I will never forget that pleasant spring evening when I got an urgent telephone call from my cousin, Jon Martin. “Reece Boone! Reece Boone! Do I have a deal for you!” (Don’t forget that it is a common Southern practice to call close family members by their first AND middle names.)
My cousin quickly explained to me how our newest “get-rich-quick” scheme was going to work. We would each buy four Chester White piglets while my Uncle Jim would buy two Poland Chinas. We would grow them out and then sell them once they got big enough to take to market. It was simple, straightforward and bullet-proof.
Since I had been working at my Dad’s office, I had a little money saved up. So the next day I mailed a check for a $120 to my cousin, and lickety-split I was in business as a Teenage Pig Farmer.
My uncle had just taken a new job and was temporarily renting a house. Fortunately, the location included a pasture with enough room for the usual suspects: horses, cows, chickens, and most importantly pigs.
That next week-end, I made a bee line to the farm and my cousin and I got busy building the newest architectural cathedral to celebrate American-style capitalism – our pig pen.
The next few weeks kept us busy. We went to the feed store to buy Purina Pig Chow. We learned about plumbing while fixing a leak in the water line to our automatic drinkers. We even had fun riding the pigs bareback as long as we didn’t fall into the puddles the pigs wallowed in or land in a big pile of pig poop.
And, all the while we dreamed big pig dreams. We dreamed how we were going to take our profits, and buy more pigs. Then take those profits and buy even more pigs – until we were the “Pig Kings” of Oklahoma.
To help accomplish our lofty goal, we diligently studied the catalogs with all the pig-related farm equipment. We debated whether our meager operation should include the Duroc or Hampshire breeds. Our excitement was fueled by the fact that just about every part of a pig – except his “oink” – is used for something. A pig is truly God’s most versatile creature!
Occasionally, my Aunt Sue, not feeling the “pig love,” voiced her objection to the rancid aroma wafting from our pig pen. But to me and my cousin, it smelled just like money.
But then, disaster struck. The week before the pigs were headed to market, one of my uncle’s Poland China pigs up and died. Our best guess was that the hot Oklahoma summer was simply too much for him. Deep down, in my heart-of-hearts, I honestly felt sorry for my uncle. After eating all that feed, that stupid pig had the nerve to die and my Uncle Jim didn’t have anything to show for it.
Then, it got really ugly. My Uncle Jim reminded us that we didn’t have three separate sole proprietorships going on. Instead, we had one big Morrel-family pig partnership. After all, my uncle was the one driving HIS truck, burning HIS fuel and using HIS credit card to buy feed, PVC pipe and other supplies until we collected our pig proceeds and paid him back. Of course, he was right and it was only fair. Simply put, I owned four-tenths of that dastardly dead pig. Ouch!
The next week we solemnly delivered “our” remaining nine pigs to market. After covering all the expenses, my “new” partners mailed me a check for $128. A measly $128! I had only made $8 of profit!!!
What!? I couldn’t believe it! After all that hard work, I had only made $8 of profit growing out four pigs over the past few months. I had spent countless hours sweating under the hot Oklahoma sun being the best pig farmer I could be and I only made $8 of profit. Life wasn’t fair!
So what life lessons did I learn?
#1. Farming is hard work. I salute the countless men and women across this Great Nation that make the sacrifices necessary to put food on our table. Go Team!
#2. WE were not raising pigs. OUR PARENTS were raising boys. My cousin and I learned a lot that summer that you don’t find in a book. To this day, my Dad frequently reminds me that if my work is too hard I can always go back to farming and only work half-days – from sun-up to sun-down.
#3. College – that inside, air-conditioned activity – sounded even better to a sunburned teenager. Best of all, you don’t have to stand in pig poop unless you really want to.
#4. There is a special spot on a pig’s back just above his tail. When, you rub it, his tail will uncurl and lay down flat. Over the years, I have used this special tidbit of information to amaze my friends and dispel any rumors of being a sissified city-slicker.
If the truth be known, those few months as a Teenage Pig Farmer were a turning point in my life and some of my fondest memories.
Until next time … Sooie pig!
– Farmer Boone
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