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The dye is off the wing

Posted: June 8, 2014 - 12:07am

In all my years of penning these autobiographical histories, I have not shared a particular item of fact. I regret the omission as much as the five year-old me regretted telling my grandfather’s acquaintance I didn’t like his pants. Some things should be left out and others must be said and both have repercussions.

Longtime readers know about the slaughter of the Thanksgiving goose, a justified meal if ever there was one. But I’ve refrained from disclosing the account of pink, blue and green Easter chicks parading from basket to Dutch oven once the dye was off the wing. It was the natural order. It never registered as noteworthy.

The pig, however, the pig is the animal that put the writing on the wall. It arrived at our house and got down to the business of ingratiating itself, of establishing its identity as beloved pet. It trotted at our heels. It joined us at our picnic table, so sorry that the frame failed to hold the weight. The sow sullied our plastic baby pool, but not without good cheer and high intentions for camaraderie. In the end, though, it peered through the cracks in the departing trailer’s door as if to say “Et tu, Brute,” betrayed for $10 that was never collected.

How the pig came to us is a story in itself. Slick with baby oil, the piglet sniffed the dirt and glanced warily toward the other end of the enclosure. A sporting group of parents shoved their children through the gate. “What do I do?” a child whined. “Catch that pig,” commanded a dad. “You can keep it if you catch it.”

Birthday party entertainment in rural Georgia in the 1970s resembled that of today in that every kid wore a red Kool-Aid mustache.

The variance between then and now is that instead of arming the youngsters with a stick against a defenseless piñata, party guests were challenged with the task of retrieving a slippery live animal armed against them with instinct.

An adult shouted, “Go!” and eleven youth took off like they were tangled in their underwear. The piglet fled, its legs clipping rapidly. Squeals and grunts veiled by a cloud of dust passed the parents who yelled instructions to the mass of children in pursuit. Minutes later, my older brother shouted, “I’ve got it! I’ve got it!”over the vocalizations of the squirming swine.

Birthday guests begged the hosts to grease up another animal, a chicken maybe, anything that would run.

Parents voted for a greased take-home calf. The child-of-honor’s mama suggested a couple of cats. Here ended the party.

My brother’s trophy grew into a large and loyal companion, an extraordinary yard pig. We turned over our best mud holes to it.

Horrified visitors weren’t as willing to give up their cars when 300-pounds of sow ran to greet them. The dye was off the wing. My mother mentioned that something had to be done. A week later, our freezer was filled with packages wrapped in white paper.

Pets came and went like that on our farm: Sir Hare the rabbit disappeared the same day the drumsticks and wings vanished from our fried chicken dinner. The donkey went missing around the time we started eating tacos every Tuesday. Suspicion never killed our appetites.

My mother claims we knew what was in those freezer packages, that the disappearance of Sir Hare on fried chicken night was an unfortunate coincidence and that consuming a donkey would be absurd.

All of that aside, the dye is off the wing. It’s time my parents paid up on the pig.

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