Pig Tales

With a Little Bruce Cockburn Thrown In for Good Measure

Image purchased from CANVA

I read somewhere that pigs make great pets; that you can put them on a leash, and they’ll follow you around like obedient little Yorkshire terriers. Like a loyal dog, they will respond to a name and come when you call them.

According to the Chinese horoscope, I am “a pig,” having been born during the year of one. This pleases me because pigs are cheerful, benevolent creatures. I’m happy to be associated with such traits. Also, pigs are representative of prosperity and intelligence. I like that, too. Although I’m still waiting…

I bonded with a pig once. I was young, broken-hearted, and looking for an adventure. In an impulsive move, I’d hopped on a Greyhound bus destined for the Cariboo region of British Columbia, lured by the fact it was unfamiliar and far away from a lot of memories I wanted to forget.

Anyway, back to the pig. She was of the Charlotte’s Web variety: big. Pink. And smiley (despite the food that always seemed to be stuck in her whiskers).

I called her Miranda because it seemed a fancy “pink” sort of name, and I think she liked it.

I would visit with her every morning before I started my shift, singing her Bruce Cockburn songs as I filled her feed trough with kitchen scraps from the main lodge. “Rumours of Glory” and “Wondering Where the Lions Are” (it was the 80’s, after all).

She would eat her slop and smile at me in all her dazzling pink glory, and when I got tired of singing, I’d rant to her about my ex-boyfriend: the one who had betrayed me. Twice.

Miranda was a good listener and never judgemental, not even when I confided that I hoped my ex would contract a nasty social disease that would be resistant to penicillin. I appreciated that about Miranda, and ever since, I’ve had a soft spot for pigs.

Anyway, I have another pig story. This one occurred years ago on a day I accompanied my friend, Erica, to a potential daycare she was curious about. She and her four-year-old daughter had just relocated to the island from Vancouver, and I had volunteered to help settle her in.

The daycare was called The Yellow House and was located at the end of a quiet country road, flanked on one side by a field of nodding sunflowers. Behind its white picket fence, several newborn lambs frolicked in a pasture beneath a giant maple tree, and when we got out of our car, we noticed two fat golden labs stretched out on the wrap-around verandah. It was very Norman Rockwellish, and things looked promising. Then again, looks can be deceiving.

When we stepped up onto the porch, a tall thin woman in a purple broom skirt came to the door. She appeared calm — serene, even — and smelled of lavender and patchouli and something else. Garlic, I think.

“Welcome,” she said. “I’m Amber. Please. Come inside. All the children are here today. And you can meet Ophelia.”

“Ophelia” turned out to be a giant pink and brown pig, about the size of a Shetland pony. She was reclining on a jade-green Victorian settee in the middle of the front room, a blue plastic tiara perched upon her bristly pink head.

One little girl, armed with a paper cup of sequins and a glue stick, was decorating Ophelia’s ears, and a boy with an orange mohawk was painting the pig’s hooves with tapioca from his pudding cup.

“Aren’t you worried about one of the children getting injured?” my friend Erica asked.

Amber smiled. “You know,” she said. “You are your thoughts. So, we don’t wish to manifest scenarios like that here at The Yellow House.”

“Oh,” Erica said, hugging her then 4-year-old daughter close to her side.

“It’s the same thing with insurance,” Amber said. “If you buy it, you are just asking the Universe to deliver some kind of horrendous accident.”

Speechless, Erica and I watched in horror as a small child donning a cowboy hat and plastic spurs on his sneakers popped over the settee and landed upon Ophelia’s middle with an audible thump.

The pig snorted, shifted, and turfed the tyke onto the hardwood floor, after which he began to wail.

“Oh, Wilder!” Amber said, clapping her hands together. “Just like a real cowboy! And Ophelia is your bucking bronc!”

Wilder offered up a weak smile, then went to sit in the Papasan chair by the window, the growing goose egg on his forehead illuminated by a shaft of early morning sunlight.

Later, over coffee, Erica looked worried. “Wow,” she said. “Island life is very different from city life.”

I patted her hand and ordered her a giant piece of chocolate hazelnut cake.

“What? No!” she protested. “I’ll gain ten pounds just LOOKING at that.”

“Careful,” I warned. “We don’t want to manifest thoughts like that here.”

To this day, whenever Hamlet comes up in conversation, I think of the “other” Ophelia and her tapioca-painted hooves. I also can’t listen to Bruce Cockburn without thinking about Miranda, her porky smile, and how she got me through a particularly nasty rough patch.

So, yeah. I like pigs. (And no, I don’t eat bacon anymore.)

Bona fide word nerd. Author of 3 award-winning novels for young adults. Somewhat lazy painter. Living & writing from a tiny rural village on Vancouver Island.

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