My favorite thing about being a pig farmer’s daughter is when people ask me, “So, did you name all the hogs? Were they your pets?”
I kind of hate that.
Really? Thousands of hogs?
Country kids aren’t much for pets. Unless they’re dogs or rabbits, there’s no guarantee your animals won’t get eaten at some point, and let’s face it: it’s not even 100 percent certain the rabbits will make it.
My dad learned quickly that daughters and 350 pound hogs don’t mix. (Read: We ran away screaming a lot. Ok, all the time.) Instead, we got put on chicken and turkey duty. Every spring, my mom would drive us to the local hatchery, and we’d return home with a flat of baby chicks poking their sharp beaks through holes in the cardboard.
They were adorable . . . for roughly 11 seconds. Then they morphed into ugly, grey, molting chicken teenagers, and within just a couple of weeks, they were full-fledged birds with attitudes.
We fed them, scooped out their poo, pulled hay out of their waterers, and made sure they had plenty of dry bedding . . . even though they stunk like a seventh grade boys locker room. This is not, I’m sure, what city people have in mind when they ask innocently, “So were they your pets? Did you name them?”
One summer day in particular, it started to rain. One sister ran around to the back of the chicken house to start rounding the chickens up. I went to open the door, and the other sister met us somewhere in the middle. It was raining harder now, and the chickens were putting up a rucus, because even they are aware of the phrase “madder’n an ole wet hen.”
One second I was clapping my hands and kicking my foot, shooing them onward toward dry ground, nutritious feed, and protection, and the next minute I was laying on my back in soggy, green and brown, apostrophe-shaped chicken turds.
Now, I’m not SURE that my middle sister pushed me. No can verify it. Nobody actually saw it. So we may never know. (We know. We totally know.) But what I am certain of is that all chicken herding ceased while my sisters giggled at the chicken poo covering my legs, caked with feathers and grass.
My sisters finished running the chickens inside while I continued to sit in the muck and cry. (That’s what youngest siblings do. We sit and cry and wait for someone to save us. It’s part of our genetic code.)
Years of therapy and journaling haven’t erased that event. It’s tragic. Life altering. Mind blowing.
So if you meet me on the street and hear that I grew up on a farm, please don’t ask about my pets. Or my chickens. Or what it’s like slipping in their poo in the rain.
A girl can really only handle so much.