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Work of Art - Cute and cuddly porkers

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By Art Trujillo

Lora M. Shields, a professor after whom a science building on the Highlands University campus is named, once told a class I was in about some amazing properties of pigs and piglets.

She said a farmer could fill a pail of milk and let the pig drink it all, then lift that same pig into the same bucket and even have a little room to spare. It took some of us a while to catch on.

I confess I was one of the gullible, having been raised in town and believing only that all hogs are tiny, cute and cuddly. The just-ended Kiss-a-Pig promotion, that netted $6,186 to help Samaritan House, contradicts some of that tiny, cute and cuddly mythology.

Optic staffer Mercy Lopez took a photo of this year’s winner, Mike Melton, the dark horse in the race, preparing for some osculatory activities on the hog. Melton got to take home the bacon, figuratively.

But was the receiver of the kiss tiny? Cute? Cuddly? What the gold medal winner of the Rio Gallinas version of the Olympics kissed is a far-squeal from the adorable cartoon characters we enjoyed as children.

Em Krall won the silver, with Tom McDonald taking the bronze. In Krall’s case, isn’t it time to tell her the contest is over? She even hustled votes and donations at Sunday’s final performance of Over the Back Fence V, where she accompanied the choir.    

McDonald and Krall made much of their own origins, Arkansas and Iowa, respectively, but does mere geography qualify them for advanced placement as Fellows in the Institute for Advanced Porcine Studies?

As one who’s been up close to pigs (albeit not willingly), I offer some observations and a  bit of background:

During my wife’s time as a teacher in Anton Chico, years ago, one of her students asked, “Is your husband a Chicano?” Bonnie said that indeed I am.

“Can he butcher a pig?”

“Heavens no!”

“Ooh, then he’s a gringo. Get rid of him.”

Well, 40 years have passed since that exchange, and we’re still together; Bonnie has neither demanded that I butcher a pig, nor have I expressed any sizzling desire to do so. And besides, when did the evisceration of hogs become the bailiwick of a particular ethnic group?

Though I can’t even identify the business end of a slaughtering tool, presumably a knife, I nevertheless have a wee-wee-wee bit of experience and almost can claim a sty in my eye.

When my in-laws were younger, Stanley Coppock raised hogs, sheep, cattle, chickens, sheep and goats. My knowledge of pigs was limited to children’s stories about the three little ones, and I believed the only sound hogs made was “oink.” Well, listen carefully, if you get the chance. When they feel threatened, they cry “wolf!” and they all scatter. I am not making this up. If they’re hurt, we dab on oinkment.

But back to this saga: Some lines in the musical “Oklahoma!” suggest a hog’s social status: Pet cats feel superior to humans; dogs feel inferior to humans and pigs consider themselves equals.

As in virtually every species, except centipedes, the young are cute and cuddly. That includes pigs.

One observation is that pigs appear never to stop growing. Most of the 40 or 50 hogs on Stanley’s ranch were penned up. Occasionally, he allowed a sow to free-range, and she would even lie on their side to be scratched and petted.

The closest I got to hogs was in helping Stanley “ring” them. A huge, possibly 600-pound boar needed a ring attached to its snout to prevent rooting, for with little effort, a pig can uproot a fence post, a milk wagon or a city-slicker.

Stanley used a Coppock Cobble to “ring” the pigs. It was simply a piece of baling wire made into a noose that we’d slip behind the boar’s molars. The pig pulled in the opposite direction. I’d tug on the hog-ringer tool while Stanley used a pliers-like tool to attach a ring around the snout of the pig.

The animal emitted a squeal that was never equalled until the Grateful Dead came along. But seconds after being custom-fitted with this ring, the animal enjoyed that hoggian status symbol.

While the folks were away one time, two sows decided to deliver their litters at the same hour. I’d never seen a hog birth (or any other kind), and was fascinated by how each of about a dozen piglets made its way to the nursing station.

I hadn’t realized that after the last piglet had arrived we could actually determine the birth order, based on their relative sizes. And we learned that the sow in the adjoining pen didn’t even grunt when adopting a few new nieces and nephews.

You see, Sow No. 1 delivered twice as many as her next-pen sister, and it was possible to make a couple of transfers, to even the load.

That exhausts the totality of my advanced studies in swineology. But back to the Kiss-A-Pig All-Pro World Championship. I’m wondering why nobody’s made mention of the considerable literary and scientific debt mankind owes to these domestic mammalian quadrupeds.

Next year’s promotion could be designed along more litter-ate themes, and the contest could ham it up or even make some people bristle by introducing the names of people and of some classics that come to mind.

Just to name a few: Hamlet, Sir Francis Bacon, Little Lard Fauntleroy, Albert Einswine, Pigrim’s Progress, Lard Jim, Stylas Marner, The Scarlet Litter, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hide, The Adventures of Tom Sowyer, Catcher in the Rind, Ivanhog, Frankenstyn, Pigmalion and Lard of the Flies.
These are merely suggestions. Please don’t sooey me.

Art Trujillo is a copy editor at the Optic and a contributing member of the newspaper’s Editorial Board. He may be reached by calling 425-6796 or by e-mail to artbt@rezio.net or atrujillo@lasvegasoptic.com.