Have you ever heard a pig scream? I have. They’re loud. Like, really loud. Nerve-rattling loud. Teeth-aching loud. They sound like the most terrified person in the world, and that’s just when they’re being castrated.
O hai, I went to a farm yesterday. The farm I was on was a cattle farm (USDA-certified organic!), but the farm across the road specializes in cows, pigs, and, judging by the looks of it, yard garbage. In addition to the stupefying amount of car parts, building materials, and assorted trash containers littering the front yard of the farmhouse, three burly men were in the process of neutering a very vocal pig in the back of a pickup truck. I was assured that this kind of thing happens all the time ‘round them parts, but still, it was a little disconcerting.
There was no castration on the farm I was visiting. At least, not that day. Actually, I don’t know if there ever is castration. I know that the boy cows are kept separated from the girl cows and it’s the boy cows that get eaten later. Are you allowed to eat non-castrated cows? What are the rules on that? Obviously my farm trip wasn’t meant as an educational experience, or else I’d be able to tell you.
Yesterday was my first-ever visit to a farm, and I’m pleased to report that it was (well, aside from the pig screaming) mostly non-traumatic. In fact, I had a nice time. I went for a walk, looked at a fire, and got licked by some cows. Although I mentioned that the visit was not made for educational purposes, I did learn the following:
1. Again, pigs do not appreciate being castrated.
2. Country people just put all their trash in the yard. Okay, not all country people (certainly not the farmer who hosted me), but a lot of them do, especially the ones who “add on” to their homes by putting another trailer next to their existing one and then powersaw a hole in the wall.
3. The best way to get rid of burnable things like brush, paper, and old wood is to, well, burn them.
4. Cows who weigh 35 pounds at birth and only 65 pounds at 5 months old are probably pygmy cows, and just about the cutest things ever. Especially also when they are named Slushie.
5. Some people just let their dogs sleep in the middle of the road, and don’t seem to care very much when the dogs put up an impressive chase of your vehicle.
6. When driving past someone, you should wave at them even if you have no idea who they are. It’s called the Country Wave and is just a way of saying “howdy.” This is the kind of common courtesy that you just don’t learn when growing up in South St. Louis City, where waving to random motorists could get you targeted for assassination.
7. If your neighbor pisses you off by building his barn too close to the property line, your best course of action is to build a pond on your side so that he will forever be tormented by mosquitos.
8. If you’re going to have a trash pile, put it in the middle of your own woods.
9. Then shoot at it.
10. The best naming scheme for 65 head of cattle is to name them all after food (my suggestion for a future cow: Lobster Thermidor).
11. Cows love clover, especially when they’ve been eating hay all winter.
12. If you don’t have clover, seriously don’t even bother.
13. Hay can give you splinters.
14. If you are sincerely complimentary enough, the farmer will gift you with soup bones and meat from a cow named Flapjacks. Flapjacks Stew in two weeks, everyone!
I grew up in the country (although we didn’t have a farm and didn’t have any yard trash, even for target practice). In my corner of “the country,” there were different mores involved with that Country Wave. First of all, nobody driving a car did a full-on wave. If you did people knew you were a poser. There were two types of Country Wave while driving: raising your index finger off the steering wheel and pointing to the ceiling of your truck while keeping the rest of your fingers stationary, or the more complex and advanced two-finger Country Wave which is the exact same except you raise your index and middle finger of the same hand. Second, if you didn’t participate in the waving, you were tagged as either Not From Here or as uppity. Probably both. It’s something you learned long before you learned to drive, and during driving lessons, it was one of the few allowable reasons for taking your hands off Ten and Two.
It’s something I grew out of when I moved to populated areas, but it took a little work, like it did to not look out the window every time a car drives by to see who’s out there.