Travel Stories

“A Pig Problem”

pot-belly-pig

"A Pig Problem"

“I am not a pig farmer. The pigs had a great time,

but I didn’t make any money.”

Willie Nelson

Another animal was on the loose.  No, it was not a lost cat like we had in San Jose last winter.  This time it was Luna, a pot bellied pig who had escaped from her pen in Wisconsin. We were on a mission. Help get Luna back into her pen to be with her five piglets. Luna was agitated. She was ornery. She grunted. She squealed loudly as she waddled around the pen trying to get to her babies. Despite the 16 hands present, lifting the large Mama pig over the three foot high plywood enclosure was not going to happen. If you have never tried lifting a pig, trust me on this one. Pigs are not designed to be lifted by human hands. We tried. The piglets continued to squeal. Not to be left out, the hens sang their song, and Papa pig let out deep grunts from inside his secluded pen. In the darkness could be heard…

pot-bellied-pigs
Pot Bellied Pigs

“Who has the Kix cereal?”
“Quick, grab that piglet!”
“Anyone see Luna?”
“I need a light here!”
“Where is the can of peas?”
“She’s stuck!”

peas
Peas?

Then a few minutes later…..

“What’s burning?”

Time to backtrack this story.

It was 7:45 on an August evening outside Eau Claire, Wisconsin. We were enjoying a meal with friends after a visit to my college alma mater, UW- Eau claire. Go Blugolds! We just finished dinner when my girlfriend’s phone rang. It was her daughter who had left the house a few minutes earlier with her dad to check on some animals. She runs a pet sitting business and had one visit to make this evening. They were planning to be back home shortly, just in time to enjoy a much anticipated cake for dessert.

Sunflower-Farm-Wisconsin
Sunflower Farm in Wisconsin

“Luna is out of her pen. We are trying to get her back in. We might be a few minutes,” the fifteen-year-old daughter told her Mom.

Ten minutes later the phone rang again.

“Dad needs some straps. Do we have any plywood in the garage?”

Summon the troops. We hopped in Big Blue and headed down the road, following my girlfriend who was driving her van with her two other daughters. Surely, we could all get one pig back into a pen. How challenging could it be?

Very challenging we soon learned. Having found no obvious break in the pen, we concluded that Luna must have somehow managed to put her hooves up on the top of the boards, lost her balance and rolled out of the pen and into the grassy yard. It was definitely an acrobatic feat for this large, roly-poly creature. Unfortunately, she could not repeat this athleticism to get herself back into the pen to be with her piglets. Pigs are awkward blob like creatures but incredibly strong and stubborn. We tried using Kix cereal, canned green peas and a cucumber to coax her up a wooden plank. Unsuccessful. She ate all of the food but would not walk the gangplank. We tried using wooden pallets to guide her through the eye of the needle. Unsuccessful. After getting her front hooves up on top of the boards, we tried to lift her rear end over the side of the pen, even putting some cushioning down to pad her landing. Unsuccessful. We tried using straps around her belly to guide her up the ramp. Unsuccessful. Again!

more nails
We need more nails!

It was now after 9:00. The grunts and squeals were getting louder. Luna needed to nurse her piglets. Her agitation grew. The baby piglets were running around inside the pen searching for Mama. Our girls were trying to comfort the baby pigs with attention and food. Luna liked popcorn, so perhaps that would be the magic ticket.

Suddenly, something was burning! The popcorn! Smoke was billowing out of the microwave. An awful smell filled the house and wafted into the backyard. Unfortunately, no popcorn for Luna. Fortunately, we did not have to call the fire department.

It was finally decided that the pen needed to be dismantled to get Luna back in. After a search for tools in the garage and the removal of many nails and screws, a board was lifted. Luna waddled into her pen and was reunited with her babies. Quiet in the night had been restored as the squeals stopped and the piglets nursed. An extra piece of plywood was nailed onto the posts to ensure that no convicts escaped during the night.

securing-pig-pen
Securing the Pig Pen

At 10:30, we were back at our friend’s house eating cake. All the animals were safe, secure and accounted for. The seven pigs, five hens and two dogs at the neighbor's home were happy and hopefully sleeping. The animals inside our friend’s home that night included one visiting dog staying in the kennel in the garage, one mother dog named Wednesday and her seven four-week-old pups, one bird perched in her cage and two cats living in the basement, one of which was talented enough to use the urinal. “Animal house” was now quiet, except for the three young girls who were now high on sugar and way past their bedtime. I drifted off to sleep with visions of Charlotte busy at work in her web. “Only in Wisconsin” she accurately spun.

success
Success!

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