“There’s a pot-bellied pig roaming the area,” my neighbor Barb informed me. Her neighbors have been seeing it in the field below her home scrounging for waste field corn in the evenings. “Keep an eye out for it.” No one knows if it’s someone’s pet which got loose or left loose on purpose, because they no longer wanted it. A few hours later, I am outside our home, speaking to Todd and a friend who was visiting, telling them what my neighbor had just said and suddenly this black squat pig comes into view right in the forest surrounding our home. “There it is!” I exclaimed. It is rooting around the woods, looking for acorns I suppose. Todd moved towards it, wondering if it was used to people and curious, but it quickly trotted away over the side of Red Mountain. I called the local SPCA. They would send someone up with a trap and try to catch it.
Later that day, the director and a helper brought a large black wire cage, like a dog crate, except with a trip door. They placed it in the woods a good distance from our log house but within sight. Scattered around the area, they tossed bright orange Cheetos corn snacks (looking good enough to eat, as we never buy such crap but I have fond memories from my childhood. I resisted). Opening a bag of apples, they smashed them against a tree to bust them apart, (not needing a knife, the resourceful women said), and threw the chunks around the forest floor and some inside the cage. Leftover macaroni salad and a half a hoagie from the shelter’s lunch room fridge, also went into the cage. They instructed us to watch the cage, because we could catch other wild critters. They showed us how to open up the cage and release the wild animal who could find itself trapped inside with its new-found treat. We should monitor what food is missing. Put out some more apples, as they left the rest of the bag. Other animals will also eat the food and light animals may venture into the cart to snack but be too light to trip the door.
From then on out, I looked for the pig every time I was outside…bringing in firewood, going for the mail, out for my daily walk, I searched the woods for the little black pig. From inside the house, I looked out the window multiple times during the day, looking for a shape, black or otherwise, inside the cage. The little pig was frequently on my mind. We received calls from all our neighbors. “There is a black, pot-belly pig over here, is it yours? Do you know anything about it?” But we never saw it again on our own land.
About five days went by and all the food, except for the apples, was gone and no trapped pig. We went down to Virginia to hike and camp with our kids over the weekend, and when we returned, the cage was gone. When I called the SPCA, they reported that the owners were found, but they were being cited for animal cruelty and abandonment and the matter was being taken up with the police. They were no longer involved and came for the trap. Meanwhile, the pig is still roaming, sleeping God knows where, eating God knows what. Our one neighbor here on Red Mountain, John Dolbin, put out corn to feed the deer, hoping to lure the pig in. He said that his youngest son, Marshall, has always wanted a pet pig. Days go by and I received no more calls from neighbors with sightings. We all began to fear for the worst. The little black pig was on everyone’s mind here on Red Mountain.
Then, a crazy big snowstorm is forecasted- many, many inches of snow, probably deeper snow than a little pot-belled pig is tall. Todd decided to make a quick run to the grocery store before the first flakes fall and as the car was rounding the corner by our barn and the goat shed, there stood the black pig. He hopped out and moved towards it. But it moved away and began to make circles around the goat pen. The pig wasn’t going far away though but seemed to be sticking by the goats. Our boys looked on with interest.
Todd went to get a handful of sweet feed that we give the goats, a pellet food for multiple kinds of livestock, and put it in a bowl. The piggie trotted towards it quite fast. He loved it and he was indeed hungry. Todd came back to the house to get my help. In my housecoat with rubber muck boots and my down jacket, I went out to help.
The idea was surround him from both sides, against the garden fence and the garden shed/chicken run (no chickens right now), and get him to “escape” from us right into the open door of the chicken run. It worked like a charm and within two minutes of trying, he was safe inside. He trotted around the 10 ft wide by 30 ft long fenced in area, looking for a get-away through the fence, nosing the ground every few feet looking for a hole. I wondered if he wished for the free, independent life regardless if it was hard and unpredictable. There were no holes. He decided to accept his fate that he was no longer a free-range, independent pig and stayed by the fence section that was shared with the goats. They already seemed to enjoy each other’s company. He laid down next to the fence by the goats and shivered, from cold or from fear.
I fetched a bale of hay, busted it up and threw it over the fence where he lay and he nuzzled in. Todd planned to perhaps move him up 200 yards to the real pig pen and shelter he created from the old llama shed for our pigs last year that we raised for meat. I called my neighbor, Josh and asked for assistance from him and his boys, as we’d have to catch this little guy somehow, get him into a plastic barrel and move him up to the llama shed. In a bit, I came outside to find Josh and his son, Marshall gazing at the pig in the pen with fascination and affection.
“He’s yours, if you want him,” I told my neighbors. “Start to think up a name. Start to bond.” We examined the pig’s undersides as it trotted around to try to determine its sex to pick an appropriate name. We all leaned towards a male, as the right part seemed to protrude from its underside.
Todd got a large plastic tub that is 3 ft x 5ft, turned it on its side, positioned it by the chicken house so no weather could get in, hammered stakes into the ground so it couldn’t move, filled it with sweet hay, put out bowls of food and water, and the little black piggie made himself at home.
Josh has a lot of learning to do. Most of the info on the internet is aimed towards a pot-bellied pig who stays indoors, hangs in the living room, naps on the sofa, is a member of the family. “That’s not happening,” John admits, not with indoor cats, a poodle, five children already living inside the house. After raising two extremely sloppy, piggish pigs for meat this past year, I cannot imagine a pig of any sort living inside a house. Something feels fundamentally wrong with that image in my mind.
We wondered if its food needed to be slopped like our pigs that we raised for meat. Is a pig a pig a pig? Lettuce and carrots, are what folks feed their pigs, Josh read. That diet won’t get this pig very far, living outside in the winter. Josh bought husked field corn to feed the deer and he brought a bucket of it over for the new neighborhood piggie. But we wondered if it would pass right through his system, and needed to be cracked instead. Todd has an antique, electric corn grinder that he inherited from his grandfather, that he’s planning on hooking up back at the house and grinding some feed. I said he had to invite Marshall to share in the experience, after all, it will be his pig someday- in the spring, after the ground thaws and Josh can build him a new home over on his land on Red Mountain.
The Dolbin boys have been back at our chicken run three times today, checking on the new neighborhood pig. They stare transfixed, watching its behavior and thinking. Marshall- just filled with pleasure, thinking of the tricks he’s gonna try to teach him. Josh, thinking how to build him a shed and a run. We all marvel at the fact that he is here, safe, with a new home, after weeks of roaming and searching for food, weeks of us looking for him and hoping to catch a glimpse of him, let alone be fortunate enough to catch him.
Today, the snow is coming down fierce and steady. The inches pile up much higher than a little pot-bellied pig can stand. Today, tonight, this pig would have surely died. He would have never been able to dig in the forest and find food. Today would have been his last day on the planet. What possessed him to visit our goats and our homestead yesterday, allowed himself to be so easily caught? Does an animal like a pig have pig angels looking out for him? Is this pig supposed to continue to live and bring untold pleasures and life lessons for our neighbor boy? One is tempted to consider that.
I told Josh, one of the tricks Marshall can teach him is to hike with him, get a halter and take him on the trails on Red Mountain with us and our goats. “We can be real hicks,” I laugh, “taking our goats and pig for a hike.” At any rate, we hope our new black pot-bellied pig enjoys many happy years here on Red Mountain, his marvelous new home.
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