March 11, 2011
The Fence for the Pigs
The hog pen was just next to the outhouse. This was an area that stands out in my childhood memories. The old house was further back than the new one. The walk to feed the pigs was shorter before the old house burnt. The coal pile was to the back of the outhouse. The reason for this was that we feed coal to the pigs. The location of most everything had been chosen for convenience. There were many jobs to be down and the closer it was the easier the chore. The cane was also shocked in that same vicinity. Directly behind the pig pen was the beginning of the pasture in which the cows were feed during the time cane was in season to feed them. There were also the strange things that were done for entertainment that are still vivid in my mind. Grandmother’s son’s never ceased with ways to shock and annoy her. The whole twenty acres were a playground of mischief for two whiskey drinking men.
The pigpen was surrounded by an electric fence. At the bottom was the usual boards placed because pigs could dig under. The electric fence for the pigs was only about knee high. The height of the fence would detour them from bending down to root under and get out. They would hit the electric fence while trying to root out of the pen. There were also the rings that were put in their noses that would hurt if they used their nose to dig. The ringing of the pigs noses was always an entertaining day for Daddy and Uncle Keith. I would get to watch this; unlike the banding of the calves. I think Daddy thought that was too graphic for a young girl to see. He did not know that nosey I usually stood at a distance watching anyway.
The electric fence was the setting for Daddy and his brother to push my grandmother’s buttons. It was close enough to the house that she could see out the kitchen window what they were doing. They did this often enough that she started fuming when she saw them out there. The path to that area was clear; it was traveled to feed the pigs, feed the cane to the cows and for the use of the toilet. Her boys were not that loving towards each other; a rivalry had developed since Uncle Keith was green with envy that Daddy and his entire family were living with Grandmother. The contests were constant between them. Which one of them could hold onto the electric fence for the longest was a contest that only drunk men could even think of. Between the sons’s there were the four of us. My brother, me and my two boy cousins; the ages of my brother and younger cousin was the same, I was the same age as the older boy that belonged to my daddy’s brother.
The four of us were always not far from the escapades that our fathers were performing. The electric fence contest was always one that we would not miss. The grins on the drunk men’s faces were grins of little boys doing something they knew they were going to get in trouble for, but just had to do it anyway. The look on Daddy’s face was always that I am going to beat my brother at this one no matter what. This made the grin meaner than just a normal grin. I was determination for something that was going to annoy his mother and brother at the same time. They both wore work boots most of the time, except on Sunday and they wore hand me down dress shoes; the black ones that laced up. The work boots were what they were wearing when they were holding on to the electric fence. The amount of time they held on I think was a combination of whiskey and plain ole courage. It seemed the longer that their hand was grasping the wire the bigger the smile on their faces become. Then when we could all see sparks at the toes of the work boots that was the most exciting part of the whole day.
Grandmother’s reaction when she saw the sparks was worth to her boy’s all the discomfort of the shock of the electric fence. She was always trying to get them to not drink so much. In the days of the electric fence contest the drinking was less of a worry for her. They had not started having the terrible health issues that they both eventually got from the whiskey. Wild Cat was what they had to drink most of the time. Lauderdale County was dry and bootleggers not always had obtained distilled whiskey. The Jacksons made it and it was so nasty that many times it was grey in color; not clear. The Parkers and Patrick’s got the distilled kind that was cleaner. It really didn’t seem which one they were drinking the craziness was about the same.