One of my nieces raises hogs, and just this week my sister (her mom) brought to my attention that the hog show at our county fair is Sunday if we want to go. That reminded me of the following story from our youth. So make yourself a sausage sandwich and sit back and enjoy “Charlie and the Salesman.”
We were about ten miles from the nearest large town, and our farm set at the end of a gravel lane nearly one-tenth of a mile long. Though we weren’t quite in the middle of nowhere, we could see it from our front porch. There was always livestock of some variety around because we five kids were all active in 4-H and FFA. One of the resident animals was a big red Duroc boar hog named Charlie. Even though Charlie, at over four hundred pounds, was just a big pussycat, that’s still a lot of pussycat, so Charlie came and went pretty much as he pleased. This was before the days of one-piece fence panels, and woven wire fence was barely a challenge to him. We soon learned that the rule of thumb was, if Charlie could get his nose through something, the rest of him would soon follow! We had tried electric fence with equal results. If he got as much as a snout hair under the electric wire before he felt the jolt, it just incited him to continue forward taking several feet of the electric fence with him. The bottom line here is that Charlie pretty much had the run of the place and ruled the roost. As I remember, the reason we put up with him was because he didn’t root or tear things up like you’d expect a four-hundred pound hog to do, and since our place sat so far from the road, and Charlie being a hog and all, he evidently didn’t have the ambition or drive to navigate his big carcass clear to the road and get into any trouble there either. He’d get out in the morning, graze around the barnyard and loll in the shade all day, then find his way back in again at night; quite unusual to say the least. All he seemed to require of us was his feed at night and a good belly scratch each time we passed him.
Mom had an upholstery shop built onto our house, and did a goodly amount of business, so there was a lot of traffic in and out of our long lane. Evidently, enough of her customers were from surrounding farming communities that if Charlie happened to be wandering about, they paid him no mind. Even the UPS drivers had learned to ignore Charlie when he greeted them from the middle of the drive. Occasionally, however, she’d get a visiting salesman from one of her fabric companies out of state, and these guys usually came straight from the “big city.” One particular day, while working away in her shop, she suddenly heard a vehicle horn blaring from the driveway. Looking out the window, she saw one of the big city salesmen sitting in his van in front of her shop, one hand smashing the horn button as he peered frightfully out the driver’s side window. “Odd,” she thought. But even stranger was the fact that the whole van was rocking and wobbling as if being shaken by an earthquake.
This is probably as good a place as any to stop the story and tell you a little bit about our mom. Mom was about as big around as a minute and weighted about as much. She was a small spitfire of a lady who always had a cup of coal-black coffee in her hand (probably explaining her feistiness.) She loved nothing more than creating elegant pieces of furniture for people in her upholstery shop, but all the while remained as common as a dandelion. She loved to laugh and joke and would rather listen to the rock and roll songs my buddies and I played than anything. In fact she once told me she wanted a certain song by the rock band Three Dog Night played at her funeral.
So there sat the big-city salesman with an expression on his face like his whole life was passing before him, his eyes as big as hubcaps, in his van that was rocking and reeling like one of those old coin operated kiddy rides in front of the grocery store. Mom walked into the yard to unravel the mystery, and as she rounded the front of the van, there were all four hundred pounds of Charlie gleefully scratching himself on the front bumper! I’d love to have heard the conversation around the water cooler the first day that salesman was back at his company. “Come on guys, I’m serious! I really was trapped in my van in the middle of nowhere by Hogzilla! It was a huge, beastly red thing that weighed fifteen hundred pounds and could look through the windshield right into my eyes! If you don’t believe me go look at the red hair on the bumper.”
Now, knowing my mother, that salesman sat there for a while longer; not on purpose mind you, but it would be tough to chase away a four hundred pound hog and roll with laughter at the same time.
So goes the story of Charlie and the salesman. I don’t remember what ever happened to Charlie, but he probably died of old age as he may have even been too tough for sausage. And no, probably much to mom’s chagrin, we did not play Three Dog Night at her funeral. I hope this story gives you a chuckle or two, and thank you for allowing me to stray slightly from the usual outdoor shenanigans I try to bring you here in Outrageously Outdoors.
Steve can be contacted by email at stevegilliland[email protected]