The Case of the Lazy Farm Girl and the Pig
by Kassandra Rutherford of Leavensworth, KS
Digging graves for dead piglets is not the glamorous idea of country life in anybody’s book. Least of all a 15-year-old girl, who hadn’t even seen a pig up close and personal until a few months ago. I remember distinctly being resentful of having to dig the grave in the first place because I didn’t really want to have pigs, my brother did. I wanted a horse (a folly in and of itself, but not the point). But we had pigs at the time, two sows (Red and Bacon), nine living piglets, and two dead ones. That last part was inevitable I suppose, large litters of pigs often have one or two dead. That didn’t make me any more thrilled to be digging a hole in the frozen ground with a plastic bag full of dead swine next to me however. And it really was bitter cold, the kind of clear splintering Kansas winter day that makes your skin leathery and grey and that does not care how many layers of clothes you’re wearing. Consequentially, I am afraid I didn’t dig the grave particularly deep, maybe a foot and a half, grumbling some very unladylike things under my breath as I did so. Eventually, when I reckoned enough time had passed that my Mom wouldn’t question how deep the hole was, I picked up the bag and turned it upside down letting the dead tumble into their final resting place without any reverence at all. They hit the ground with a solid thud that sent an uncomfortable ripple through me. The cold still form of two piglets lying at the bottom of a shallow grave was a somber sight for me despite my resentment. I am by nature a superstitious person. By nurture, I am as modern as the rest of western civilization. Seeing them just lying there unmoving, one with a milky eye staring at me the notion grew in my head that I hadn’t given them a proper burial (it should be noted I feel no regrets what so ever when I eat our own pork). I shivered out of cold or fear, I can’t tell, but I covered them up quickly to get away from those dead unsatisfied eyes. “Sorry ‘bout that.” I told the covered grave and then ran back into the house tossing the shovel onto the porch rather than even putting it away. I took a very long shower, had some tea and tried not to think about the piglets I’d buried so badly. I reasoned the worst thing that could happen is a coyote would dig them up and that would be that. Well, I was wrong.
The piglets forgotten not even two days later, I was sent out into the predawn winter morning to set up milking the cow. I was still a bit groggy and adjusting my hat, when a shrill ethereal whine hit my ears. It was like a baby with a cough, long, hoarse, high-pitched screams of pain. A Piglet. It crawled towards me, its hind legs bearing no strength, streaked with mud and even some blood, whining at me, blaming me for all my sins, and ready to eat me for sure. The dead had come to exact their revenge. I dropped my milking bucket and ran away. I think that was a very sensible thing to do. Inside my mom and my sister were talking, my brother was slowly ambling out of bed, all blissfully unaware that the dead had risen because of my laziness.
“Mama…” I said and words failed me, I clutched the counter top, my legs shaking. She knew immediately something was wrong. “Is Una (the cow) ok?” Always the kind to confront a problem rather than let it fester, she didn’t give me the time to answer but rushed outside bravely, to make sure everything was alright. “…don’t…” I turned around to catch her but even with steady legs I can barely keep up with my mother once she’s in a rush, never mind in my wobbly shell shocked state. She returned a moment later, carrying a very much alive, but very cold, newborn piglet. “Bacon had her litter,” she explained seriously “she’s not keeping them in the bedding they’re all over the place, here hold this, I’ll be right back.” She shoved the whining creature into my arms and I sank into a chair.
The dead had not risen to come get me.
In the aftermath, we found out that Bacon had had a litter of 9 in the night, of which three froze before we could get to them, and we ended up nursing the rest in a cardboard box in the kitchen, because Bacon would not care for them. This is why the newborn had strayed out of the sty and crawled into the main yard in the first place, giving me a heck of a fright. We eventually convinced Red, our other sow to take them, which she did a fine job of. As to the issue of the three new dead piglets… after hearing my story, my mother decided it would be best if she buried the new dead, and I pointed her to the spot where I dug last time since the earth would still be loose there. Once she was finished she came back and washed her hands for an unusually long time “You must have showed me to the wrong spot.” She said after a pause. “I didn’t find the other two piglets.” My brother looked up from nursing the surviving piglets out of a bottle and pointed out pragmatically “Coyotes mighta gotten ‘em.”
I, of course, have a different theory.