Surveying piglet pen possibilities circa 1992 are, from left, Todd, Tom and Dana Sharp. submitted photo
by Todd Sharp
I bargained for a couple piglets with a local farmer.
We shared stories over a cup of coffee and a piece of rhubarb pie at Helen’s Kitchen. He would buy little piggies and raise them to be racks of baby back ribs and smoky hams. He seemed to enjoy his work, had a solid livestock trailer and a relatively new Chevrolet dually pick-up truck to haul his little pork butts around.
As the conversation moved from business friendly to Wisconsin casual, a typical inquisition of relatives and common acquaintances, I seemed to be building some credibility with this pig trader.
I don’t remember if we had much ancestry in common, but the friendship was started and the trust was solid enough. Even as a novice, I appeared worthy of his approval to buy a couple of his piglets to raise on my own. Or in this case, my brother was going to raise them.
I had moved my waterbed and a small pick-up truck load of stuff into one of my brother’s bedrooms after returning from a 4-year stint as an advertising sales director of a group of newspapers in the Tidewater region of Virginia. After returning home, I met a nice girl from New York City. We were going to get married, and my brother was going to raise a pig for the roast.
My brother, Dana, constructed a simple electrified fenced area, a feeding and watering trough and a wooden crate to comfortably and securely haul the piglets 30 miles back to Ripon.
We bought the little piggies from my new friend, loaded them into the crate on the pickup truck and let the breeze blow between their little pink ears as we brought them all the way home.
After backing the truck into the new pig pasture and dropping the crate in the grass, we drove out, reconnected the fence and turned on the electricity. We moved to open up the crate door and let them out. My expectation of them wanting to get out of the crate was formed by watching Marlin Perkins on “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom.” His animals would want to get out of the cage and run. I was a little jumpy about this whole ordeal.
The first little piggie, Bert, zoomed down the ramp and walked around sniffing the grass. Nice and calm. The other piggy, soon to be known as “Erine” wasn’t coming out at all. Not really being clear about what we should do about this, Dana and I tried lifting the crate to encourage him to slide down the ramp. He hung on tight. We couldn’t get him to leave. This was going to be one tough pork chop.
Our patience was running low and the sun was starting to set. We poked at him a little and still couldn’t get him to move. We poked him a little harder and zoom, off he ran across the little pen, letting out a curdling piglet scream as he hit the electric fence, catapulted fully into the woods at sonic pig pace. I’m sure the surprised expression on our faces would have rivaled Edvard Munch’s painting, The Scream.
We took off running after the little porker and chased him in circles. Before it was absolutely pitch dark, we finally corralled the traumatized, heavily panting, scared little fellow and tightly carried him back to the crate.
As we were fixing the fence, Bert continued standing around perfectly behaved inside the pen.
Snapped fence repaired, we were parched dry and tired. Dana went to get a couple cold beers. We sat watching the piglets, trying to figure out how we were going to get Ernie safely out of the crate before midnight. But then, Ernie, the wild little pig, calmly walked out and started munching on something. Obviously a lesson was learned.
We didn’t need to force the issue and make the pigs leave their crib before they were ready. A pig will walk out on his own when it feels safe or thirsty and hungry enough. We should have opened a beer after we opened the crate door and just let them ease out naturally.
We roasted Ernie 5 months later for the wedding reception — best tasting, crispiest roast pig I’ve ever had. Nicest gift I’ve ever gotten.
It’s Dana’s 60th Birthday; wish him a happy birthday, buy him a beer and ask him if he’ll tell you the story about the two little pigs.
Editor’s note: When not reminiscing about trying to corral pigs, Todd Sharp sells advertising for the Green Laker, Express and The Ripon Commonwealth Press.