Sloan Column: Pork Chop becomes a local celebrity
And so continues the story of a sweet little southern lady and her pet pig.
Pork Chop, the piglet I gave to my mother as a Valentine’s Day gift, is now no longer the adorable little oinker that pranced freely about the house and took bubble baths in the Jacuzzi tub. In a little less than two years, Pork Chop had morphed into a behemoth of a hog that weighed nearly 1,000 pounds. That’s a lot of BBQ, folks. If mom knew I had thought of my “little brother” in such a way I would probably get smacked in the snout.
His once pink skin was now grayish, hairy, and covered in mud. He had one long tooth that jutted upwards of the left side of his mouth. His once beady little eyes were now giant black orbs. What was once a cute little oink had grown into a full-blown grunt that immediately garnered the attention of anyone within earshot.
Hal, my stepfather who had grown up on a farm, taught me how to measure a hog’s weight without a scale. Using a fabric tape measure, measure the circumference of the pig’s girth in inches. It took both of us do this. Then measure the length of the pig along its back from the base of its ears to the base of its tail. To calculate the pig’s weight, square the girth and then multiply the girth result by the length and divide by 400.You now have the weight of your pig.
While I don’t remember the exact numbers, a good guess on Pork Chop’s measurements would be about 80 inches around and five feet, or 60 inches in length. Ol’ Pork Chop was a big’un.
Word quickly spread about the Lowder’s huge hog. Anyone who lived in the neighborhood was already well aware of the pig, watching Mom walking on it a leash as a piglet. They had also watched Pork Chop get bigger and bigger and bigger. Folks around the neighborhood, particularly the kids, stopped by regularly to see and visit with Pork Chop. Before he grew too big they were able to pet him and feed him by hand. They would always bring him his favorite treats – peanut M&M’s. Once he grew too large, visitors could no longer pet Pork Chop and were allowed only to drop M&M’s in his trough as Hal supervised.
A reporter from the local newspaper eventually heard tell of the unusually large hog and its affinity for peanut M&M’s. The reporter stopped by, talked to Mom and Hal, as well as a few visitors. He took plenty of pictures. When the paper came out the following week, a large photo of Pork Chop and an accompanying article was plastered on the front page. I think a television reporter from Charlotte even came by with a camera crew and filmed a “feel-good” story about Albemarle’s famous pig.
Pork Chop had become a celebrity. He didn’t seem to mind all the attention. One might even say that, like everything else, he was eating it up.
Things did calm down after a while. Pork Chop’s 15 minutes of fame eventually came to an end and things began to get back to normal. The truth, though, is that things had been anything but normal since her “little piggy” had arrived nearly three years earlier.
Hal was well aware that Pork Chop was not going to live much longer. He was simply too big. Hal tried to talk to Mom about it but she would always shush him away. He knew of mom’s affection for her “sweet boy,” and didn’t push her too far on the subject. He would deal with it when the time came.
I was not so easy on Mom. I would always rib her about being invited to the pig pickin’. She would always shoot me an evil glare.
“Over my dead body,” she would say angrily.
“What about Pork Chop’s?” I would fire back.
“Don’t talk that way about your brother,” Mom would reply, her voice much softer as the reality of Pork Chop’s ensuing death began to set in.
My picking on Mom about eating Pork Chop was mostly in jest. Bobby, the avid hunter who lived next door, was most serious when he broached the subject of splitting her hog in half and searing it over a mountain of coals. Mom and Bobby would eventually have a bad falling out and I think it all started when he threatened to chow down on her beloved pig.
It was a frosty winter morning when Hal made his way to the pen and found Pork Chop had literally departed Hog Heaven. He broke the news to Mom. She took the news fairly well, but still shed more than few tears.
Hal contacted a buddy with a backhoe. Mom shared the news with a few neighbors. Hal and his buddy dug a big hole in the ground behind the pen. A few neighbors joined with mom in watching Pork Chop being pushed into his grave by a backhoe. After shoveling dirt over Pork Chop’s super-sized body, we bowed our heads and said a prayer.
I’ll bet if we had listened closely in that very moment, we likely could have heard Bobby, the hunter who lived next door, muttering to himself, “They oughta be saying grace,” as he stared out the window at the gathering of mourners.
Some time later Mom planted a Lady Diana rose bush on Pork Chop’s grave in his memory. Mom and Hal passed away several years ago and we sold the house. Last year I drove by the place. A lot had changed, but a few things had not. Mom’s prized rose garden was still in the front yard. In a corner of the backyard was a lone rose bush covered in ivory blooms with a pink blush.
The new owners have no clue that beneath that rose bush lies the best Valentine’s Day present ever given.
Contact Editor Bob Sloan at editor@ florencenewsjournal.com.