Kimberly Thorson Rundles
Twosock stopped and looked at me. His long eyelashes brushed his cheeks and he softly grunted. Dropping the sleeping bag in the far corner, he rooted around until finally he simply lay down and closed his dark eyes.
For most of my life, I’ve always loved animals. All kinds of animals. Little ones, big ones, slithery ones and furry ones. So most naturally, as a child I dreamed about life on a farm. Sweetly nickering ponies, little pink piggies and happy fluffy chickens chasing bugs in the dirt.
Alas, for all my whimsical dreaming, I did not grow up a farm girl.
The closest I ever came to witnessing farm life was when visiting my Great Uncle Bob and Aunt Mary-Lou in Churdan, Iowa. Their large white farmhouse sat surrounded by cornfields at the end of a very straight and very long dirt road.
They had a second-floor bathroom where you could relax on the loo and take care of business whilst looking out at the fields beyond. Literally. The window was level with the toilet. Bob had put that bathroom in as an afterthought and apparently having a toilet framed by a curtain-less window mattered little when your neighbors were miles away.
Long gone, however, were the ponies and the pigs and the chickens. All that remained were the swaying cornfields gently nodding in the constant mid-west wind. Their sunbaked stalks forever watching over the lingering passel of skittish barn cats, wayward summer dragonflies and a host of chiggers ensconced in the grass.
And so it went, summer turned to fall and fall to winter and winter to spring. My love for animals remained and our brick rancher back in Tennessee became home to a host of dogs and cats and the occasional goldfish as we grew up. But I never lost my desire for a little farm with a pony or a pig or possibly some chickens.
And then, one lazy afternoon in March, my phone rang. By that time I was in my third year of college, missing my dog back home and dreaming of a life beyond the classroom.
On the other end of the line was a friend of a friend. Evidently, I’d been recommended for a job.
Her name was Sandi. She’d met my friend at the farmers market and my name had come up. She was leaving town at the end of the week and wondered if I would be interested in house sitting at her little farmhouse. She had a few animals that needed caring for, one of which was a house pig. She was hoping I’d be interested in the job.
She was right. Blinded by youthful exuberance and the possibility that the aforementioned house pig might be both sweet and pink, I agreed. I would see her Friday evening, 5 pm.
Her cute little yellow farmhouse sat squarely between two busy roads. The last remaining holdout of a family farm woefully absorbed into the sprawling arms of city life. Sandi met me at the door with a grin and ushered me in.
She was perky and sweet and her home’s light and airy interior was decorated tastefully in farmhouse shabby-chic. Sandi was the proud owner of a little black Scottie dog named Pip, an electric green tree frog named Turtle and a pot bellied pig with freckled front feet that she affectionately called Twosock.
Pip was the first to greet me and his entire body wiggled happily, right down to the stub of his tail. As cheerful as his mistress, Sandi told me that Pip was faithful and kind, but had a naughty habit of stealing the covers at night. “An almost perfect gentleman,” she mused as she shut the door behind me, saying that Pip’s kibble could be found in the kitchen and when necessary he would nose a bell on the screened porch door if he needed to potty.
I knelt down and scratched Pip’s furry head. I missed my own dog. He licked my hand gratefully and then scampered off into the house.
Standing up, I followed Sandi down the hallway and across the weathered hardwood into the dining room. “This is Turtle, my tree frog,” Sandi said with a flourish. I leaned in. Turtle, expressionless, simply looked at me through the terrarium glass. His little suction-cupped fingers clung deftly to a mottled brown branch and his yellow eyes blinked. Sandi crouched down and retrieved a box from under the table. She handed it to me. I could feel something skitter and jump inside.
“Now,” she said smiling, “Turtle eats a few live crickets a day, so just pick out a couple for him each night. Lift the little screen off the top of the terrarium and simply pop them in.” I silently wondered how I was going to open the skittering box much less open the screen at the same time. “That sounds easy,” I heard myself say. Sandi grinned and put her hand on my arm. “Let me introduce you to my pig now,” she said, “he will really like you.” I placed the jumping box on the dining table and followed her around the corner into the next room.
The sun shone in through the leaded glass windows enshrouding a large dark mass on the hardwood floor. Twosock. There he lay, like Jabba the Hutt on a batman sleeping bag, basking in all his 220 lb. piggy glory. He grunted, lifted his head and fish-eyed me from his blanketed lair.
Twosock had been with her since he was a piglet. “In fact,” she excitedly squealed, “when he was little, he used to sit in a highchair for breakfast!” Visions of E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web flitted across my brain. “He’s quite fond of his sleeping bag,” she divulged, “he drags it to whichever room he prefers and the only music he enjoys is classical, so make sure that the radio stays on that.” Classical? Well, that would be okay I thought. “What happens if the radio station changes?” I asked. She looked at me with a frown. “He starts to grind his teeth and it makes a horrid squeaking noise.” “Okay,” I agreed, “Classical it is.”
