Sloan Column: Little brother becomes a big brother
Last week I shared with you the fact that some 25 years ago I bought my mother a pig for Valentine’s Day and she thought it was the best gift ever. In her eyes, at least on that day, nary a son ever existed that was more wonderful and caring than I.
Despite the fact that mom referred to the little pink oinker as her son and my brother, I still suspected the novelty of pig ownership would quickly wear off.
I suspected wrong.
I do not recall how it came about, but it was not long before the pig was given the name Pork Chop. That’s right, Pork Chop. Probably second on the list of names a pig would rather not have. The first? I’m guessing Sausage or Bacon. At any rate, it quickly became apparent the novelty would not wear off and my new little brother Pork Chop is a keeper.
All was right in Mom and Pork Chop’s world for about the first two or three months. Walks on a leash around the neighborhood were followed by bubble baths in the Jacuzzi. Pork Chop would then be put in his PJs before he either curled up in my stepdad’s lap or snuggled up beside the dog that was resting comfortably on the floor by the fireplace. For the first few weeks it slept at the foot of their bed.
For the life of me, I do not remember mom ever having to clean up any droppings left by the pig she let live in the house. A house-trained hog? Forget Charlotte’s Wilber, Mom’s Pork Chop was “Some Pig” (with apologies to E.B. White and fans of the book Charlotte’s Web).
Mom took to dressing the pig in outfits each day in case someone would come by to satisfy their curiosity. She would buy toddler clothes from the local department store. It was not unusual to see the pig dressed in shorts and a t-shirt. I do remember one time when Pork Chop’s attire consisted of a pink tutu and a tiara. It must have been a special occasion.
Thankfully, Pork Chop did not eat at the dinner table. I suppose you have to draw the line somewhere. The pig would eat dog food out of a pie tin placed outside on the deck. I have pictures of my daughter Tracy, about age five, on all fours pretending to eat out of the pie tin with her Uncle Pork Chop.
Weeks turned into months and reality soon caught up with both Mom and Pork Chop. The meals slowly began to get larger. The pie tin turned into a bucket and the bucket turned into a makeshift trough. As spring turned to summer, Pork Chop was far from the little piglet that was plucked from a pen. By the time three months had passed, my little brother easily tipped the scales at more than 100 pounds. It became readily apparent to Mom that her beloved pig could no longer reside inside. Hal, my stepdad, and I went to work building a pen in the backyard.
Pork Chop made the transition from sleeping in the bed to sleeping in the mud with ease. The most difficult part, and understandably so, was that Pork Chop had to have his “piggy jewels” removed by Hal. Hal grew up on a farm and had previous experience castrating hogs. Pigs are normally castrated at a much younger age, but Mom objected each time Hal broached the subject. “You’re not touching my baby,” she would say with a stern look in her eyes. Hal would explain that it would have to happen eventually and that the longer we waited the more difficult it would be. Mom still refused to listen.
Hal did not tell Mom when he got the sheers and headed for the pen. I remember him saying something like, “What she don’t know won’t hurt her” and “It’s not like she can glue them back on.” It was not a good day for Pork Chop and Hal took the inevitable scolding from Mom like a true champ.
The days and pounds began to pile up. Summer soon turned to fall and fall to winter. Pork Chop did what pigs do – he got bigger and bigger. Hal, who served in the Air Force during three wars and then retired as a television sales and repair person for RCA, worked as an inventory clerk for the local Food Lion Grocery Store. He would bring home out of date food. My little brother the hog regularly dined on dog food, stale bread, old fruits and vegetables, and pretty much anything else that would otherwise have been tossed in the garbage bin. He was well fed and it was quite apparent. By the time his first birthday arrived in February, Pork Chop was nearing 500 pounds.
In a year’s time, little brother had literally become big brother. To Mom, though, the hairy, almost quarter-ton beast that now rolled around in the mud and no longer had a cute little oink but a gruff grunt, was still her baby.
Next week: Pork Chop becomes the talk of the town.