Shuck and Jive

Monday, October 01, 2007

Tell Me a Story!

The big event in these parts is coming up this weekend. It is the National Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough. Here is a list of some of the featured tellers. It is a great event. Enjoy some lies and some shuckin' and jivin' this weekend!


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  2. I'll tell you one of my favorite stories:

    When I was 19 or so, my mom and her partner, Murley, bought a farm in Southwestern Wisconsin, in cheese factory country. I lived there for a year or two, off and on. They kept a few pigs. They usually raised one or two to pay for the property insurance (in the 1980's believe it or not, some banks were still willing to take a pig to pay off a small note now and then), and one for putting in the freezer. At this time, they had one pig, whose name was January. Actually, it was named "Dinner in January", but I felt that was simply rubbing his nose in it, so I shortened it to January, just between him and me.

    Now I had learned that pigs are quite personable, smart, and have a sense of humor, as well as distinct "porcine-alities". My brother was known to go sit with the pigs and read Moby Dick aloud to them. He had even named a few earlier ones after characters such as Queequeg and Tashtigo. And I had spent one chilly night mid-winter with a 450 pound farrowing pig named "Girth", stroking her stomach while she was in labor. So, I have been pretty intimate with pigs.

    Well, this was a hot summer day. January's pen needed cleaning. It was an old dairy barn that had the concrete feed troughs built into the floor, running along each side of the barn. We had taken the bracings out that held the cows in while they fed and were milked, and had made pens using pallets and cow panels. The concrete trough that ran through January's pen held her wooden water trough on one end and her toilet on the other. Many people don't know this about pigs, but they are actually quite neat. They segregate a portion of their pen for eating, a section for sleeping and another for their toilet. January had designated the empty end of the concrete trough as her toilet. The trough was about 15 inches wide. So, after I had removed the old straw from the pen and refreshed the water I decided to tackle the "toilet". Straddling the concrete trough, I had an old margarine tub I was using to scoop the contents of the trough into a bucket, to carry outside and add to the pile of straw. You may take a moment to picture this - particularly the contents of the trough. Got it? OK.

    Now, all this time, January had been in the pen with me. She had busied herself rearranging the fresh straw in her sleeping area and such, and was now quite interested in what I was doing. While I was bent over in mid scoop, she decided to get a closer look. She came up from behind and stood up, leaning on my rear with her front legs. Being thus surprised in mid scoop, and in treacherous territory, I slipped and fell, face and everything, right into the trough - um, I mean toilet. It was the perfect cartoon moment. Hear I lay, pulling my face out of the muck, with January standing now beside me, her snout in my left ear, snorting questioningly, as if to ask "Whatcha doin' down there? That looks fun!"
    I had a sort of out-of-body experience at that moment, as I watched myself lift my head, with the pig in my ear, face painted with this unholy muck and bits of straw. I could do nothing but laugh.
    I was fortunate that we had an electric motor hooked up to the pump by the milk house. I plugged it in, sat down under the pump, and while the cold, cold spring water washed the muck away, and I laughed, and January watched inquisitively from her pen, I thought how funny life could be.

    I never partook of January, having moved off to Minnesota by the time winter came around, but every once in a while, in the cold of winter, when we're enjoying a dish of brats and kraut, I think of that time more than twenty years ago and just laugh quietly to myself.

    And that's my story.