It was winter. I was enjoying a deep sleep, next to Keith. Suddenly, it was interrupted by a bump in the night. My eyes opened to darkness. I held my breath, listening for anything. There was nothing. Everything was quiet. I shook it off as my imagination and rolled over.
Just as I dozed off again, I heard another bump. A few seconds later there was another. I sat up in bed and listened more intently. I heard the dog bark once and then another bump. My bare feet hit the cold floor and I hurried toward the window. From the dim light outside, I saw a black shadow passing over the snow. It was something with four legs and much bigger than a dog.
My first thought was that of a bear. My heart raced and my eyes strained to focus. No, on second thought, it shouldn’t be a bear. Bears should be hibernating this time of year. Besides, the dog would be having conniptions. I woke Keith and asked him to look. As he peered into the night, he shook his weary head. “Time to get up”, was his only response. No more words were exchanged. We each let out a heavy sigh and got dressed.
Bumps in the night are part of homestead life. They are often rude awakenings. They can be scary, but usually they are only frustrating and time consuming. And sometimes they are costly. I used to think such trials were the “evil and dark side” of life. However, over the years I’ve consoled myself by calling them “adventures” instead.
These “adventures” test Keith and me. And all our senses are on overdrive. For that very reason, they are the memory makers. These memories then become stories. Stories that are shared face to face or from one Facebook post to another. Perhaps, a couple will pass on from one generation to the next. And maybe they will be recalled with laughter.
At the time, however, I was not laughing. It was pitch black and cold outside. I was tired. I wanted to be sleeping, next to my husband, in bed, and covered in blankets. Instead, I was stumbling around in the dark and falling through crusted snow. It hurt and it wasn’t funny. We had to be the only two fools, in the whole-wide-world, doing such things at wee hours.
As Keith and I walked toward the dark shadow, it ignored our presence. Keith confronted the shadow using a gruff tone, “What in the HELL do you think you’re doing?”! The 400-pound shadow snapped his head to attention and squealed. He quickly trotted toward me and tried to hide behind my legs. At that very moment, Keith and I burst into uncontrollable laughter. Like a rogue teenager, Boris our Berkshire boar got busted.
Under the cover of darkness, he had been sneaking out to visit a female friend. To be honest, we’re not mad that Boris couldn’t resist a freckled beauty. He’s in the prime of his life. Besides, he’s just doing his job. We’re only unhappy that he had jumped the fencing to do it. In the process, he had torn a rear dewclaw.
There was a trail of blood everywhere he had gone. Fortunately, it wasn’t gory. Instead, it glistened like rubies on the snow. We followed the trail until our flashlights spotted his exit in the fencing. That’s where Boris not only jumped the fences, but had also torn them down.
We then shined our flashlights into the pig shelters. They were all empty, as were our naïve hopes. Keith was the first to locate more shadows by the hay bales. The sow, gilt, and barrows were all loose. Every one of them were partying and drunk with excitement.
Count with me now, “This little piggy went to market, this little piggy stayed home, this little piggy had roast beef, this little piggy had none, and this little piggy cried, ‘wee, wee, wee’ all the way home.” That’s only five little piggies. At that time, we had six. And the sixth little piggy shouted, “Hey guys! How many homesteaders does it take to capture one ton of trotting pork, in the dark of winter?” Squeals of laughter shattered the night.
Yes, my thoughts turned dark. I couldn’t help thinking that shooting them would be easier than catching them. However, we homesteaders know that’s a lie. It’s time consuming and labor intensive to process one hog, let alone six. So instead, I shouted back, “I know the answer! It takes two. Two homesteaders.” Why two? Because that’s all we had. And most homesteaders must make do with what they have.
It was dark, cold, and we were exhausted. Yet, we were also determined. We would fix the problem and hopefully, have the last laugh. So, where did we start? By capturing the trouble maker first. How? By offering him a sweet deal, telling him lies, and entrapment.
I grabbed some homemade cookies. “Come on Boris,” I called and I dropped a cookie. He readily took the bait. One cookie bought me about ten steps toward the pig pens. Meanwhile, Keith fired up the tractor to retrieve our hog crate from a snowbank. Little by little and step by step, Boris followed me. Once the hog crate was in place, the door was opened. I called Boris and dropped a line of cookies leading into the crate. That was the easy part.
Unfortunately, Boris hadn’t been crate trained yet. He really wanted cookies, but the crate made him nervous. We spent another hour working to lure him into it. I told him lies, like “It’s not so bad. You’ll like it once you’re in it.” Once or twice, Keith and I even resorted to the good cop, bad cop routine. He eventually trusted us for a fleeting moment. And that was all it took. Boris was now trapped. Once in his cell- oops, I mean “crate”, we checked his wound. Thankfully, it wasn’t too serious and would heal on its own. We then added plenty of bedding to the crate.
Next, we sought out Boris’ accomplices. We lured the sow to her pen and the gilt followed. Perfect. Keith did a quick mend of their fence. Afterwards, we lured the remaining three barrows to their pen. By the time Keith mended their fence, more than two hours had passed. At that point, the fences were secure enough to work temporarily, if we kept Boris in the crate. We agreed that come daylight, we would resume our work.
At sunrise, I found Keith at the kitchen window shaking his head. All the pigs, but Boris were loose again. Their tracks were everywhere. Two pigs were over here, one was way over there, and two were playing tag along the driveway. I paused to Grow a Gratitude Moment*: I was thankful that we’re almost two miles from the highway and neighbors.
Our scheduled project for the day had to be postponed. The fencing repairs took all morning. In the end, we combined all the pigs into one pen. While this had not been in our plans, it was the best short-term fix. Boris was released from the crate into the passel of pigs. They greeted him warmly with snout kisses and squeals of joy. Happiness had now returned to all Pigdom.
Our afternoon project was rushed, but completed. The sun set early and darkness fell instantly. The critters were fed, snug in their beds, and all was quiet. We finished a few inside chores and made supper. As we ate, Keith peered wearily into the outside darkness.
At 9:00 pm we checked on the pigs one last time. It was a quick check from the porch using a flashlight. The fencing was still intact and all six were sleeping. Finally, it was our turn. Lights were turned off and blankets were pulled up only to our chins. Our ears would remain uncovered. We would continue to listen for bumps and squeals in the night…