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KAREN SCHWALLER

By Staff | Aug 17, 2012

There are fewer groups of words that can strike more panic into a marriage as the group that goes, “Can you help load hogs in the morning?”

Oh, how I remember those days. Of course, the memories I would like to keep forever begin to fade after awhile, but those memories of loading hogs are seriously etched into my mind.

You might know.

A local farmer philosopher was once talking about how hogs love to go the opposite way that they need to be going. In the process, he said, “If a hog had a head on both ends, it would go sideways.”

If you don’t understand that, you simply have not raised hogs.

If it weren’t for the fact that hogs contain some of the most delicious meat in the world, I would say it wasn’t worth the effort. But because our family is a group of carnivores who loves a good breakfast meal, it’s completely worth it to grow that of the swine persuasion.

I have to say, however, that if breakfast came in the evening, I would be more inclined to cook it. Hogs get a bum rap, but what would breakfast be without bacon, ham or sausage, or supper without a good pork chop, loin or roast?

One of our local bankers was recently remembering his days of loading hogs while he was growing up. We were exchanging stories of how it usually went – the hogs that got past sorting gates and panels now and then, the yelling (at hogs AND people) when things weren’t going well, the picking up of hogs by their ears in exasperation in order to turn them in the direction they need to go when other methods failed, the tears that sometimes followed by younger kids and sometimes wives when the gate was finally closed behind the last obstinate one

And then the apologies.

Loading hogs can be an emotional experience, indeed.

My banker friend said, “Loading hogs brings out emotions you never even knew you had.”

It’s true. Gentle farmers can turn into their own version of Jerry Seinfeld’s Soup Nazi when things aren’t going well out in the loading chute.

I remember coming home from town once with our pre-school-aged children. Our daughter had been watching her dad loading hogs earlier that week, and when we got home, we saw that he was working on that job alone.

It was plain to see that it was not going well. After observing that, our young daughter said, “Piggies are (blankety-blank) boneheads.”

After telling her firmly that we don’t say those words, I had a firm chat with her father, telling him the same thing.

Though the world loves to eat pork, it’s not hard to see that they are possibly the least appreciated specie in the farm animal kingdom. I would feel sorry for them, but they have created many a cold shoulder in my own marriage over the years, and so I go on loving their product, but not necessarily them.

I see the same thing happening in the swine barn at our local county fair from year to year.

Over in the sheep barn on sale day, the young 4-Hers are crying, saying farewell to their sheep after they have led them around the sale ring. Fathers are there comforting them. 4-H is quite a learning experience for the very young, as they often get their first taste of selling something they have raised.

Over in the beef barn, the young kids and teenagers are removing halters from their calves with great sorrow, standing with them and running their hands down the calves’ faces for the last few times, and walking away from the livestock truck with quiet tears streaming down their faces.

Even the dads are sometimes crying right along with their kids. They all comfort each other after that awful moment of separation has come and gone.

But over in the swine barn, the kids chase their hogs out of the sale ring and up the chute into the waiting truck – yelling things like, “Saah! Come on! Get up there” – making dang sure they get in that truck, and that the truck gate closes behind them.

They don’t necessarily want to see them again. They just want the cash.

Imagine where they learned that.

There are a lot of experiences endured for the world’s love of hogs.

Schwaller is a Farm News correspondent from Milford. Reach her by e-mail at kschwaller@evertek.net

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