Friday, January 13th, 2006
When I was young the world was a different place. No, really, it was. The neighbor kids and I (the oldest of us being no more than 11) used to walk by ourselves all the time over to the main street in our town – we went to the toy store, the drugstore to sneak peeks at the naughty magazines, the supermarket to buy toffees, and of course, to the International House of Pancakes for the most important meals of the day. Thinking back on it I suspect we were the terror of that restaurant, and I seriously doubt that we left good tips. Sometimes we’d eat our fill of pancakes, but more often than not we’d perform chemistry experiments with all those different flavors of syrup, pouring them all over our plates, into each other, and into the big coffee cannister the waitresses always left on the table (we had no respect for caffeine in those days). I remember the day we made the terrible mistake of ordering the chocolate chip pancakes and pouring boysenberry syrup over the whole deal – even for 11 year olds, that was just too much and we were all rather sick afterwards.
Back then I’d never heard of vegetarians so I certainly could not even attempt to be one, and so, on occasion, at one of our IHOP outings, I’d order “pigs in a blanket”. You know, those little hot dogs or sausages wrapped in pancakes, slathered all over with maple syrup. I make no apologies for that young child who adored the combination of salty pork mixed with sweet sugar, flour, and butter. (Just as an aside, it’s amazing to me how any of us survive childhood foods.) Being the uncaring little heathen that I was, I don’t think I ever “got” what the “pig” was in the pig in a blanket – I just thought it was a cute name. Hunh.
Now, I’ve done some linguistic research to figure out just where this term originates, and it appears to be a Britishism, but always referring to a culinary item. Pshaw, I say, what do these cooks know? Because I have news for them – the Brits, the pancake makers, all of them – real pigs DO prefer blankets.
Fast forward to farm life: not having evolved into the most tidy person, I will on occasion throw a soiled towel, sheet, or blanket over the fence to dry out before deciding whether it can go in the washer or out to the trash. The problem is of course when these items sit on the fence unchaperoned for more than half a day, because Tetsuro the pig, Tetsuro the packrat, Tetsuro for whom comfort is a life-sustaining imperative, can spot an unprotected textile item a pasture-and-a-half away.
During Tetsuro’s first weeks here at the farm back in 2003, I noticed his talent for collecting things. His very first nest was built out of twigs and long grass that he ripped out of the ground. A bird could do no better. With only his considerably sized snout, he now gathers and weaves his nests out of pine shavings, straw, hay, and other found items, to fit exactly the contours of his remarkable body. Anyone who comes to muck stalls is now given strict instructions not to touch the nests in the barn, some of which exceed 2 feet in height. There are usually at least two (since Mr. Newman Goat has commissioned Tetsuro to make him one, too – or at least he commandeers one after it’s finished; we’re not quite sure what the business relationship is). I have found sheets, towels, sometimes ripped into shreds (the better to weave with, my dear), ropes, plastic bags, and other odd assorted items in Tetsuro’s nests. I find it endearing and entrepreneurial of the fellow. He finds it cushy.
But sometimes I have to put my foot down. You know, it’s winter right now. Winter means that the equines get to wear their special blankets, and Dee Dee Donkey particularly needs her blanket when it’s cold because she’s getting up there in years (upwards of 30). A few days ago I went out to do morning chores and discovered a naked donkey. You know where this is going, right? Admittedly I did not see the crime being committed, but the forensic evidence indicated swine marks on a torn clasp so I can only assume that Tetsuro stole this garment right off of Dee Dee’s body.
There are those who would say after such an incident “pen them all in”, “lock the suckers up”, “separate, segregate”, and worse “beat them into submission” (yes some really have told me that). Look, I spent more than 20 years of my life in a cubicle so I know all about being locked in, penned up, contained, controlled, and beaten on. I can also tell you that those days of childhood freedom on Thayer Street at the IHOP were the way to go. There is risk in freedom; some get the shirts stolen right off their backs and others build empires with them. I give the animals at Star Gazing Farm the opportunity to express themselves; if it means that I have to wash a donkey blanket or clean a Newman-invaded truck, so be it. At least I’m not in a cubicle, nor are they.