|You Get in There|
by Ralph Rice
One December in the 1980s, when we owned a slaughterhouse, a good
customer ordered 1,600 pounds of breakfast link sausage for Christmas gifts. I
decided to buy a bunch of sows, since they make nice lean sausage. We were busy
at that time of year and I didn't want to spend any more time than necessary
deboning pork, so I bought the largest sows I could find. Several of them
weighed more than 600 pounds and one weighed more than 800.Ralph Rice writes regularly for Rural Heritage. This article
appeared in the
We got this load of sows home from the livestock auction and put them
in a pen to await slaughter. Almost immediately one of them started to make a
nest, obviously soon to have a litter of piglets. Now I had not knowingly
purchased her in this condition, but there was no mistaking she was going to
Most butchers would have been mad at having paid for all that extra
weight of piglets, but not me. I was filled with illusions of grandeur. After
calculating the money I could make by raising and selling the babies, I loaded
the sow into a trailer, trucked her home, and hastily made a pen for her to
farrow in. I bedded the pen well with lots of bright straw and put the sow
Next morning eight new piglets were noisily eating their breakfast. I
was happy to see they were warm, well fed, and doing just fine. I finished the
rest of my feeding chores and headed off to work. I calculated the worth of the
piglets~eight head at $20 per head, not bad. The mother could be butchered later
and turned into delicious sausage. I was pleased with my good fortune.
We worked hard that day preparing orders for Christmas hams and gift
boxes. When we finished work it was well past dark. I drove home thinking about
the day's events and those eight 20dollar bills nursing on their mother.
Back at the barn something seemed amiss. In the pigpen I found only two
little piglets nursing. The other six were missing. I looked all around the
barn. I couldn't figure out how the new babies could have gotten out. It wasn't
until the mother sow got to her feet that I discovered where the six little pigs
A mother pig lies down gently. The problem is that even when a 600pound
sow lies down gently she's still heavy. There in the straw, under the now
standing sow, were six of the flattest piglets I have ever seen. They looked
like little pigshaped paper plates.
The next morning when I did chores I found the other two piglets
dead. Thus I learned the importance of a farrowing crate. I also learned why
this sow had been in the sausage pen. My $160 worth of piglets had just slipped
away. Although I was disappointed, I also realized that nothing ventured,
When I reached into the sow's pen to get her feed trough she ran at
me growling and snapping and trying to bite. She probably thought I had
flattened her babies and, boy, was she mad. She became 600 pounds of growling,
snapping sausage on the hoof. I had to get her to the slaughterhouse, and fast.
Since I had brought the sow home it had snowed about 2'. There being
no way I could drive the truck and trailer to the barn to get her, I decided to
hitch my draft horses to the trailer and back it to the barn. They could easily
get through the snow and help me rid the barn of that terror.
I hitched the horses to my forecart and hooked the forecart to the
trailer. Soon I was backed up to the barn. In my haste to rid the barn of its
ornery visitor, I laid the lines across the forecart's seat. Even though my
horses are well broke, I usually tie my lines to something solid, just in case.
Inside the barn I armed myself with a scoop shovel in one hand and
the lid from a 55gallon drum in the other. There I stood, poised as an
ancient gladiator, staring down at my opposing foe. I opened the gate and let
the 600pound snapping snarling beast from the confines of her pen.
We circled each other, two worthy combatants. I kept her from biting
me by using the shovel as a shield. The barrel lid helped keep her from wheeling
about and biting from the other side. Guiding her with my shovel, I bravely
stepped up close and with the barrel lid pushed on her gigantic rear end,
inching her toward the trailer. She whirled around and let out a woof
that shook me to the core. That bark alone was enough to stand my hair on end,
but her teeth sinking into the shovel is what scared me. I couldn't let her know
how much she had startled me so, while my kneecaps played a drum roll, I glared
at the old witch.
We continued on this way for about 15 minutes. I pushed and
maneuvered, she spun and tried to eat me. Thus we went at each other with grit
and determination, but both of us, being slightly overweight, soon started to
At last I got her to the rear of the trailer. When she stepped up
with one foot I saw a huge opportunity. In my deepest, meanest commanding voice
I yelled, "You get in there!"
Now anyone who has ever worked horses knows that "get in there"
is a command used to tell them to pull harderto put their heart into
it~and is often followed by a slap on the rump. My horses had heard this command
before. Needing no further encouragement they leaped the length of their bodies
and kept right on getting in there.
Back in the barn I was trying to get my foot out of my mouth, the
shovel out of the sow's, and the barn door shut, all while slipping in fresh
manure. Somehow I got the door shut and the sow confined, and managed a startled
"Whoa!" to two scared horses.
Being well broke, when I said "Whoa!" they started to stop.
Trouble was, the trailer door swung around and 8' of steel slammed on an empty
trailer. My two already scared horses thought someone had shot them and took off
across the street, next to a new car sales lot. I, in hot pursuit, ran as fast
as my tired hog fighting legs could carry me through 2' of snow. By the time I
got across the street the team had made a wide circle and were coming back
toward me. I stopped them, talked to them, and calmed them down. Then I drove
them across the street and backed them up to the barn. I got off the forecart
and tied my lines to a tree.
I entered the barn and glared at my adversary with newfound
vengeance. Icicles hung from my sweat soaked hair, steam blew out of my flared
nostrils, and a quiet rage shook my body. I stood before the hulking pig like a
man possessed. She took one look at this tickedoff reheaded Dutchman, gave
one grunt (her sign of contempt for a sore loser?), and ambled into the trailer
on her own.