From Chicken Soup for the Child's Soul

Grandpa’s Pig

If you could kick the person in the pants responsible for most of your trouble, you wouldn’t sit for a month.

Theodore Roosevelt

When I was a little girl, I loved visiting my grandparents at their ranch. I enjoyed helping Grandma pick huge zucchini, cucumbers, string beans, and giant pumpkins in Grandpa’s garden. In the summer, I filled buckets with fruit from the orchard. But, of all my chores, the one I loved the most was feeding Nettie, Grandpa’s enormous pet pig.

Nettie’s soft brown eyes would twinkle at me from inside her big mud pen. Her pointed ears would be perked at attention while her snout twitched hungrily for more food.

But Grandpa would simply say, “No more food for you, Nettie ol’ girl. You’ve had enough today.”

“She’ll eat me out of house and home if I let her,” Grandpa would say each time we fed Nettie. “She just doesn’t know when to stop.”

I loved giving Nettie her favorite treats. “Couldn’t I please give her just a few more prickly pears?” I pleaded. But Grandpa’s answer was always, “No.”

Even though Grandpa warned me not to overfeed Nettie, I often brought her bags of freshly picked and peeled prickly pears. Nettie adored the sweet treats and could never get enough of them. I poked the pears through the open slats of her wooden pen because Grandpa always warned me to keep out of Nettie’s pen.

One day, after I heard Grandpa’s truck rumble off for town, I picked a bag of Nettie’s favorite prickly pears, carried them to her pen, and tugged at the gate. But Grandpa had closed the gate securely before leaving that day, and the latch was too high up for me to reach. So I climbed up the rough, splintered planks and, using one of Grandpa’s long garden rakes, managed to pull open the gate. Below me, Grandpa’s huge pig thrashed in her pen. Suddenly, I lost my footing and toppled down into Nettie’s muddy pen, landing on her broad shoulders. Startled, she raised a powerful hind leg and crashed open the gate. A moment later, she was running around the farmyard. Terrified as I held tightly to Nettie’s ears, the huge pig took me on a painfully bumpy ride.

Nettie squealed loudly as she kicked up dust and trampled over anything that got in her path. She trotted over Grandma’s flower beds and plowed through her freshly hung wash, scattering clean white laundry all over the farmyard. I took a wild piggyback ride through Grandpa’s vegetable garden, mashing his prize-winning tomatoes and cantaloupes.

Then, suddenly, without warning, the huge pig stopped. I slid off her back head-over-heels, like an out-of-control skyrocket.

When I landed, it was right in the middle of Grandpa’s thorny prickly pear patch. I let out a yell that echoed through the valley. Nettie just couldn’t resist her favorite treats. After stopping to enjoy several nibbles, the giant pig whirled around, kicked up a cloud of dust, and went running down the road and over a hill until she finally disappeared from sight.

Grandma, hearing my loud cries for help, came running out from the ranch house. Finding me in the middle of the prickly pear patch and seeing her garden in a mess, she quickly figured out what had happened. Grandma sighed, “What’s your grandpa going to say when he returns home and sees this, and finds his pig gone?”

I didn’t have an answer, but we couldn’t think about that now. We had more important matters to attend to, like removing all those painful thorns from my rear end.

After Grandma had pulled out the last thorn, she sent me to bed to rest and wait for Grandpa to return. I just couldn’t stand the thought of seeing Grandpa’s face when he came home and found his precious old Nettie gone and his farmyard a wreck.

Late that afternoon, the skies began to darken, and the wind howled through the trees. The local radio station reported that a windstorm was coming to the area. Within minutes, wind howled through the valley. It scattered leaves and blew open corral gates, setting animals free for miles around.

When Grandpa finally arrived home later that evening, to my great joy, riding in the back of his truck was old Nettie, just as happy as a pig could be, munching on prickly pears.

“That sure was some freak weather we had while I was gone,” Grandpa declared. “All the nearby ranches are cluttered with trash, and folks are chasing after their animals for miles around. Lucky for me, I found old Nettie just down the road nibbling on a prickly pear tree.”

Grandpa figured that the messy farmyard and Nettie getting out was because of the windstorm. But Grandma knew the truth. I held my breath, waiting for her to blow the whistle on me, but to my relief, Grandma felt I’d been punished enough by those painful prickly pear thorns. She never told Grandpa a word about my wild piggyback ride.

For weeks afterward, I couldn’t sit down without a cushion beneath me. And for years after that, just the thought of that prickly pear patch gave me good reason to think twice before I ever disobeyed anyone ever again.

Cookie Curci

“I warned him about putting bullfrogs in his pockets.”

Reprinted by permission of Jonny Hawkins. ©2006 Jonny Hawkins.

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