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On the Farm, Saying Goodbye to Our Family Pigs

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So, the Drunkard and the Little One are gone. They were killed yesterday just a few minutes after I dropped them off at the slaughterhouse at about 8:30 a.m. They had been with us for about six months and were our two "special needs" pigs. The Drunkard, when he was about ten weeks old, inexplicably lost the use of his hind legs. He would lurch to his feet and stumble around, as if he were drunk, and then his hind legs would collapse. The Little One got pneumonia and nearly died.

A while back, I suspected there was something wrong with the feed that I was feeding the pigs, so I switched to another feed, one that I had had success with a couple of years ago. Within a month of the change, the Drunkard regained the use of his rear legs, a couple of other pigs that were having minor loco-motor problems also got better, and more importantly, meat quality, which had also gone downhill, returned to the high level I strive for.

With the Drunkard unable to use his legs, the other pigs were beating up on him, so I decided to separate him, and since the Little One was sickly and stunted, I chose her as his companion.

In a small paddock together, they became fast friends. They ate their feed together. They foraged together. They slept together. And, even before the Drunkard got his legs back, they played together -- the Drunkard, also affectionately known as "Drunk Drunk" and "Drunky," would sit on his rear end like a dog and the two pigs would wrestle with each other. The Drunkard was about twice the size of the Little One so he held his own just using his head and neck while the Little One ran around and leapt and lunged at him. When he got his legs back they played even more.

Over the weeks and months that they were together in the little paddocks that I rotated them through over the course of the summer, I became very fond of the two pigs. They both had sweet, outgoing personalities, and they both liked to be rubbed and scratched.

Drunky and the Little One soon became family pigs to which (to whom, I suppose) I became very attached. It was very difficult for me to load them on the trailer yesterday. The Little One, always curious, hopped right on. Drunk Drunk, always a bit cautious, I suppose because he spent such a long time in such a vulnerable state, took his time. He sniffed the trailer. He chewed on the steel bumper. He put one foot up and then put it back down on the ground just outside of the trailer. All the while the Little One happily munched on the grain I had placed in her feed pan in the trailer, occasionally grunting to Drunky, making sure that he knew right where she was.

"Come on Drunk Drunk, hop on up. It's okay," I said to him softly. "Go ahead." But he wasn't ready. He walked away from the trailer and took a drink of water. Then he walked back over and narfed at the Little One, who narfed back. "See, Drunky, everything is fine. Just hop right on up there."

He still wasn't ready. Then, finally, out of the blue and with no fanfare, he put first one front foot, then the next up on the trailer floor and hopped in. I swung the door shut and latched it. The clang of the metal locking bar rang loudly in my ears. The Drunkard barfed. The Little One grunted.

I gave myself two seconds to feel. I pressed the palm of my hand gently against the trailer door and unconsciously bowed my head. "I'm so sorry," I whispered in my head, unable to say the words out loud. Then I pulled myself together, mentally shook myself off, hopped in the truck, and slowly drove off across the field, trying to keep the bumps and ruts from tossing the pigs around too much. Once I got to the paved road, I cranked up the radio, set, as it always is, to the hard rock station, and drove off to the slaughterhouse, leaving my feelings back in the field.

I had said my goodbye to the Drunkard and the Little One, so at the slaughterhouse we unloaded them and I watched them walk calmly through the pen directly into the kill chute without any more emotion than I do most of the nameless pigs that I never get to know beyond being able to recognize them by sight.

Even before I was two miles away, both of them were dead.

As I write this, the Drunkard and The Little One are gone. All that is left of them are carcasses, each one split in two and hanging by hooks on a rail in a cooler.

Actually, that is not all that is left of them. My mind is full of memories of them, and my cheeks are wet with tears shed for them as I pour over those memories.

Goodbye Drunky and Little One. Thank you for showing me that I haven't become a killer after all.

For more writing by Bob Comis, visit his blog here.

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