The house was painted. The trees were trimmed. The lawn was immaculate. My mother’s hard work over the last year to prepare our farm for my sister’s wedding reception had paid off. The result of her saving flower seeds and planting bulbs was simply beautiful. Our farm had never looked this good—even the plant colors were coordinated with each other. On my sister’s wedding day, the flowers were a symphony in bloom. My mother could look around after the guests had left and breathe a deep sigh of satisfaction.
The day after the wedding, my parents traveled six hours to the groom’s reception in Northwest Iowa, leaving my older brother and me behind to care for the farm in all its radiance for several days.
“The pigs are out!” This wake-up call from my brother the next morning lurched me out of bed in a hurry. “Quickly close the gate to the front road so we can contain them in the farmyard.” I rushed out, half dressed, and shut the gate in the nick of time. OK, at least they were contained: 400 hogs now having the run of the place. But two hours later, we still had had no success in corralling them back into their pen. Frustrated and caked with sweat and grime, my brother and I stopped to regroup and catch our breath. Then my brother had a marvelous idea: “Let’s lock them out! They will beg us to get back in because they will be so thirsty!!” Being the younger brother with shorter legs and likely to get some of the most unpleasant tasks, I thought this was a fool-proof plan. Just the thought of the pigs waiting at the gate, desperate to be let back in where they belong, made my tired self gleeful with delight.
We woke up the next morning to the sound of thunder, followed by the whoosh of heavy rain. It took us a little while to connect the dots; having the pigs beg us to get in now didn’t seem very plausible. Instead of the pigs being thirsty, they were hungry, and they soon discovered the best source of food available was my mother's hard-earned, carefully planted roots and bulbs in the garden. In no time at all, the hogs turned the yard and flower garden upside down as if we had gone in with a plow. To add insult to injury, they created a big wallow right in the center of the flower garden. Of course, we knew we were in big trouble. But what could we do? Well, we set out after milking to put them into their pen. But now, the pigs were enjoying their new-found freedom (and scrumptious eats) and were even more difficult to put away. Finally by nightfall, six hours later, we saw the last of the 400 hogs waddle back into their pen. But, of course, the clouds were still darkening... Neither one of us got a lot of sleep that night because mom and dad were scheduled to arrive the next day.
When our parents drove up, immediately the farm became like a crime scene, complete with interrogating and arresting the criminals. Between our father really putting the verbal squeeze on and my mother crying, we felt like we had dug ourselves into a hole we would never see the end of. We spent months doing on farm service projects, including restoring the lawn and flower garden. Still to this day, I look at the carefully planted flowers on my own farm, and I remember the day the pigs got out.
Thanks to everyone who stops by the Country Cupboard Store on our farm in rural Donahue. When the flowers planted around the store bloom this spring, perhaps they will remind you of this story and bring a smile to your face. We sell many items off our farm, including pork.