It was about 1:30 on a September afternoon when the phone rang. I answered to find Junior, Jr. on the line. We were in our first parish where we had served the previous two years. Junior said, “Pracher, kan you come over and help me and Deddy (Junior, Sr.) mark my hog?” Let me clarify, Junior, Sr., was the dad and Junior, Jr. was the son. They were also known as Big Junior and Little Junior, which was weird since Little Junior was at least 100 pounds heavier than Big Junior and six inches taller. But, I digress—
Marking a hog was a new concept for me and I soon learned that different parts of the country have different vocabularies. When Junior spoke of marking I envisioned using a magic marker and putting some kind of mark on the hog. At worst, I thought we might knick an ear or brand the hog with some other kind of unique identifier. I had previously had experience with doing stuff to pigs, but I had no idea what marking meant. Junior said wear old clothes.
I put on my overhauls, working boots and headed over to Junior’s hog pen. The pen was approximately 12’ x 12’ and the stench that surrounded it was overwhelming. The hog had lived in the pen for several months and the ground was a gross mix of rotted food, pig pee, pig poop, and mud. Lest you think this inhumane, there was a raised platform at the back of the pen so the hog could get out of the filth when he chose.
When I got to the pigpen I was greeted by Junior, Jr., Junior, Sr., Smiley Jenkins, and a 300 pound hog. Smiley was quite a character in that he had no teeth and constantly looked at you with a toothless grin. Junior, Sr. had lived in the swamp as a youngster and often caught wild pigs for his family to eat or to sell. And, what can I say about the hog? He was a big, stinky creature with short tusks sticking out side of each cheek. It was obvious that he didn’t like the looks of us, as he snorted, and squealed around his pen.
I asked Junior, Jr. what the plan was. He said, “My back’s pulled so I can’t help much. You and Deddy are going to get in the pen, wrestle the hog down, and hold him while Smiley marks him.” Smiley just stood there with his goofy grin.
“Hold the hog down”, I asked, “How are you going to mark him”.
Both Junior’s sort of chuckled while Smiley just smiled. Junior, Jr. finally spoke up.
“Well”, he said, “While you and Deddy hold the hog down, Smiley is going to cut off his nuts. Then I’m going to fill the empty sack with gentian violet.” Smiley’s smile widened. I was dumbfounded but game for this new adventure. Never before had I wrestled a hog, mud wrestling at that.
Junior, Sr. and I climbed into the pigpen and grabbed for the hog. Trouble is that a hog doesn’t have any handles to grab on to. He was thoroughly covered with the goop in the bottom of the pen and was as slick as a bar of wet ivory soap. You don’t dare catch a 300 pound hog by a leg since his hooves are as sharp as razors and with the legs thrashing it is a great way to get a pretty bad cut. Can’t go for his shout because of those tusks just waiting to take a chunk out of you. About all that’s left is the hogs ears but holding onto a hog’s ear with three hundred pounds of body shaking the head is virtually impossible.
Junior, Sr. and I struggled with that old hog for what seemed like an hour, we were both covered from head to toe in the slop from the bottom of the pen. We would succeed in getting the hog down and simply collapse on him. As we tried to get our breath, Junior, Sr. would manage to say between pants, “While we are resting this old hog is resting too”. His words seemed to revitalize the hog and off we would go again. Believe me when I say holding a 300 pound hog who doesn’t want to be held is quite a chore.
Finally, we got the hog down tied his feet together (hog tied him) and rooted him over to the fence where Smiley could do his deed. Smiley got out his pocketknife, smiled his biggest smile of the day and started to cut. The hog squealed and bucked. Junior, Sr. and I held on for dear life. I was amazed at how skillful Smiley separated the hog from his hog—hood. It turns out that Smiley was the hog marking champion of the county. Then Junior, Jr. swabbed the empty sacks with gentian violet and the deed was done.
Three weeks later the hog would be delivered to the slaughterhouse and we would all enjoy fresh bacon, pork chops, and ham.
I walked across the yard to our house where my darling wife refused me entrance. I stood in the backyard while she hosed me down. Repeatedly she hosed me down, but nothing relieved the stench. Finally, she went in the house, got some dishwashing liquid, made me strip off my clothes, and proceeded to give me the scrubbing of my life.
There I stood, a young Methodist preacher, in my backyard naked as a jaybird with my wife scrubbing me for dear life. My good overhauls and boots went straight into the burn bucket along with my foundation garments. Thankfully, Bertha Hines didn’t show up with her camera that time. Bertha was the reporter for the local paper, and my situation would have been the talk of the town if she had plastered my picture on the front page above the fold.
That experience taught me a few good life lessons. First, I learned to know what you were getting into before you climbed into the hog stench. Secondly, I learned that when you get stink on you it can be most difficult to get off. And finally, I learned that no matter how much your wife loves you she won’t put up with your stink for long.