She walked over to him and scratched his head. He grunted his approval as she continued to talk. “Twosock stays in the house, so he will need assistance to go to the bathroom. When he gets up, you’ll need to follow him with a puppy pad and attempt to slide the pad under his bum before the droppings drop. Additionally, he eats a diet of rice and veggies that can be found in the refrigerator already cooked up. Just put a few heaping spoonfuls in a bowl and lightly warm it in the microwave, not too hot though, or he will get grumpy….”
I realized I had mentally checked-out at chasing pig droppings with a puppy pad. I rubbed my eyes. She was still talking and smiling and scratching the pig’s head. Leaning into the doorframe for support, I swallowed and tried to pay closer attention.
“Now,” she continued, “when the food is ready just call him into the kitchen and waggle the spoon under his nose. He will open his mouth and then you can just spoon his dinner in.” What? Things were becoming a bit fuzzy. He needs to be spoon fed? “Yes,” she said, standing up and walking over. “It’s really very easy, you’ll see,” she encouraged, “and when he’s done you can toss him some grapes as a special after-dinner treat. He likes to catch them in his mouth.”
We moved back to the front room and she picked up her luggage. “I’m so glad you’re here,” she said, “this is the first weekend I’ve been able to get away, because most people just don’t feel comfortable with a pig in the house.” I smiled. “Welp, I guess I’m not like most people,” I replied. And while I was admittedly a bit deflated that the little pink piggy of my dreams was, in fact, a hulking dark behemoth, I had to admit that this was still going to be interesting.
So, with the introductions and instructions out of the way, Sandi fished out her house keys and pressed them into my hand. Then with a cheerful wave, she was out the door and gone for the weekend.
Who knows how long I stood in the hallway surveying my situation, but finally, ever so slowly I wandered out to my red Pathfinder parked in the driveway and dragged my overnight bag from the backseat. Dinnertime was coming soon and I needed a plan.
The idea of opening up a box of live crickets and trying to grab a few to toss them under the terrarium lid gave me the willies. What if one of their legs came off when I grabbed it? Or worse yet, what if they jumped on me? Yick. So, I decided to try to just shake some of the crickets into Turtle’s terrarium from the box. The little buggers would just have to fend for themselves.
Pip the dog was going to be no problem at all, but what about the pig? Twosock was enormous. I realized at that moment that in all my farmy daydreams, the piggies never actually grew up. It was one of those farm life realities that I’d conveniently omitted, right alongside the manure. Walking back inside, Pip greeted me. He dutifully went about sniffing my duffel bag as I took it to the back room and sat it on the bed. “Let’s take care of Turtle first,” I told him, walking purposefully towards the dining room. Flipping on the light, I retrieved the little box still sitting on the table. The scuttle of tiny legs rustled from the inside. I made a face. Good grief, was I feeling guilty? Well, kinda. I was, in fact, going to open the box and toss the little hoppers into imminent if not eventual death. “Some farm girl you’d make,” I said to myself, “feeling sorry for a box of crickets.”
Standing on my tiptoes, I pried the lid off the terrarium. Being short wasn’t helping things, but blessedly, Turtle just looked at me. “Good,” I thought, “you just stay right there on that branch.” Retrieving the box of crickets, I held it just inside the glass walls. My fingers searched for the opening. I found the flap and pulled. Then the box slipped. Falling into the terrarium, the entire box tumbled to the bottom where its contents jubilantly burst forth. “Good grief!” I moaned. Turtle still sat motionless on his branch. He now looked annoyed. There were crickets hopping everywhere.
Pip, now finished with his duffle bag search, padded in to assess the situation. Exasperated, I grabbed the lid and smooshed it back on top of the glass. “That’s just gonna have to do for tonight,” I told him, “I’ll retrieve the box in the morning when maybe there’s not so many crickets hopping around in there.” Yet, even as the words left my mouth the thought of their inevitable fate made my nose crinkle up a bit.
We headed into the kitchen and I poured Pip a bowl of kibble. Looking into the fridge, I considered my options. I could heat up some rice and veggies and try my hand at spoon feeding a 220 lb. pig or I could grab the grapes and attempt to get on his good side with dessert first. It really wasn’t my style to rush things, but I was nervous, so I thought a little bribery couldn’t hurt.
I grabbed the grapes.
The front room ran adjacent to Twosock’s now darkened sunroom. So, with grapes in hand and Pip at my heels, I decided that was where we’d start. A heavily patterned ottoman sat resolute in the center of the room anchoring a rather large sofa. I leaned down, pulled the chain on the table lamp for some light and Pip and I settled down on the ottoman. The soft glow of the lamp crept into the hall and spilled over into the sunroom somewhat. From our perch we could see the shadowy shape of Twosock in the other room, the batman symbol of his sleeping bag glowed in the dark. I squinted towards the dark shape. He didn’t seem to be looking at me, so I took a nervous breath.
Sweetly as I could muster, I sang out “Twosock, here piggy, piggy!” and shook the bag of grapes.
Like a shapeshifter from beyond the veil, there was movement from the other side. The glowing batman symbol slowly slid off the hulking mass as it lifted itself up off the floor and moved towards the light. Pips’ tail wagged. I felt better. God bless this dog. We waited.
