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At Ag Expo, as usual, pigs have the last word

August 08, 1997

I go for the goats, but stay for the pigs.

All the animals at the Washington County Ag Expo have their advantages, when it comes down to it.

With cows it's the large, soft brown eyes. You don't often think of cattle as being aesthetically pleasing animals, but when you get up close they really are. Especially the - I'm going to get in trouble here, because I'm not certain I have the right brand - Guernseys, or maybe they're Jerseys, with their smooth, tawny... Tawny. Here we go again. Tawny what, hair? Fur? Coats? Hides?

As a number of people would no doubt agree, I really ought to get the details nailed down better before I sit down to write.

But heck, they're still fine animals. I even like the smell of the barns. And the animals' names. There's something about a 10-ton cow named "Rascal" that sends me over the edge.

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I'm more partial to the goats - Alpines, Toggenburgs, Nubians, Lamanchas, all kinds. I like them because they're nuts.

You can see it in their eyes. Audibly, all they say is "baa," but if you look into their eyes they are saying "Look at me. I am the Lost Dauphin of France, taking on this goat disguise until the heat is off, and I am the one who tricked Samson out of his locks and it was me who rained Vesuvius down on Pompeii and I solved the riddle of the Sphinx, slayed the Minotaur, destroyed Nineveh, sailed with da Gama in Africa, built Machu Picchu, assassinated Philip of Macedon, ran off with Aphrodite, taught Rasputin everything he ever knew and...

Oh, all right, maybe they're just saying "baa".

As do the sheep. But with the sheep there's no pretension. They never get more complicated than "I'm a lamb, I'm cute, pet me, that is all."

I hurry through this section of the Ag Expo because lamb is my favorite meat and I do not wish to arouse any social conflicts within myself that I may not be able to resolve.

I am reminded of this when I pass the lambs in the "Dual Purpose" category, the dual purposes being wool and something else you would rather not think about if you're inclined toward accompaniments for mint jelly.

I know some people I would rather think of as "dual purpose" over lambs. Their dual purposes being a civil litigant and ... oh, never mind.

But the pigs, the pigs, the pigs.

Except for perhaps the raven, there is no critter on earth with a wider vocabulary than the pig. And no critter with a greater propensity to use it.

Pigs are always commenting on something, always forming an opinion of their condition and surroundings and pontificating on it.

If everything is well and routine they banter along with a running, almost clucking, baritone grunt-grunt-grunt-grunt-grunt signifying marginal contentment. But as their satisfaction disintegrates by degrees, their verbosity climbs the scale in both volume and pitch. For the highest atrocities pigs reserve not really a squeal, but an earsplitting shriek that drowns out even the triple-turbo engines in the tractor pull.

Pigs emotions are volatile. It's common for them to include four or five contented grunts and a couple of outraged shrieks and several notes in between in the same breath - all the while wearing this I-gotta-secret grin which widens perceptibly when they are grunting and eating, which they are somehow able to do at the same time.

Pigs are always talking. They chatter with each other, they grouse at passersby, they holler at the fence, mutter at the feed dish and babble to the straw.

Perhaps they talk so much because they believe they only have a limited time in which to express their opinions. They are, after all, only a "single purpose" animal.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist.

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