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CATTLE TODAY

THE WORLD ACCORDING TO HOOTER MCCORMICK -- THE PIG SITTER

by: Wes Ishmael

“Just watch her.”

Those three little words should strike fear in the hearts of any self-respecting livestock producer when spoken by the neighbor who is seeking help on their way out of town. That's because there are only two instances when they're used. Either it's a female of one species or another that is heavy pregnant, “…but there's not a chance in the world anything will happen before I get back…” Or it refers to a horse whose clock is set at about 5 ‘til colic.

Today the request had come from Cousin Charlie in reference to a Yorkshire-looking sow he'd acquired in a recent trade.

“I'll be back by tomorrow afternoon, and there's no way…”

“Yeah, yeah, I know the story,” said Hooter.

“Besides which,” continued Charlie. “Just suppose something was to happen, it's not like they're that tough to farrow out.”

“That so? I've sure never calved out any pigs, and I don't ever remember you ever doing it either, and we've been knowing each other ever since before we got out of diapers.”

“Well, the guy I got her from told me,” said Charlie.

“Uh-huh. And why did this source of porcine knowledge and optimism say he was willing to part with such a carefree source of sure income?”

“He really didn't want to let her go,” countered Charlie. “He really didn't. But he wanted one of my pups and he had to sweeten the deal.”

“Uh-huh.”

The Deception of Ease

It wasn't any big deal either, even late that night when Hooter shined his spotlight into the pen just to be sure. Ol' Hazel, appeared more comfortable than a favorite pair of gloves and about as friendly. She snorkled and grunted contentedly as Hooter scratched between her ears.

All of that was before Nelda Isselfrick called in a panic shortly after sunrise.

“Hooter McCormick you come get this attack pig off of me right now!”

“What? Who is this? Hey, Sammy is that you…”

“No, this is not one of your no-account, ne'er-do-well friends,” seethed the voice on the phone. “You know very well this is Nelda Isselfrick, you myopic little dolt. I'm here at your cousins and I've been attacked by a pig.”

The image would have tickled Hooter's funny bone if it had been any other voice on the line. You didn't want Nelda on your bad side because that put Aunt Pinky on your bad side, and that was worth avoiding. Besides, depending on how Nelda was defining attack, even Hooter realized it might not be the safest situation for someone nearing 80 years of age, though she'd never claim anything beyond 72.

“I'm on my way. Where you at?”

“The outhouse.”

It just keeps getting better, thought Hooter, as he dashed for the pickup.

A Sow Scorned

When Hooter arrived, assuming Nelda was safely ensconced in the dilapidated old outhouse, Hooter had to smile. Hazel would root around the door, snort wildly, then bang her head into it. Every charge elicited a yelp of surprise from inside, then Nelda demanding that Hazel shoo and mind her own business.

The fun didn't last.

“Hey Nelda, I'm here now. You OK?” yelled Hooter as he dropped over the fence.

If there was a reply, Hooter never heard it. Hazel had charged beneath him like a fleshy meteor, sending him boots over buckle. Then she had one of his feet in her mouth, gnawing wildly. Hooter slid his foot from the boot and took off for the fence.

Too late. Big as she was, Hazel was too fast, plus she seemed to have a keen understanding of geometry and angles. She got Hooter down again and nipped his ear before he rolled away and took off.

“Hazel, you mangy devil, what got into you,” shouted Hooter over his shoulder, trying to zigzag out of harm's way. “You come at me again and I'm gonna part your hair with a fence post.”

Hooter felt something sharp puncture his bare foot, he howled and grabbed at it, and there was Hazel again. He rolled away and took off again. “Nelda is the door open?”

“What door?”

“Where you're at,” hollered Hooter, making a beeline for the outhouse.

“There's no hook.”

“Good, because you're fixing to have company,” shouted Hooter, reaching for the door handle just as he felt Hazel sampling his Wrangler patch.

Life wasn't much better on the other side of the door.

“Get off of me you masher,” growled Nelda, trying to flog Hooter with her purse. “How dare you barge in on a lady who is indisposed. I'll call the police.”

“First off, we don't have any police around here, as you well know,” grinned Hooter, fending off the blows. “Second off, you're not indisposed. You're hiding in here just like me.”

Hazel had gone back to banging her head on the door.

“What did you do to set her off, anyway?” wondered Hooter. “For that matter why'd you come out to Charlie's in the first place?”

Hooter could tell he'd hit one of Nelda's many sore spots.

“If you must know, I came to ask your cousin to make me a new getting-up chair.”

“Yeah, but that doesn't explain what you're doing in Hazel's pen and what you did to set her off.”

“Hazel?”

“The pig that has us penned.”

“Well, I couldn't help but notice her litter of little ones.”

“Her what? She's had them already?”

“Well yes, they're on the other side of the pen, on the outside.”

“How'd she get out there?” said Hooter aloud but more to himself.

“How would I know that you insolent skunk. I assume you're the one who was supposed to be looking after her.”

“Well yeah, but…”

“Just like always and ever since you two were little,” scolded Nelda. “Hooter creates the mess and poor Charlie has to clean it up.”

“Now, look here…” and on it went until about dark.

“Hooter, you in there?” shouted Charlie.

“Yeah! Nelda, too.”

“Nelda, too?

“Never mind the questions, get that mad sow of yours off us.”

“Get who off you?” said Charlie, opening the door.

“Hazel, who do you think,” said Hooter, peering over Charlie's shoulder.”

“Hazel? She's over there nursing her pigs. Right nice job watching her, too,” said Charlie. “Though, I don't know why you let her out of the pen.”

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