Official disclaimer: Most of this story is true. I took some liberties with the facts to protect the identity of the real pig owner, an amazingly obnoxious rich lady we dubbed Mrs. God. My friend Jackie and I worked for this woman when we were kids, cleaning her barn full of show horses. Mrs. God lived above the barn, so the place had to be spotless or it would smell like a ... barn. Every stall had cameras in each corner, so she could watch us through closed-circuit TV. Most days, I'd be shoveling away with pitchfork and wheelbarrow. With a humming sound, a camera pans to follow me. Mrs. God's voice comes from everywhere at once, out of speakers set high on the walls, all around the barn. "You missed a spot."
This story first appeared in Range magazine, and I figured they might like it better without Mrs. God in it. Maybe I was wrong. But we really did ride the pig, and the real Rosemary was every bit as homicidal as the one in the story. Enjoy.
When I was a kid, I lived in fear of Rosemary the pig, and she knew it. Our mom got this tiny white piglet as a gag gift, and she loved it. The pig was kind of cute then, but the problem was our folks just kept on thinking she was adorable even when she grew to be a thousand-pound sow. By then I didn’t think she was adorable at all. I had chores to do in the barn, but the pig owned the place. Even though she was fat she could move quicker than you’d expect. Sometimes she’d just sleep as I crept by, but other times she’d chase me. I really wanted to stand my ground, but I broke and ran every time. I was a skinny kid and she was immense, literally as big as a horse on short legs.
Rosemary was evil, but our mother just couldn’t see it. Mom would bring her treats and coo over her like a baby. People don’t realize it, but pigs are smart – smarter than dogs. That pig knew better than to try anything in front of our mother. Since she was a pet, Mom gave Rosemary the run of the barnyard, but decided she should stay out of the barn. It was supposed to be my job to keep her out of there. Good luck.
It was worst was when I had to grain the horses. The pig was always around to spill the buckets and make a mess. Usually I remembered to close the feed room door, but one day I was careless and it didn’t quite latch. Rosemary shoved her way into the room. She grunted, showing her nasty yellowed tusks a little. Slowly, she closed in, bit by bit. I was terrified. Yelling and pushing her away did no good. She just kept pressing in. Maybe I was wrong, but I was convinced she’d just as soon eat me as the grain. Trapped in the corner, I had to pay a generous ransom of corn for my freedom. For Rosemary, life was good.
That was about to change. One hot summer afternoon, Rosemary followed me into the feed room again. I gave up the deep white grain bucket immediately. She had me so well trained. Her big head disappeared in the bucket and I felt a little better. After all, she couldn’t bite me with her head in there. I held the bucket while she emptied it greedily. Then, finished, she tried to take a step backwards. The grain room was too small for her to turn around in – she’d have to back out. I saw my chance. As she backed up, I followed, keeping the bucket on her head. Outside in the aisle, I discovered to my delight that I could even turn the pig by shoving the bucket to one side! I could drive her any way I wanted! She’d just keep backing up to try and get the bucket off. I took the pig for a little spin, a kind of backwards victory lap. Maybe it sounds like no big deal to you, but to a scared kid that was a spectacular victory.
Unfortunately, Rosemary still wanted to eat me. We took to plotting against her, sitting just under the roof of the hay barn up on the bales. My two sisters and I would climb up there, usually with our friend Jackie from down the road. The hay loft was our junior War Room, where we held the most serious discussions. Our objective was to find something that would scare the pig without seriously hurting her. We weren’t mean kids. In fact, we loved all the other animals. It was just that this particular animal wanted to kill us, and my parents just didn’t get it. We tried to tell them, but Dad would just say something helpful like, “Just move her along, Hon, she’s fine.” Yep, the pig was just fine. We weren’t. We were small and frightened, so we obsessed endlessly about it. Our greatest military advancement was the lunge whip. It changed my life. This horse training whip would barely deliver a sting, but it made a satisfying popping sound. It turned out that the pig had a mortal fear of the cracking whip. Oh, yeah. Payback time.
During the long summers on the farm, there wasn’t much for us kids to do. The corn was growing in the fields. We had our stalls to clean and our colts to gentle. That still left us with a lot of free time, since Dad discouraged the TV. That was all too bad for Rosemary.
With the lunge whip on the scene, the balance of power in the barn shifted. My sisters and I were ecstatic. Our prospects of long-term survival were definitely improving. Little by little, our confidence grew, as we tested the boundaries of our new power. One day when we were playing in the barn, Jackie impulsively jumped right on the pig’s back! She was a gutsy little brunette, barely five feet tall. Being so short was an advantage; her feet didn’t get stepped on as the pig tried to buck her off. Ever rode a pig? They buck just like a bull! They’ll crowhop, and spin, and kick their cloven heels right up in the air. We were stunned – we had no idea they could do that. Even though Jackie got bucked off the pig and had to run for her life, she became our new hero. Dad used to tell us, “There’s a fine line between courage and stupidity.” Whatever you want to call it, Jackie had it. Every kid around knew it, too.
Our favorite new entertainment became the Big Pig Rodeo. First we had to make sure Mom wasn’t watching. She would definitely not approve of Big Pig Rodeo. Then we circled around the pig in the barn aisle, and one brave kid leaped on board. Boy could that pig buck! She had a wicked spin, too. Sooner or later the pig rider would come flying off, and Rosemary would go in for her revenge. That part was kind of scary, because the pig meant it. She’d lunge for the kid on the ground, mouth open. Rosemary wasn’t above trampling us either. We armed ourselves with buckets of grain and lunge whips, so we could drive her off the fallen rider and then shove a grain bucket over her head. What a great day.
After that, life was good for me. That evil pig hustled out of the barn when I came in. I no longer lived in fear. Looking back on all of it, we had a lot of fun back then. I thank God I was raised on a farm. For me, that life will always be what’s best about America.
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