Archive for May, 2012

Crazy Things Farm Visitors Do

I just gave a tour to a really lovely mom with her very intelligent, polite, and inquisitive toddler, and it was awesome!  This little three-year old asked me – and without grabbing my clothing, yelling, or even interrupting – “Do the mom pigs have tusks too?” What an awesome question!

Pleasant children with reasonable parents are a rare treat at the ranch, where the excitement of baby animals, the novelty of farm activities like egg collection, and the chance to be outside and physically engaged turns children into rampaging baboons. Without delving into problems with modern American parenting or the horrible way our society turns lovely human babies into sick and miserable beings, I will say that my encounters with the next generation do not give me the highest hopes for our trajectory as a species.

Yesterday was a wonderful lazy Sunday, and I was wandering around in my slippers organizing the living daylights out of this apartment which is now mine, all mine.  Yes, I have control issues when it comes to living in other people’s – dare I say filth? – and I’m taking out my accumulated angst on the clutter my roommates and their roommates before them left behind.  Makes for an awesomely satisfying weekend!

As I was prancing out the door with another two full bags of junk that I’d just sentenced to the dumpster, some brightly colored and high-pitched activity from the pig pen wrenched me from my NPR-while-cleaning trance. The brand new CEO of our parent organization was in the pig pasture with six screaming children, video taping them as they chased the increasingly freaked out three-week old piglets. Not only were they shrieking at and chasing my darling baby hogs, they had the audacity to pick up and squeeze any piglet that got cornered within grabbing distance.

Though it’s not common knowledge that piglets hate being picked up and held, they will quickly correct any confusion on the issue with their frantic screams should you attempt it. In fact, routine procedures such as vaccinations actually require ear protection because the volume and pitch of their alarm cries is completely unbearable. And the screams aren’t only to discourage your unwanted attention. They rouse even the sweetest of sows into a red-eyed charge. As a piglet kidnapper myself, I have on several occasions leapt over the fence with my heart in my throat at the sight of those enraged mommas.

The fiasco unfolding in the pig pasture had a somewhat similar effect on me, and I charged the visitors, heedless of bare feet, and quite prepared to scruff and toss every last one of those little monsters over the fence and hopefully into large piles of chicken shit.  Fortunately for my employment status, man-handling my boss’s boss’s children and yelling profanities at him and his wife became unnecessary as they sheepishly retreated when I stormed over, probably rather purple with rage.  All disasters were averted, and I managed to be fairly civil once I’d established a firm buffer between hogs and humans.

Why these seemingly rational adults would allow their children to so obviously mistreat animals is quite beyond my understanding.  Why a parent would so disrespect the power of  700 lbs of angry mother hog is also completely baffling. Almost 20,000 Americans are killed by domestic pigs every year (National Bureau of Swine Violence…yeah, that exists)!  As a comparison, 1 American is killed by sharks every two years.

These hogs have not been bred as pets, and though ours are lovely creatures, I’d imagine they’ve evolved plenty of painful ways to shuffle piglet predators off this mortal coil. Though the females do not have tusks, they do still have quite intimidating dentition, with six or eight very sharp “fighting teeth,” and knarley, jutting incisors that bestow a hint of creepiness. Our sows probably wouldn’t bite because they’re incredibly well socialized and also rather slow and lazy. Probably. On the other hand, they  probably would bump/step on a child on their way to a distressed piglet, which could break a lot of important parts in a small human. I sometimes wish our animals would teach disrespectful visitors some manners, but considering the three emergency vehicles summoned for a minor goat bite this spring, I’ll just  hope we continue to be lucky until I move to a farm that isn’t moonlighting as a petting zoo.