Contest Issue - Vol.10,
No.56, 2007 FIRST PLACE WINNER - FICTION
Big Pig by John C. Hobson (ON)
The sign on the gate read:
All sizes, sorts and colours
painted badly on a shingle. He dragged the gate open and my father drove in. Our mission: to geld Junior, the herd stock boar. Junior had reached the full bloom of his maturity. Younger pigs were vying for his coveted position. It was time for him to go to market. The flesh of an ungelded boar has a strong, musky flavour, thus the reason for our visit.
He was born and bred in the poplar and muskeg country west of Kakabeka Falls. It was hard to believe that a land so inhospitable to agriculture could nurture a pig of such proportion. His breeder was clearly an inspired and devoted pig farmer. A Latvian of immense size and strength, Farmer Vinters produced numerous and superior pigs, but of all the mighty pigs of his career, Junior was the crowning glory.
“Good day, Mr. Vinters,” said my father through the open window of the jeep.
Gunther Vinters greeted us with a wide grin on his round, pink face. His skin was flawless and satin smooth. He looked half his 50 years. The expansive blue overalls were stiff and crackling new. He was spotless, from his peculiar round, white cap to the orange toes of his Wellington boots.
“Big pig! Big pig!” he said emphatically and brightly. He was obviously excited and happy to see us. In these words were a wealth of pride, an indication of the work ahead and a truly accurate description of the pig in question.
The outbuildings were crudely, but solidly constructed. They had an unexpected fresh and clean smell. We entered one of these and passed through to the other side. It opened on a vast expanse of rock and small spruce trees. Close to the building were signs of rooting and other habits of a porcine nature. Mr. Vinters banged two metal pots together. From among the stunted trees we heard the snorting and snuffling of pigs, then emerged a majestic sight - six enormous sows, some fully three feet at the shoulder and, in their midst, a Yorkshire boar. Standing confidently and calmly, he towered above his harem. He was the biggest pig I had ever seen. His flawless skin and pink snout shone. The upward curving tusks added to his regal bearing. He was a prodigious pig, a pig of distinction, a pig of Orwellian stature.
Farmer Vinters whistled softly. The titanic boar trotted lightly to his side. He scratched the huge back to the apparent ecstasy of the boar. “Big pig,” he said quietly to himself in a reverential tone of voice. He seemed lost for a moment. The pig made throaty sounds.
After an appropriately respectful moment my father said, “Well, Mr. Vinters, we should he getting him inside.”
“Okay. okay.” He gently pushed Junior with a stock cane toward the piggery door. Like an ocean liner slipping into its berth, the big pig passed into the spacious stall.
“I’ll need some boiling water to sterilize the instruments,” said my dad. A more helpful client could not be wanted. Farmer Vinters bustled out returning shortly with the water, a towel, a neat little table and a porcelain carafe of café au lait. This was unusual as coffee was generally consumed after the operation. There was also a generous collection of the choicest European chocolates on an antique plate. It was a delicious little feast. We ate and talked.
“E’s goot pig,” commented our host, but not in a boastful way.
“He is a fine pig, Mr. Vinters. You should be proud of him,” responded by father.
“‘ike him?” said the pig farmer, while stroking the elephantine ears.
“He’s one of a kind,” acknowledged my father. “He’ll make a lot of bacon.”
The large man looked pensive. “Ya,” he said, without much enthusiasm.
We drank the coffee and ate the candy.
“More?” asked our kind host.
“That was excellent, but no, thank you. Mr. Vinters. We should be getting on with the job now.”
Farmer Vinters cleared off the tray. “‘ill ‘e ‘eel mooch?” he asked.
“Not a bit. It will be over as fast as that.” My father punctuated his words with a dramatic sweep of his hand. The one holding the large scalpel with a new blade just fitted into the smooth, green handle.
Farmer Vinters blinked nervously, pulling one of his capacious chins. “‘E’s goot pig,” he said, almost defensively.
“Mason, get the block and tackle.”
“Aut ‘or?” questioned the owner.
“Have to hoist him up so I can get at his testicles,” answered the vet.
“Oh,” responded Mr. Vinters with a frown.
The tackle was suspended from a beam above the unsuspecting boar.
Farmer Vinters looked doubtful. He shook his head. “No, ‘oo ‘ittle,” he said, looking at the gear. “Big pig,” he said by further elaboration. There was no end to his faith in that pig.
“You may be right, Mr. Vinters. What shall we do?”
“I ‘ot on,” he beamed, hurrying off to find the rig.
We had arrived just after ten and it was now going on twelve o’clock. We had managed to while away the morning quite pleasantly. “We’d better get on with this or we’ll be here all day,” my father confided to me.
Presently, Farmer Vinters reappeared, struggling with a monstrous contraption of ropes and gears, the mechanical advantage of which might have lifted the building itself. Finally, all was in place.
“I’ll loop this noose around his hock and you lift him up.”
By now, the pig was beginning to realize that something was up. He moved about the stall a little erratically, puffing short staccato snorts. With great dexterity, my father whipped the noose over his cubby hock.
“Pull, Mr. Vinters!”
The pig was up-ended like a shot. His fore trotters swung lightly and the room filled with his squeals of mortification. Never before had Junior been handled with such callous disregard for his dignity. This was beyond his experience and he was upset. I hoped this would be as quick as my father had promised. The noise was deafening. I held the emasculator ready to hand it to him. He turned to the shallow pan holding the blade. But before he could avail himself of the knife, Junior was down and back on all fours. He was not a happy pig. The previously docile and obliging Junior was in a rage. We jumped over the stall partition. Somehow, the knot in the rope had come undone. The pig was beyond rational intervention. His tusks dug deep into the wooden two-by-eights, tearing off chunks of wood. There was a hard look in those usually mild little eyes. The pitch of his squeals had changed from panic to wrath. He was 800 pounds of furious pig, bent on Samson-like destruction. He whirled around his stall, huge ears flapping and tail stiffened. He threw his shoulders into the walls of his pen until the whole building shook. The heavy boards cracked and creaked. A final assault and the stall gate burst open. Junior was through and heading down the aisleway toward the door at the end. It was a stout door, made to withstand rampaging pigs, but this was no ordinary pig. This was, as Farmer Vinters had declared, a big pig! He hit it with his forehead and the outcome was never in doubt. The door exploded. Splinters of wood and pieces of iron scattered in all directions. Blue sky and stunted spruce trees could be seen through the gaping hole.
Junior was out. His sows followed him in a marvellously romantic stampede into the thick bush. They were headed in the direction of Hudson Bay. By the time the three of us stepped through the ruined door, only a few distant, self-satisfied grunts could be heard and no sign could be seen of the fugitive pig or his attendant sows.
“I’m sorry, Mr. Vinters but I think that about does it for today,” said my dad.
“Day gone,” sighed Farmer Vinters in dramatic disappointment. He turned to us and his huge flawless and satin smooth face presented a look of sorrow. And then he smiled, a delightful smile of warmth, kindness and good fellowship. We found ourselves smiling back.
“‘ant coffee?” he beamed. He insisted. We consumed another carafe. When we left, he pushed a paper bag full of chocolates into the pocket of my jacket.