I named her Oink and much to Mama’s chagrin Oink and I became friends. Oink, who’d I’d allow to escape her pen, would follow me around the yard after school oinking behind me trying to keep up. She never ran into the road, never ran into the garden, she stayed right at my feet. We were friends. I didn’t equate Oink with bacon at the time. That connecting thread was to come later.
Vegetables were never a welcome site on my dinner plate. Bacon, on the other hand, was more welcome than cake!
And, I continue to love bacon until that fateful day Oink lost her rights. I returned home from school to find that Oink, who’d by that time had grown from piglet to sow of an acceptable size, had been removed from her pen and taken to my uncles farm. Oink’s fate, which had always been her fate, was to be slaughtered along with a few other hogs. The process was daunting to my father and I’m happy it was daunting. I don’t think I could have endured befriending another Oink.
Having the experience of both rural and urban life during my childhood has its benefits, for sure and for certain. And this is why I have long held to the belief that all children should spend at least once summer during their childhood on a working farm. They should know, first hand, of hard work like this. They should know the value of being responsible for more than the care and feeding of themselves. They should know the feel and smell of a bale of straw, a husked and dried corn cob, the peck of a chicken beak as you snatch an egg, what it is like to pick string beans off the vine just right so others will grow, among other things.
Knowing these things, having a first hand experience, give a new prospective and appreciation a kid can not, under any other circumstance, glean from any other venue.
As sad as it was for me to learn of Oink’s fate, in retrospect I gained more than I lost. And, over time I learned to appreciate, even like, bacon again. Although, I must add: I learned to like bacon less and vegetables more, which is a heart health choice made through more education on good nutrition for healthy body and mind.