“Pig’s out!” Someone hollered and we all jumped into action.
Now, escaped animals weren’t a routine occurrence in my family’s history of farming, but it happened often enough to lend a bit of suspense to our daily lives. Once or twice, my mother looked up from the kitchen sink to see cows in the back field, lazily grazing on the rich alfalfa crop intended to feed them through winter. Another time, there came a midnight knock upon the front door. Two men stood on the porch, inquiring whether the cows in the middle of the state highway belonged to us.
But a loose pig? This was new.
The pig—perhaps his name was Wilbur—zipped out of the barn and we lit after him. Wilbur evaded us, running in a zigzag pattern—Now right! Now left! Now right!—the five of us following like participants in a bizarre game of follow the leader until finally, sides heaving, Wilbur slowed and came to a rest in one of my mother’s perennial beds.
“Now!” Dad yelled, and we all fell upon him.
Too late. In a sudden burst of energy, Wilbur sprinted forward and we fell upon empty air. We giggled and tripped and scowled and yelled and sometimes even cursed that pig until finally Dad hollered, perhaps only half-joking: “Get my gun!”
“No,” my mother said. “Get a blanket from the linen closet.”
The blanket was brought to the back yard. We each took hold of a side and proceeded steadily forward: closer…closer…closer. “Now!”
In unison we blanked the pig and wrestled him to the ground and back to the barn.
Before he trotted back to his pen, Wilbur tossed a backwards glance over his shoulder. And I swear there was a self-satisfied twinkle in his eye as he nestled down into the straw.
Dad raised the sides of the pen and rechristened the pig Houdini.
And after the day's work was done and the blanket was folded and put away, we sat together on the porch, laughing and retelling key moments of the escape and re-capture.
Houdini never escaped from his pen again and I suspect he never tried. He’d learned his lesson.
And we had too: There were lots of things we would have to learn on the farm: hay baling, fence building, helping a cow struggling to deliver her calf. But the understanding that you can’t catch a pig by chasing it?