The Day I Fed The Pigs

 Children with their limited experience sometimes find their good intentions create unexpected results. One of the most unpleasant memories of my childhood was the result of such a mistake.

My father raised pigs to butcher for our family’s use, but he also had several black and white Poland China shoats he planned to take to market when they were fully grown.  I loved to watch them shove each other as they scrambled to slurp up the thick mash mixture that Daddy poured into the trough twice a day. The admonitions “Don’t eat like a pig,” and “Don’t be a pig,” were obviously the result of such greedy behavior and lack of manners. We also fed the pigs leftovers from the table, waste from the kitchen meal preparations, and even weeds we pulled from the garden.

One day when I was about six years old my mother gave me a large pail filled with potato peelings with instructions to feed them to the pigs. I knew Daddy wanted the pigs to grow fat so they would sell for a lot of money, and I doubted if potato peelings would help them gain much weight. As I tossed the peels into the pigsty, I wondered if there might be some food to give them to make them grow fat. I remembered that when Mama made pancakes for breakfast we ate them with thick, black molasses. She was careful to put only a small amount on her pancakes because it would make her fat.

Immediately I remembered seeing a jug of molasses in the barn. I rushed to look and there it was, filled to the top with a label MOLASSES on the side! I carried it to the pigsty and poured the thick, gooey liquid into the trough. The pigs loved it. They scrambled over one another, poking their snouts into the black river, splashing the sticky black syrup on each other, snorting and squealing and having a delightful time. I was so proud of my idea to help the pigs grow fat so they would bring Daddy a lot of money, that I rushed back to the house to share the news of my good deed with Mama.

But Mama was not so delighted. She said Daddy kept the jug of molasses in the barn to mix with poison to spray the apple trees. Because it was sticky, it helped the spray stay on the leaves. She hoped it had not been mixed yet, but she told me in no uncertain terms I should not have fed it to the pigs.

I was terrified. What if all the pigs died? All my good intentions were nothing if Daddy lost the pigs. I feared the worst for myself when he returned from town. I wanted to run away, but I didn’t know where to go. So I went to my room and crawled under the bed where I cried and begged the Lord to let the pigs live. Soon I heard Daddy’s pickup pull into the driveway and stop. I crept to the top of the stairs and listened intently as Mama told him what I had done and how upset I was. When I heard him laugh and say the molasses was not poisonous – that the worst result of my escapade would be the mess the pigs made – I whispered a thank-you prayer to God.

The “punishment” I received was a lecture about making decisions without consulting my parents – and . . . a very unpleasant childhood memory.

by Mary Jo Shannon

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