Big Red

My mother and father had a very active social life. They were rarely home of a Friday or Saturday evening, and I can recall many Sunday mornings, before I was 5, wandering downstairs amazed at the fall-out from the night before. Over-full ashtrays, glasses with little round green things in them (which I ate, learning much later they were vodka-soaked martini olives), partially filled salvers and small trays with odd-looking (and in some cases, smelling) items on crackers. Only after one such morning when I was caught plucking the olives out of the glasses and eating them did I no longer see the residual from the night before on Sunday mornings. My parents had many, many friends.

One couple they were especially fond of found themselves wanting a more rustic life, away-from-it-all and bought a farm on the outskirts of the city limits. They completely renovated the actual house and it became so lovely¬†Southern Living¬†featured it in a subsequent issue. There was a 17-acre lake nestled beside the house… all in all it was quite a pastoral setting.

There was a share-cropper family still living on this farm and they were asked to stay on as care takers of the property. Their house was not far from the main house, walking distance, and they also kept some chickens. And a very large, reddish pig, named “Big Red”.

Occasionally on one of my family’s Sunday afternoon visits there my mother’s friend asked would I please go to the chicken house and bring her the eggs? I loved animals of all kinds, and especially loved the idea that I might be doing something important rather than being shooed out of their hair which was more likely what the errand was for. So I happily ran out the back door and skipped down the gravel lane to where the chickens were.

The chicken coop was right next to Big Red’s pen. I emerged with my basket of oh, maybe half a dozen fresh eggs and, carefully closing the hen-house door, turned to go on my way and bring the eggs to find myself face to face with a really large Pig. Bigger than I’d remembered. Bigger than his name. He clearly saw himself as guardian of that chicken house and I was an intruder. I carefully edged backward, trying to appear nonchalant. He inched closer. Seeing this strategy would not work I realized there was only one way out- run for it. Holding the small basket tightly to my stomach hoping not to jostle the eggs and break them I took off.

The pig was fast, just not as fast as I. I did make it back (evidently Red stopped just at the turn to the farm house, still standing on the gravel lane), but I do not recall how many of the eggs made it whole. I do recall my mother and her friend laughing till they cried.

My mother told me, much later, that pig made the best, leanest ham and bacon they’d ever eaten.

I don’t remember whether I was sorry or not.