The Day My Daddy Cried
October 25th, 1948
Well, I’m really upset, so just listen up, and I’ll tell you why. About this time last year, I was standing out in my front yard, when I heard our neighbor across the road, Mr. Lonnie Henley, just a-hollering, “Richard, head off that old sow of mine! She’s done busted out of her pen again!”
I looked down toward the El Dorado highway, and that old sow was cuttin’ a shuck heading my way.
“Yeaaaah! Souie! Get!” I yelled.
Well, that hog did a u-turn, and headed straight up the highway, and then I heard, “Hoonk! Hoooonk” A big tank truck was heading for me and that stupid pig. I jumped out of the way, but that pig went straight to hog heaven. Mr. Lonnie came up and pulled the pig off to the side of the road, and my daddy, who had heard all the yelling and honking, walked up, and then Mr. Lonnie said, “Well, Jack, I’m gonna cut off the hind quarters for hams, but that’s all I can use. If you want any of what’s left, help yourself.”
Daddy nodded, “Richard, go get a hatchet, butcher knife, and one of your momma’s big dish pans.” Naw, ‘round our house nothing goes to waste, so I hurried home and in a few minutes I was there with all the stuff we needed, and as Mr. Lonnie loaded up the hind quarters and Daddy and I filled our dishpan with what was left, Mr. Lonnie said to Daddy, “Jack, that old sow done had a littler of six, and they ain’t big ‘nough to fend for themselves. I’d give you a couple if you’d like to raise ‘em.”
Well, I was all for it, but Daddy shook his head. “Richard, your Momma and I would be taking care of those piglets, after you got tired of ‘em.”
“No sir, I promise, cross my heart and hope to die, if I don’t take care of the little pigs.”
Finally, after three more “No s”, I dropped down to one pig, and when Daddy hesitated, I offered to wash the car. “Yes.” And off we went to Mr. Lonnie’s busted down hog pen.
Heck, which pig to pick was hard, but finally I pointed to one with three white feet.
I’ll admit it. I did exactly what Daddy said I was going to do, and after about two weeks I got tired of fooling with the little pig. Daddy took it out to the barn and put it in the stall with our two mules. I kinda figured he was hoping one of our mules would step on Mr. Pig. Yeah, that’s what I named him.
Okay, the mules didn’t step on Mr. Pig, in fact, after a few weeks, they really took to him, and he would trot around the farm with the mules like he was one of ‘em.
As soon as Mr. Pig got a little bigger, it would stand by the barn gate to wait for Daddy to come in from work, and I kinda wondered why, and then one afternoon I watched as Daddy took out a carrot and gave it to Mr. Pig. Well, as the weeks past, Daddy and Mr. Pig went everywhere together.
Well, it was a late October day when I heard something that really upset me. I’d finished my paper route, and as I started to walk into the kitchen, Momma said, “Jack, there’s a strong cold front blowing in tomorrow, and temperature is going to drop down below freezing—hog killing weather.”
“What?” Heck, we’ve raised hogs most years, but this year we didn’t raise any….but…no, no.
“Momma, what are you talkin’ ‘bout?” I had this really bad feeling, and Daddy said, “Richard, that’s just what folks say after a cold snap.”
Naw, I didn’t believe him, but Daddy was working graveyards, and since he had worked all night, he headed for the bedroom.
I was up the next morning at five, a north wind was whistling, and the danged paper route was worse than horrible. I finished about 6, ate breakfast, and headed for the chicken yard to feed the chickens. That’s when I started getting really upset. Mr. Tommy Benton and Daddy were there, and they’d built a fire under a black wash pot, and Mr. Benton had a .22 rifle. Then it hit me. They’re getting ready to butcher a hog—Mr. Pig. Yeah, I went into a panic, ran around to the back of the barn, and let Mr. Pig out.
“Get, souie! Get!” Mr. Pig trotted off toward the swamp, and I ran back around to where Daddy and Mr. Benton were standing. About that time Daddy walked over to the barn to get Mr. Pig, but no Mr. Pig. Then Daddy kinda nodded and looked at me. Yeah, he’d it figured out.
“Richard, go finish feeding the chickens.”
In a couple of minutes, I was throwing chops to about thirty old hens and one mean rooster, and that’s when I heard Daddy banging on the feed bucket. I stopped breathing for about a minute, and then there was this awful sound of a rifle. I headed for the feed lot, and then, as I rounded the corner, our mules started going crazy. Yeah, Mr. Pig had been shot and Mr. Benton was already cutting ‘em up. Course, I squalled out and ran up to Daddy and yelled, “Why did you kill Mr. Pig? He was part of our family!”
Daddy didn’t say anything, but he took me by the arm, and we walked around behind the barn.
“Son, I hated to butcher that pig as much as you do, but we live on a farm, and we just can’t have pet animals. That pig will help us get through the winter by providing meat. I know you’re upset and I am to…”
Then as my Daddy turned around, I could see tears just dripping down his face. He took a deep breath, looked down at me, and said, “Richard, you’re old enough to understand how things are on a farm, so let’s go back around to the feedlot, and help Tommy dress and put up that hog.”
Well, yeah, it was hard to do, but after a while I got over being upset, and I helped scald the pig in that pot of boiling water to remove the hair, and the later I helped Daddy carry the hind quarters to the smokehouse where we hung them up to smoke. We didn’t get finished till late in the day, and I was resting up in my room when I heard Momma, “Richard, Jack…come to the table; supper’s ready.”
Wow, I was so hungry and whatever Momma was cooking smelled so good, I could hardly wait. I walked in the kitchen, and Daddy gave me a little shoulder hug and said, “Richard, you were a lot of help today.”
I made a small smile and we sat down as Momma walked over from the stove with a big platter, and when I took a good look at it, I just sank down in my chair—pork chops.
The Day My Daddy Cried