Snout first he crossed the threshold and I felt as if time stood still. He was covered in long wiry black hair and had the beginnings of tusks. His dainty little feet seemed to strain under his colossal girth and his jet black eyes were fixed directly on me. Every fiber of my being said to run away, but to where? This was my job. Beside me, Pips’ tail was still happily wagging.
Like a wild-west standoff, it was clear that one of us was going to have to draw first.
So, I slowly dipped my hand into the bag of grapes and drew out a plump purple specimen. “Hey buddy,” I squeaked, “would you like a yummy grape?” My fingers waggled the grape back and forth in front of the pig, now not more than ten feet away. He took a step closer to me. I noticed he had really long eyelashes and when he lifted his chin it kinda looked like he might be smiling. “That is nice,” I thought and subsequently felt the fear dissipate a little. He sniffed the air. I wondered absently if pigs could smell fear.
I pushed the thought aside and grinned hoping to look friendly. Up and down, I shook the bag of grapes. He eyed me for a moment and then took a few steps closer. “Hi, Twosock,” I said, “I’m Kim. I’m gonna be staying with you this weekend.” He looked at the grapes and then he looked at me. He moved closer.
At less than six feet away, he stopped and opened his mouth a little. That was my cue. I aimed and tossed the grape at the opening. I missed. It bounced off his head and onto the floor. The pig turned his head to the side and grumbled. He looked annoyed.
“I’m sorry,” I mumbled and I quickly plucked another grape out of the bag and tried again. Boing! It bounced off his head a second time. Twosock grumbled louder and stepped closer. I was starting to lose it. He was close enough to grab the entire bag if he wanted, but I was determined.
This pig would like me! This pig would get his grape! When he opened his mouth again I would be ready. Okay. One, two, three... wham!
Then all hell broke loose.
Twosock doubled up and began choking! Oh Dear Lord, I had thrown it too hard.
Panic ensued. I stood over the now gagging pig and screamed, “Don’t die, pig! Don’t die!”
Can one do the Heimlich on a pig? Oh my Lord, I would have to touch the pig! More panic.
More gagging. Pip is barking. I am jumping up and down.
Suddenly the grape comes out. Praise God! God is so merciful. He heard my cry!
I look at the pig. Oh Crap! Pig is not merciful. He charges straight at me.
In one fail swoop, the grapes go flying into the air and Pip and I climb the back of the rather large sofa. I am crying. “You stinky pig,” I shout, “I was just trying to be nice! I’m sorry, okay. I’m sorry.” Pip is looking up at me sympathetic. Confused, but sympathetic.
Twosock, planted squarely the bottom of the couch simply stares at me. His lashes flutter. A snort. And then with what sounds like happy grunts, proceeds to eat the scattered grapes.
It took a good while before I decided to leave the safety of the sofa. Pip and I had sat there for what seemed like forever while we watched Twosock consume all the errant grapes and then proceed confidently back to the batcave.
I pulled the chain on the table lamp and Pip and I climbed down off the sofa. We tiptoed gingerly to the back room. Exhausted, I dressed for bed and climbed in. Jumping up beside me, Pip stretched, turned around twice and then lay down. “Crummy pig,” I whispered, snuggling in to the dog. “That was supposed to be a good thing,” I mused, “I was just trying to be nice, I just wanted him to like me sooner… and then, just when I finally got the opening I needed, I accidentally crammed what was supposed to be a good thing right down his throat.” I closed my eyes and a thought appeared in my mind.
How many times does that happen in real life, Kim? How many times does the fear of possibly not being liked cause you to rush things and throw yourself out there a little too hard?
Rather than just taking the time to be my true self; my normal, cheerful, kind and patient self, I tried instead to rush the process. I gave in to the fear of what might be. I believed instead what I felt to be true, rather than what I knew to be true.
I rolled over and tried to pull the covers up a bit. Pip stretched out longer. Sandi was right, he did steal the covers... “God,” I prayed, “I’m sorry for rushing things. Thank you for forgiving me. If possible, will you please let the pig forgive me too?” It felt a little silly, asking for forgiveness from a pig, but I meant every word.
Pip yawned. Ew, dog breath. And then something miraculous happened.
From down the hall, I could hear a slow dragging sound. I looked at Pip and held my breath.
Snout first he crossed the threshold to the back room. He was dragging his batman sleeping bag. Twosock stopped and looked at me. His long eyelashes brushed his cheeks and he softly grunted. Dropping the sleeping bag in the far corner, he rooted around until finally he simply lay down and closed his dark eyes.
I stared. Goosebumps ran up the length of my arms. Unbelievable. Forgiveness in a pig!
A slow smile crept across my face. “Perhaps this would be okay after all,” I sleepily pondered, “perhaps I could have a few farm animals for myself one day... and perhaps, tomorrow, I would turn on some classical music and take my time to heat those rice and veggies up just right.”
Kimberly currently resides in the Smoky Mountains of East Tennessee where her biggest blessings call her momma. A Professional Life Coach and Behavioral Consultant, she gets a real kick out of helping people uncover their hidden treasures, discover their God-given destiny, and then bravely get out there and truly live life. You can read more from her and discover your own hidden gems at www.bodysoulnspirit.com.