Saturday, 15 March 2014
An Uninvited Guest
One crisp, sunny winter's morning I was busy strawing down the sow pens on the pig farm where I worked. Young Colin came up with a big grin on his face,
"Does ol' Percy next door have any pigs?" he enquired,
"No, not that I know of, Col"
"Well, 'e does now; 'e's got a great big 'un in 'is vegetable patch!"
Thinking it to be one of ours that had managed to break open the door of its pen, we set off to bring the animal back. It soon became clear that the sow was in a particularly uncooperative frame of mind. As soon as she saw us she charged straight for the gap between the two of us, we tried to block her way and were both left sitting on the frosty grass.
The next hour continued in similar vein. We pursued her through the orchard, around the house and down into the wood. Eventually she crashed through some brambles and landed in a ditch.
"That'll quieten her down!" I said.
But I was wrong. She emerged from the ditch much muddier, much smellier but no calmer.
But, as old Bert would have observed philosophically had he not been tucked up in his bed, "No need ter panic, boys. We allus gets 'em back in thar sties in the end; else the whole dashed farm 'ud be a-roamin' with swine."
Oddly enough though, we couldn't find an empty sty. Not even one with a broken door, which is what we'd expected. So we barricaded her into an old building and left her there.
"Give her a good trough-full of grub, Col; that'll quieten her down".
But that was wrong too, as I realised when I saw young Colin exiting at speed through the window.
"I'll ring round everyone who keep pigs in the village," said the foreman when he arrived later in the morning, "she must belong to someone".
So he phoned all the farms in the area but without success.
"She's got no ear-tag," said Colin, "Reckon she'll belong to someone who's just got one or two pigs".
There were plenty of candidates in the village as everyone kept either pigs, goats or hens - it was that sort of village in those days.
So the search was extended throughout the village, even to Old Grace who, well into her nineties, still managed to look after her beloved pigs.
But still we couldn't find the owner anywhere.
That old sow gave us a great deal of trouble over the following weeks and she never did quieten down. She ate a huge amount of feed - and a large bite out of my trousers too - but continued to be as wild as on the morning we found her. "By the look of her she's due to have a litter of piglets quite soon, happen she'll calm down then," we said.
"One thing's for certain, as soon as she's had her litter and brought them up she's off to market," said the foreman, "We'll make a few bob for all our trouble".
It was getting obvious that she really ought to be moved into better accommodation to give birth to her offspring but nobody particularly wanted the job of moving her so she stayed where she was.
The following day, which must have been about six weeks after we'd first made the acquaintance of our cantankerous and uninvited guest, we had a visit from Old Grace.
"I've been thinking.... that sow you phoned about, she could well be one of mine. Oh yes, That's my Ellie," she said as she peered over the door into the pen, "I'd know her anywhere". We agreed that we'd certainly recognise her too, in the unhappy event that we should meet again.
"Well, thank you for looking after her, I'll take her home now. Come on, old girl", said the elderly Grace as she stooped to unbolt the door. And a few minutes later Old Grace went hobbling off, with Ellie grunting contentedly by her side.
Meanwhile we all stood scratching our heads in wonder, while the foreman made mental calculations of how much Old Grace had saved on feed bills and the amount of potential profit that had just trotted off through the farm gate.