The Wanderer

Here’s a great article from our archives by C.J. Mouser. She writes from her farm in central Florida, where she raises swine and grows oranges with her husband and three children. Enjoy!

One recent morning, I went out to check on a sow that was in the process of having her babies. She was doing just fine, and would have continued to do so without my presence, but I was enjoying watching her. There were a million things I could have bePig and Pigletsen doing in the house. Clearly, I was lallygaggin’.

I had just decided to go into the house and find something productive to do, when I heard a faint squealing. Sometimes I think we do things for a reason – even if we don’t know what the reason is. Maybe it’s fate, or divine inspiration, or something else guiding us. But something – call it ‘my little voice’ – kept me out there until I did what needed to be done. I just didn’t know what it was yet.

My hunt for the sound took me through the pasture gate and toward the orange grove. I was a little nervous – none of the domestic sows were missing, so I was guessing I was going to walk up on a wild sow out there in the grove with a litter. It’s not unheard of; sometimes the wild sows hang close by where they know there are other pigs. They feel more protected.

I quickly realized I didn’t have anything to protect myself with, so I began to walk sideways. You know, that way you walk when you think you might have to take off like greased lightning with very little notice. Peeking through the tree branches and getting more nervous by the second, I crept toward the sound.

I almost decided there was a wild sow out there, gave up and went back to the house. Almost decided that, but I didn’t…and I’m glad I didn’t. I finally came upon the source of the sound. What I found was a single little boar with perfect black and white Hampshire markings. Obviously he was a son of Bear, our big boar. He looked just like him, and for a new piglet, he was huge.

“Well now, what are you doing out here?”

I picked him up and noticed immediately that the white parts of his coat had turned pink from sunburn, so it was clear he had been out there a while. I gently carried him back to the nursery pasture and guided him through a hole in the wire. By then, the four mothers who were up and about had responded to his squealing, and each one came up and eagerly sniffed him. Then, one by one, they all turned around and left him. None of the mothers claimed him.

It suddenly dawned on me that he must have come from the sow who was still giving birth. But that seemed impossible. To get all the way out to the orange grove from where she was, he would have had to travel the equivalent of the length of a super Wal-Mart – twice – taking three-inch steps the whole way. It would have taken him an hour at least. I looked at him closer, and found that by comparison he was a lot cleaner than the other babies and his cord was short, but still damp looking.

“Dang, boy, you went a long way!”

“Weeeee!” (I sure did!)

Grinning, I carried him all the way across the pasture and deposited him with his mother. The first thing he did was take off for the grove again, but this time Mama called him back. He stopped mid-stride and decided he was hungry I guess, as he turned right around and dove into the feed line.

I don’t know where he’ll be tomorrow, but if he had spent the night out in the grove by himself he wouldn’t have made it. Being brand new, with no other piglets to snuggle with and keep warm, and after missing a whole night of feedings he wouldn’t have survived the night.

They say you should always listen to your little inner voice, even if you’re not sure what it’s trying to tell you. Even if it’s telling you that the dishes can wait, and the laundry can be folded later because, darn it, it’s just a lot more pleasurable to stand outside in the morning sun and watch baby pigs come into the world. No matter how long it takes.

I decided to listen to that little voice, and before long it wasn’t in my head anymore but outside, scared, cold and hungry. Today, my little voice came in the form of a squeal from way back yonder in the orange grove, and I’m glad I listened to it.

2 thoughts on “The Wanderer

  1. CJ, I loved the story of your wandering piglet! That must be some pig, in the words of Charlotte! It also reminded me of a little kitten my neighbor who brought to me a little, barely walking kitten to my door after retrieving it from the road. We lived down a long gravel lane so the chances of that kitten being from our barn were very slim– but it looked to be the right age of our litter so I thought I’d see if the momma barn cat would accept her. Turns out the kitten DID come from our barn. How it got all the way out to the road I will never know! My kids were little at the time so all I could think of is my daughter had the little kitties out playing by the house and this one decided to go back to momma early but instead of turning right at the gravel lane to head toward the barn turned left and just kept right on going!

  2. CJ, I grew up on a old family farm were there were always runts in a box on the back porch or a hen and chickens warming behind the kitchen stove. Sometimes they were able to return to the mom and other times we raised them by hand. I remember one little pig who was so very tiny and weak that we decided that she would not make it out in the hog pasture with the rest of the litter and we raised her by hand. She quickly became a real pet following us kids everywhere. Her favorite thing quickly became going for rides in the car with us. Long story short…Betsy grew to be a huge sow with many litters of her own and she never got over her love of going for rides. If she heard us getting ready for a trip in the car she would come running and if we did not get the doors closed and gone she would do her best to climb in with us. And, believe me a six hundred pound sow can usually get were she is wanting to go. She usually didn’t get to climb into the car with us after she grew up but she would stand in the lane and grumble looking longingly at the car as it sped away huffing and chomping as sows will when they are upset.