Odd memories, part 11

Okay, this one’s just stupid, but that’s its charm.

Many years ago I worked at an extension of a humane society, a facility dedicated to dog training, wildlife rehab, and activities over and above the basic shelter services we provided – I was onsite caretaker and septic maintenance person (the Director felt it was easier and cheaper to train someone than to pay for monthly visits to examine the septic system – North Carolina has some righteous rules about wastewater.) One of the things added to the property was a small barn and corral, since we occasionally saw livestock and they’re kind of hard to house in a dog kennel.

Something that people never bothered to research, during their popularity in the nineties, was that Vietnamese potbellied pigs don’t stay small and cute, but get quite large as they get older. Come to think of it, they might not have been true Vietnamese potbellied pigs, just some breed bearing a resemblance when they were young that opportunistic breeders started selling, but whatever. The point is, we ended up with several over the course of a few years that ranged between 35 and 100 Kg (80-220 lbs.) As large adults, they were swaybacked, portly, bristly creatures whose eyes were sunk in the folds of the face, making them look like a political caricature of themselves. One in particular carried his dominance of the corral with a regal arrogance, accepting no lapse in obeisance from the others.

Then, we got a medium-small goat, and wanted to see if they would get along housed together, which would negate having to let them out in shifts. So one afternoon I set them loose simultaneously in the corral, with a hose and a pole ready, but remaining outside the fence to let them determine their own dynamic without my presence (this is more important than you might think – even domesticated animals behave differently when humans are about.)

The goat was completely cool with it all, as goats generally are – they’re mellow until things don’t go their way. The big pig, however, was very curious about this new resident, and wanted to ensure that it knew who ran the roost. He began puttering around the field in the general direction of the goat, making a string of little “buh” grunts as if playing with a toy boat – nothing overt, but conspicuously intruding on the goat’s space. The goat, accommodatingly, simply stepped aside to let the pig pass, which the pig took as encouragement – “it fears me!” Subtly increasing the volume and the speed of its grunts, the pig kept turning towards the goat every time it stepped aside, creating a humorous parody of a bullfight scored with asthmatic air compressor:buh buh buh buh ¡olĂ©! buh buh buh buh…”

The goat, having made the efforts to be Britishly polite, soon realized that this was not simply the blind meanderings of a self-absorbed porker, but an attempt to actually push the goat around, which was a perfidy that could not be allowed to continue. Almost negligently, the goat turned towards the pig, dropped his nose, and delivered a solid butt right smack in the center of the pigs broad, carunculated forehead.

BUH!” exclaimed the pig, actually popping gently in the air backwards in utter shock. There’s a good chance he never saw it coming, with his eyes buried in flesh, but right there in front of him sat the goat, a mere one-third his own stately mass, svelte and dainty. Where else could it have originated? The goat, for his own part, watched for just a moment, satisfied that his message had been communicated, and dismissed the incident as inconsequential.

The pig pondered this. Obviously something had happened, but c’mon, he was pig! He ruled his land with an iron trotter. And the goat was this anorexic little thing, belly far from the ground and with eyes you could even tell the color of. Surely this was a mistake. So as the goat meandered off to look for vegetation or tin cans, the pig fired up the boiler again and started in the goat’s direction.

The goat, however, was no longer inclined to give the benefit of the doubt. As the grunts drew closer, he turned quickly and dropped his head again, but was still far from making contact.

BUH!” repeated the pig with an even more frantic note, flinching from the threat yet untouched. No, there was no mistake; the goat was not going to brook any shenanigans from the pig, and had ways to make this memorable. Right there, the pig appeared to come to a decision: it would continue to rule the corral as Supreme Leader and Commander, but curiously it would never find any reason to have to enforce this with the goat.

And they remained that way, the goat doing as it pleased, and the pig pretending that the goat didn’t actually exist as it shouldered its way among the other pigs with great privilege. No worries.