Friday, October 22, 2010

The Pig That Could Only Turn Right and Other Stories

Helping dad unload piglets
There's this thing going around Facebook where you change your profile picture to one of yourself from the 1980s.  That got me looking through stacks of old photos from when I was a kid on the farm in Alberta.  Its my birthday today, so I figured it would be fun to post some pictures of my childhood pets.  The animals are probably the thing that I miss most about the farm, it was great place to be a kid.  I know you're not supposed to play with your food, but as an only child, one of my best friends growing up was The Pig Who Could Only Turn Right.

The Pig Who Could Only Turn Right
He must have had some sort of inner ear problem, because he always had his head rolled very slightly to one side, and, of course, he couldn't turn left.  Its like there was an invisible wall on that side of his body.  We couldn't keep him with the other pigs, because he'd eventually get stuck in a corner and they'd pick on him.  So for most of his life he roamed free around the yard.  He'd try to keep up with the dogs, but it wouldn't take too many left turns to lose him.  He spend most of his time sleeping in piles of hay, but he was very friendly and curious and if you walked by his hay pile the hay would start rustling.  He'd poke his head out, slowly wake up, and then trot out to see what you were up to.

Pig Camo
For a while we had problems with coyotes and had to start locking him up in the barn at night.  Despite his turning problem he was very smart and it didn't take him long to learn that he needed to head into the barn for supper.  I remember the first time I had to put him in the barn at night.  It was a long narrow barn and as he trotted beside it, the door was on his left side.  He walked right by it and I can remember thinking "great, now I'm going to have to chase this pig around the whole yard...".  But he knew exactly what he was doing -- as soon as his tail was lined up with the opening, he started turning right.  He spun 270 degrees around and headed straight through the door!  He was an excellent pig.

We also had a pet muskrat for a short time.  It was the strangest thing - my dad was in feeding the goats one day when this little brown lump waddled up to him.  It came from the direction of the dugout and was acting more like a cat than a wild animal.  It let him pet him and pick him up.  It kept following dad around, so he brought him into the house and it seemed perfectly happy.  I can remember having him locked in the porch for the first night.  We stuffed two big paper grocery bags full of newspapers between the wall and the freezer so that he wouldn't crawl in behind and chew on the wiring, but overnight he chewed a hole right through the bags big enough to crawl through.  That was my first experience with muskrats, and I still have a scar on the tip of one finger from when I learned that most muskrats are far less friendly.

Blue Heeler, possibly named "Tippy"
We did have lots of normal pets on the farm, too, although some of them had weird ideas about things.  This little blue heeler pup grew up to be a very clever working dog.  Blue heelers are my favourite dog breed, they have natural herding skills and even without any real training they are great help moving cattle and sheep around.  But as a rebellious youth, this pup enjoyed being dressed up in my old clothes and sitting on my tricycle.
Cat-lestar Galactica

Same sort of thing with this kitten.  She looks like a normal cat sitting in a shoe, but in actuality, she's checking the rigging on a tiny spacecraft.  She's getting ready to play Battlestar Galactica or possibly G Force with her siblings who are equipped with similar spaceships.  I'd have to spend hours running around the yard carrying their tiny ships, and making whooshing noises, because I didn't have the heart to tell them that shoes can't really fly.  But I didn't mind.

Photo Credits:
1: I can't remember who took this picture, but it was probably one of my friends from school.  I tended to be much more helpful around the farm when I was showing off to friends.
2-6: Tim Rast


  1. Wow.
    This post explains sooo much!

  2. Happy birthday! You had fantastic pets.

  3. We had a miskrat like that on a winter dig site I worked on in NB. We had tens set up over the xcavation units and ran heaters in side them at night and a bit in the day, to keep the ground from freezing once we got below the frost layer. He would come up and snuggle in against your leg and jsut kay there while you dug. You could pet hima too, and he seemed to enjoy being around people. The heat and hay bails we put on the floor at night may have enticed him a bit too, I also think there was something wrong with him, he had some sort of welt of growth on his tail.

    Scott N

  4. Adorable!
    Love the story and pics. What would we be without our pets.
    Happy Birthday, Tim.

    Monika Zephier

  5. Thanks everyone, I had a very good birthday.

    That's an interesting story, Scott. I suspect there was something sickly about the muskrat who found us as well, although I can't remember anything physically obvious, like lumps or growths. It was also winter-ish when he came by - I can remember ice forming on an outside waterdish.

  6. Happy Belated Birthday, Tim.
    Love your farm stories. Poor little Star Wars kittens! I hope their ships landed safely!


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