itching the top of my back.
George don’t break the hand rail they only got put on a week ago.
Now off you go.
You sure I can’t come in there with you?
Yes. Night George.
A short time later I heard the Great Dane come home from work and went to meet him; it would be a huge surprise for him to be met by George, but George was nowhere in sight. I was worried he had escaped again until the dogs went crazy;
“Schwein” shouted the GSD.
“Svin’ya” shouted the huskies.
“Filthy pig!” shouted the Pointer
“Get tae fuck” shouted the Jack Russell Terrier.
I opened the door and George was trying to get into the barn.
Smells good in there.
George don’t go in there. Please stay away from the dogs – the poor pod guests are probably trying to sleep.
OK. I’m just looking for a bed….whats up here? he said as he ran up the ramp onto the decking.
No George you can’t sleep there either.
He walked back towards me.
I have to be honest Stace your hospitality is not all I hoped for tonight.
Well you didn’t give me time to prepare, get the things necessary, or help to get you home. You can’t just turn up unannounced and think it’s all going to he OK, OK?
I gave him a big cuddle and scratched behind his ears. He smiled and relaxed and I left him to look for a place to sleep.
At 2 in the morning I was woken by crunching and crashing, and more swearing dogs.
As I opened the back door George ran at me.
Stace I really need to come in there with you.
No George you can’t it’s just not the place for pigs. The Great Dane would never allow me to have a boar stay in the house and to be honest I couldn’t face it.
Just one night! he insisted and leapt up the step, face palming my hand with his snout and pushing determinedly against it.
Just…..let me ……squeeeeeeeze…. in and you won’t even know I’m there. He said with his head wedged in the door.
No George, I’m really sorry, but no. We just can’t.
OK. He muttered from the other side of a closed door. I felt awful as I stood there staring at the closed door wondering if I’d hurt his feeling too badly? I guessed I could make it up to him with a special breakfast.
I heard him slowly back down the steps and step off into the night.
In the morning Bob the Cock awoke me at 6am. I hadn’t managed to close them in or feed them with George in the garden. If he’d known there was food in the hen house I had no doubt he’d have tried just as hard, and likely with greater success, to spend the night in there too.
I went outside to see if George was OK.
There was no George.
Bleary eyed I checked all the gates – still closed. The stable – empty and the hurdle still in place meaning he’d show jumped out of it; such a talented pig.
A sick feeling started in my stomach – where was he? Was he OK? Would I find him before trouble did? What if he’d sunk in the bog or broken his legs in a cattle grid? Who else had pigs he might be impregnating?
Would he want to come home again?
It was eerily quiet, not a sign of a pig anywhere. I wondered if there’d been a midnight mutiny and they had all left…..
I started double checking where he could have got out – definitely not over the 7ft front gates – not without wings. All other fences and gates were as I’d left them. I double checked he was really gone, and he really was. He must’ve got a notion again, and now with the wind in his ears he could be anywhere on the hill between us and the village. I hoped no one was out for an early morning dog walk. That could get messy, and that kind of mess is always difficult to explain.
I grabbed the car keys and was about to get hiking over the hill from the car park on top, but the stillness and quiet unnerved me. Something wasn’t right. I wondered if he’d broken Peppa II out and they’d gone together? He might follow her following a bucket back home if so, otherwise I wasn’t sure how I was going to get him back. I decided to check she was in her ark. As I went into her field there was no obvious signs of her having escaped anywhere, so I was pretty sure I’d find her inside. I called to her, and heard a grunt, and as I peered inside, there, miraculously, was George!
Tucked up and cuddled in with his favourite Peppa, and with no obvious way he got out of the garden OR into the paddock, I figured he must’ve flown.