Stew and I were talking about the world we grew up in. A time when family had a much greater influence on children than they do today. We grew up before cable television, texting, iTunes, unavoidable soft porn, misogynistic vulgar rap, instantaneous news, a sense of entitlement and electronic isolation. Both of our folks were Bible Belt believers and played music.
I’ll let you decide whether it was better or worse, we all have our own stories. But I think we’d agree it was a simpler upbringing. In both our growing up, cussing was not allowed. Stew was raised in the bootheel of Missouri and his family were farmers. Grandpa was the patriarch, stern but compassionate. Grandma’s pride was her bountiful garden. She would not allow a tractor or rototiller in her garden for fear of oil or gas contaminating the soil.
Grandpa kept a full-grown Poland China boar to breed his sows. He (the boar) weighed twice as much as Grandpa, who himself was 6’5" and 250 pounds! One night, the boar got into the garden and tore it up! Grandma commanded, in no uncertain terms, that the boar must go!
It was traditional to castrate boars at least two days before slaughter so the meat wouldn’t be rank. A plan ensued. Grandpa instructed 16-year-old Stew to rope the boar’s hind feet and hold ‘em till he got a hog snare around his nose.
Stew walked into the pigpen with his catch rope and snagged one of the boar’s hind legs. Six hundred pounds of pork exploded like a Funny Car at a drag race! Stew was jerked over in a Forward Headfirst Horizontal Olympic Ballistic Dive and hit the ground like a skipping rock! When the boar made the first corner, Stew, in a skewed twist, somehow bounced off the boards, flipping him onto his back, where they then caromed through the hog wallow, throwing a wall of water that blocked out the sun in Cape Girardeau 40 miles away for a full three minutes! Hanging on for life, Stew plowed a furrow in the pig pen soil slush like someone dragging a ham hock through 20 feet of biscuits and gravy!
It was ugly to watch when Stew flopped to a stop empty-handed. Grandpa walked over to his favorite grandchild. He politely waited for his uncle and Grandma to quit laughing, which took several minutes. Stew stood, wearing his porcupine stucco-covered shirt and jeans. He looked like a chocolate bunny.
As in all our upbringing there was always a lesson to be learned.
"Better catch him again, boy," said Grandpa not unkindly.
"If you want that @%&*!#..." was as far as Stew got.
"We don’t use that kind of language on this farm," Grandpa said. "Here, let me help you up."
Baxter Black is a former large animal veterinarian who can be followed nationwide through this column, National Public Radio, public appearances, television and also through his books, cds, videos and website, www.baxterblack.com.