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CLAYTON RYE

By Staff | Apr 25, 2014

My wife and I were visiting the home of one of our children and grandchildren. A daily routine for them is to have devotions each evening just before bed.

The subject for that evening was character building. I said I wanted my character building to be cheap and easy.

Our daughter-in-law replied, “Did that time you helped pull a pig from under the cattle bunk build your character?”

She was recalling a story I told many years ago that I have not thought about for several years. From the smile on her and my grandson’s face, along with the look in their eyes, it was as if I had told them the story last week.

I believe every good story needs to be retold, and it is time to retell this one.

About 50 years ago, when I was probably a high school sophomore, my dad told me one evening he needed help getting a hog out from under a cattle bunk.

My dad was feeding around 225 head of cattle and had at least as many hogs in the same lot.

It was the days before pseudorabies when hogs and cattle could be in the same feedlot as a way for the hogs to use any feed wasted by the cattle.

He had an automated feeding system for the cattle, using an auger suspended above concrete bunks. Viewed from the end, the bunk sections were like a letter H with the vertical parts for support and the horizontal holding the silage.

There was around 18 inches of space under the horizontal part that was wide open. Laying the sections end to end, the bunk was 75 to 100 feet in length.

One pig had crawled from the west end, where the bunk was open, almost to the east end and it could not turn around.

My dad wanted me to crawl under the bunk and tie a rope to the pig’s leg so he could pull it out.

Oh yes, there was one more thing.

It had been raining and I had to crawl through a quarter- to half-inch of a wet sloppy mix of cow and hog manure on my elbows and stomach because it was too low for crawling on all fours.

When my dad told me what he wanted me to do, my reaction was, “Are you serious?”

Yes, he was serious. I knew if he could do it himself, he would.

Back then I weighed 130 pounds, 100 pounds less than my dad, making me a better fit for such a cramped space.

I also knew my dad wanted to send every hog to market he could and a dead hog rotting under a cattle bunk would be a loss of income and a smelly mess.

He told me to put on clothes that were not that good. I found jeans that were threadbare and a matching sweatshirt. I put my five-bucklers over my shoes.

We walked to the end of the bunk where the hog started his journey. My dad handed me a rope and a lantern for my journey.

It has been 50 years since that evening and when I think of it, I can still feel that cool, wet, sloppy manure soaking into my clothing as I got on my stomach and started crawling.

I figured, “Once you are wet, you can’t get wetter.”

I crawled to where the hog was stuck, rope in one hand and lantern in the other. I tied the best knot I could around the hog’s leg, and crawled backwards to get out because there was no room to turn around.

My dad pulled the rope, the hog came out, the rope was untied, the hog ran off and he made it to market.

We walked back to the house. I changed clothes in the laundry room and once they were clean, I wore those same clothing items with no ill effects.

I don’t believe my dad or I ever talked about it again. It was a job that needed to be done and it was done.

High fives were not around in the early 1960s.

I believe my dad smiled when he looked at me standing there soaked in cow and hog manure from neck to toe.

Maybe he was smiling because the hog was saved. There is no money in dead hogs.

But my daughter-in-law wanted to know if this built my character. I am not sure.

My strongest memory is that my dad would have done this himself if he could have.

I liked the idea of his having belief in me and that together we could get it done, which we did.

I did not suffer any bad affects from this job and 50 years later, it is still a fun story to tell, especially when remembering the smiles and eyes of my daughter-in-law and grandson.

Rye is a Farm News staff writer and farmer from Hanlontown. Reach him by e-mail at crye@wctatel.net.

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