by CJ Mouser
We couldn’t go through another storm, so between Hurricanes Charley and Frances, we escaped to Sarasota leaving our wind-weakened mobile home to fend for itself. We piled everything that could be damaged by water into plastic bags and hit the road, hoping for the best. Try as she might, Frances made little impact on our home. We were lucky. But what she did to our spirits was as devastating as if she’d torn the place to shreds. Fred and Jake went home on the Sunday after Frances… the girls and I followed on Monday.
I walked in the door to the smell of mildew. Water from the hurricane had found the numerous leaks in the house and insidiously made it’s way in, to start new colonies of mold. It was no wonder we were all living on sinus medications. After three days in a place in Sarasota with no mildew, the smell was almost overpowering.
“I need to just rip this place down. It’s not worth saving.” Fred commented.
“And then what?” I asked.
Not that I was adverse to the thought of tearing it down; I was all for it, but like I said… then what? I wandered through the house, feeling my spirits sink lower by the minute. That’s when I found the baby piglet. She was two days old if she was a day; bundled up in a towel in the back bedroom on the floor. I smiled a wry little smile. Fred’s work, no doubt. I knew instantly that the piglet was dying. That’s Fred’s way of sending them off with tenderness; wrapping them in a towel and bringing them inside so they can die in peace.
I gathered up the little piglet and snuggled her. She protested but I didn’t care. What I was doing was for me, not her. I needed to cuddle something, even if it was a one-sided affair.
I carried her to the living room and sat down on the couch, cradling her like a baby.
“I did everything I could do.” Fred said. “She’s either been stepped on or she has pneumonia, whatever it is, she can’t breathe and I can’t fix it.”
My heart went out to her as she struggled to get air into her lungs. Based on how little her chest expanded with each labored breath, I guessed that she had maybe a quarter of one lung working.
“There’s five or six more like her out in the pasture. She was the worst case and I didn’t want her to lie out there in the cold rain and the mud, so I brought her in.”
It seemed that Frances had collected her share of souls after all.
“This is horrible. We need to put her out of her misery.” I said, even though I knew I’d get in trouble.
“Just let her be!” Fred said gruffly. “Let her go in her own time.”
Like any other couple, Fred and I have our share of disagreements. Things we just can’t see eye to eye on, and this was one of them. Fred believes in letting nature take it’s course. I believe that in cases such as this we are duty bound to end the suffering. If put to a vote, I feel certain that half the free world would agree with him, and half with me. As I held the little piglet it occurred to me that sometimes people are just not going to agree and sometimes you just have to do what you feel is right no matter what. That thought in mind, I carried the piglet back to the bedroom and holding her tucked in the crook of my left arm, I gently placed my right hand over her mouth and nose.
In less than thirty seconds she was still. The struggle had ended, it was over. No more heartrending rasping attempt to draw air into lungs that were beyond ever functioning properly again.
Having survived Hurricane Charley and Frances and with Ivan bearing down on us, I had to find some control over something. I couldn’t control the weather or how badly it hurt us. I couldn’t control the rising water of the Peace River or the creeping mildew that had taken over our home. It hid inside the walls and in the insulation and eventually I suspected that we would have to do exactly what Fred suggested and just tear the blame thing down and start over, no matter how difficult that might be. There were very few things on this day that I had any control over, but there was one thing that I could control… the suffering of that little baby pig, and even though it broke my heart, I felt that it was the right thing to do.
I confessed my crime to Fred. I could have lied, but he came right out and asked me.
“She finally died, did she?”
“No.” I said. “She didn’t. I put her down. I couldn’t stand it anymore.” Then I looked him in the eye. “Are you mad at me?”
He paused and then shrugged and shook his head, and we came to an understanding. His eyes said that it was okay to disagree, and it was okay for me to do what I thought was right as long as I could accept the fact that he would continue to do what he thought was right, and if that meant tearing the house down and living in a boxcar until we could do better, then that’s what we would do. A good husband and wife will find a way to share in the rightness and the wrongness of a relationship and work together despite disagreements and controversy, and if a couple can reach that level of teamwork, there’s nothing in this world that can stand in their way. Nothing.
We didn’t tear the house down, although many people had to do just that. Eventually we fixed the roof and the mold went away. All totaled we lost seventy head of pigs between pneumonia and miscarriages and still-births, and now with a new hurricane season bearing down on us and the rumor that this season could be even worse than the last, we are just biding our time… waiting to see what is in store for us. In the meantime, we treasure the sun… and healthy piglets.