Pigmillion: The runt that made it

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My daughter and I made plans to go see the new Charlotte’s Web movie just the minute it was released in our area after having seen the initial previews.
We just couldn’t wait! I remember watching the animated version with my children when they were young, and I laughed and clapped right along with them.
What a wonderful story to be brought to the big screen!
Runt. I also recall feeling it was sort of like my own life in so many ways. I remember, along with my sisters, pleading for a baby piglet’s life to be spared.
My father, a soft-hearted man, if ever there was one, said more than once, “If you want to try to save this one, you can. But, I am telling you that there is likely nothing but heartache ahead for you. They just aren’t all strong enough to make it.”
And, as always, he was right. We ventured down the road enough times to suffer heartbreak, and we learned how to hold our own little funeral services.
Few successes. But, there were also a few success stories along the way. You might say there were just enough strokes of good luck to maintain our persistent determination.
The one success story I remember best revolved around my sister Debi and a baby piglet she claimed, pulling him away from death’s door.
She hunted up a box and wrote on it, “Pigmillion” and put the little pig on a bed made of rags. Pigmillion was the runt of the litter by a country mile – he was bright pink, but oh, so scrawny.
I took one look at him and felt anguish. There was no way that little squirt was going to make it.
“He’ll just break our hearts,” I told my older sister. “No, he won’t. This one is special,” Debi said with great determination.
She worked at it, keeping the piglet warm and clean, feeding him from a tiny bottle. Each morning, I felt certain we would be planning yet another shoebox funeral before the day was done.
Each day, he kept squiggling and squirming. “By golly, I think he’s growing!” Dad said one morning.
Debi just beamed with great satisfaction, her blue eyes sparkling. The piglet grunted and squealed from his cardboard box, making everyone laugh.
Green Acres was the big TV show at that time, and suddenly we found ourselves with our own “Arnold” star.
Dog or pig. None of our friends believed us when we told them we had a pet pig who thought he was a dog. He even tried to “talk” to us, answering our questions with either a short, single snort, or a long, drawn-out series of snorts, sounding sure as the world as though he were talking.
Kids stopped by to see him and marvel over his adorable pink little body. He would appear to tip his head back and forth with glee as he soaked up all the loving attention.
Soon the personable piglet outgrew his cardboard box. Now what?
Dad sat down and had a talk with my sister about the fact that it was time to “reintroduce” Pigmillion to the barn. He needed to blend in with the rest of the pack and learn how to be a pig.
Debi stood at the front of the pen holding her pig, giving him a pep talk about going to “pig camp” and telling all the other little feeder pigs that they must be nice to this special creature.
She set him down and she stayed on her side of the fence for a very long time. He stayed right where she put him, looking up at her with confusion.
Finally, she had to go do chores. When she came back a couple of hours later to check on him, he was doing fine with the other pigs at pig camp.
She remembers he was 18 inches tall and she would return to the barn, calling his name, and could watch his snout rise above the rest as he hurried to make his way to her.
She would lift him up and out of the pen and take him for walks, no leash required. He was her happy little shadow, squealing and snorting little stories as he walked along by her side.
The toughest day of all came when Dad announced it was time to sell feeder pigs. Cliff Fulk’s big livestock truck pulled in and Debi called for Pigmillion, who came on the run.
He walked right up the ramp and in to the truck, “just like it’s a modeling runway,” our father commented. Pig stuck his nose out through the grates of the livestock truck and “talked” to us some more.
Heartbreaking. It was heartbreaking, to say the least. A few days later, Debi was given a check from the livestock market.
Dad had asked Cliff Fulk to separate the one pig from the rest, and that check was to be made out to his daughter who had worked so hard to save that one special little piglet.
Debi put the money in the bank, and to this day she still has the livestock market slip, her last momento from her special Pigmillion.

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Judith Sutherland, born and raised on an Ohio family dairy farm, now lives on a 70-acre farm not far from the area where her father’s family settled in the 1850s. Appreciating the tranquility of rural life, Sutherland enjoys sharing a view of her world through writing. Other interests include teaching, reading, training dogs and raising puppies. She and her husband have two children, a son and a daughter, in college.

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