Friday, April 13, 2012

A Pig is not a Boy...or Remember the Gadarene Swine

'Piggy, piggy, piggy, piggy', is the marching song for Josh as he hustles through the big greenhouse as quickly as his short legs and untied shoes will allow.  The ritual varies little from day to day: Ann brings Aaron out to chore his 4H pigs and stops by to visit with Matt.  Josh gives us a big grin and heads east down the long sidewalk to the nether end of the the door leading to the pig hut.

Josh has had more than his fair share of experience with needles in the past month.  As it turns out, so has Orville,one of Aaron's pigs. There were six pigs to start with, just three weeks old when Matt brought them out to their cozy little metal hut one chilly damp winter day. One little pig never did thrive and is buried out on the terraces out of reach of the farm dogs.  Four little pigs have grown to be solid oinkers, rushing in and out of the hut, snuzzling any lookers on through the fence.  These are the pigs Josh loves; he hangs off the hog wire until he tires of their limited antics and totters off to his next adventure.

Orville is what Aaron calls the fifth little pig, the current runt of the lot.  'Stupid' is what Matt calls him...but  then again, Matt might be referring to any one of the pen occupants; I could be mistaken.  Orville has been written off more than once.  If pigs were boys, I guess the others would be called 'bullies', hogging, if you will, the feed and the water. Orville has been picked on, no doubt about it.  Orville has had lots of shots; Orville has also been escorted to the water all by himself. More than once, Matt was ready to wash his hands and let him fend for himself, but Ann, either stubborn or softhearted, hated to give up the fight.  'He's a pig', was the consensus, but, nonetheless, the search was made for my old bowling ball.  Soon the swirling red ball was planted in the little pig lot to reduce the level of piggy boredom and give them something to pick on besides Orville.

All this work and worry for a pig?  Ann says she can't see Aaron's animals without visualizing pork loins.  Orville looks better to her, but 'still short of edible'.  If the idea of naming an animal likely to wind up in one and two pound packages in the freezer bothers you, then kindly recall there is an object in the lesson of a 4H project.  The object is the boy and the lesson is caring for a critter for which one has complete responsibility.  Next to honesty, is there a more vital or integral characteristic of growing up than accepting the obligation of daily chores?  Many of us have recurring nightmares about the class we never attended, but must still take the final; in our house, the bad dream bequeathed to posterity is the possibility that the calves are out of water, or that a hydrant has been left on and there will be no water at all at breakfast time.  Part of being grown up is the burden of worry about doing one's duty.  So much for the notion of a carefree childhood!  Only the swine in the pen are carefree, not the small boy who is admonished daily, 'Are those your good shoes?'

Should we look forward to eating Orville?  Or any of his compatriots?  I like a good pork burger as well as the next person, and I certainly have no compunctions about eating a named pig over an anonymous pig.  But in this case, the journey IS the point and I anticipate most the pictures I will take of Aaron and Pig 1,2,3, or 4 in the show ring this summer will focus on the kid and not the hog. Watching a young man in a plaid shirt, jeans, boots, showstick or brush,and a countenance serious and attentive will be deja vu' for us on the sidelines.  We will applaud everyone's efforts, blue ribbon, rosette, champion or no.  We'll bid at the auction, rewarding the kid with the premium, not just his critter and record each child and his animal for posterity in a photo.  There are grand champion animals, no doubt, and I hope the winners are compensated handsomely.  But  a pig is not a boy and the livestock show is primarily about girls and boys, not animals at all.  Are we people of more value than swine or cattle or sheep?  We can take care of them; they cannot reciprocate. We feed our animals; we make sure they are comfortable; we give them medicine when they are sick; and we even try to keep them from being 'bullied' by their own kind.  But when our children hurt, we spare no time, no effort, no expense and no anguish.  We know there is a difference; it doesn't take an ethicist  to explain it to us.  Our Lord banished the demons, saving the man, and allowing the pigs to perish in rather dramatic fashion...

 Matthew 8.30-32 (cf. Mark 5.11-13 and Luke 8.32-33) wrote:
And there was a good way off from them an herd of many swine feeding. So the devils besought him, saying, If thou cast us out, suffer us to go away into the herd of swine. And he said unto them, Go. And when they were come out, they went into the herd of swine: and, behold, the whole herd of swine ran violently down a steep place into the sea, and perished in the waters.

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