by CJ Mouser
Hercules, our big red Duroc boar, usually only tends to communicate when it’s feeding time. At right about five o’clock he starts to talk.
“Where are ya?”
“Why aren’t ya here yet?”
“Where’s my supper?”
Along with the ‘trumpeted’ messages is the pacing; back and forth, back and forth. He’s a big guy, so when he paces he tends to bump into things. So it’s squeal, bang, squeal, bang… and so on. We’ve had him for four years so I have grown accustomed to this sound and tend to ignore it. It takes someone who is not around all the time to notice when something is out of whack, as my son did day before yesterday.
“Hercules’ clock is all messed up.” He said.
“Well it’s only noon and he’s out there hollering to be fed.”
“He is? Well I just imagine it’s because it’s getting dark so much earlier.” I assured him.
“Yeah but, he’s way off. It’s only lunchtime and he’s pacing and squealing.”
“I’ll go check on him.” I said.
I finished folding the load of laundry I was working on and then slipped on my boots.
I could hear him the minute I went out the door. Jake was right, he was worked up over something. I got a knot in my stomach. The last time Hercules did this at any time other than feeding time, was when Bear (the other boar) had broken out. I walked back there watching cautiously for Bear, but relaxed when I got close enough to see that Bear was still safely inside his pen.
“What are you yelling about?” I demanded of Hercules. He grunted and then squealed one last time for good measure.
It was then that I saw Sasha lying on her side way in the back of his 16 x 20 foot pen. Four or five months ago, this Yorkshire gilt led us on a merry chase. She seemed to be the one pig that was immune to the electric fence and would walk right through it if she found a spot where she thought she could get out of the fence. She was loose more than she was penned up, and finally out of desperation we stuck her in with Hercules, which worked out well. Not only could she not escape Herc’s pen, as it was built to hold a sizable boar, but we wanted her bred anyway. Now it looked like she was dead, or at the very least sick.
“What’s the matter Sasha?” I asked, and Herc squealed.
“Would you shut up!? How’m I gonna hear her, if you’re talking all the time? Come on girl… what’s wrong?”
No response. At that point I would have sworn she was dead. She was lying with her back to me, all the way at the back under the shelter, and didn’t even appear to be breathing. The pen is only approachable from the east and north sides, and Hurricane Charley had knocked a tree over on the north side, so I couldn’t walk around to get a better look at her.
The only thing to do was get down on my hands and knees and crawl under the downed tree. I was halfway through when Sasha lifted her head and gazed at me. It was then that she made the sound that told me what was going on. I paused, buried under tree branches; both my hands and knees muddy from the wet ground… and smiled. That soft chuffing sound could only mean one thing.
“You sneaky little girl.” I said, and crawled the rest of the way at double-time. I was just getting to my feet on the other side when I saw the first little piglet. I did a head count. There were nine shaky little babies snuggled against Sasha’s belly. Six of them were red, just like Herc and the other three were white like their mama.
“Look what you did!” I said, and Sasha grunted softly.
It appeared that Herc had gotten a little alarmed at the sudden appearance of a bunch of wriggling, writhing new residents in his pen. To him, it must have looked like an invasion.
We knew that Sasha was bred, and we knew that she was due to farrow this month, but going through three hurricanes back to back tends to mess with your schedule, and I hate to say it, but we just got wrapped up into trying to survive and forgot about the pending special occasion. As it turns out, she handled the event just fine on her own, so all worked out well.
“Congratulations Daddy. Good job.” I said to Herc. He just stood there looking as bewildered and uneasy as any new father.
“This calls for a celebration.” I said and scratched him behind the ear. I crawled back under the tree and went to fetch a bucket of feed. It appeared that both Herc and Sasha had earned an extra feeding; especially Sasha… as she was now eating for ten.