October 13th…“SHARE AT LEAST ONE WAY THAT YOUR FARMER FATHER WENT THE “EXTRA MILE” FOR HIS ANIMALS ON YOUR FARM.”
Like the crack of a whip, a brutal, ice-laced wind whipped around the corner of our Hog House and stung Dad’s face as he approached our “piggy palace” there on our farm in southern Minnesota. Winter along this glacial moraine could be deadly to man and beast, but our father had been raised in northern Minnesota, so his “constitution” was fixed on surviving and thriving, no matter what.
No man could call himself a farmer without having an abiding love and caring heart for the animals that God had put into that mortal’s care. Our hard-working father, Russell, was well-ensconced in those admirable virtues, and this is just one of those occasions when he let his loving heart direct his actions.
The screeching blizzard winds that night, buffeting our Hog House, had swirled eddies of snow against the door of this wooden edifice of animal protection. Between kicking the snow from side to side with his buckled boots, and yanking on the door itself, Dad was able to gain entry into the abode of amber-colored heat lamps in the different hog pens and farrowing crates on either side of a straw-strewn center aisleway.
Some of the hog pens had protection devices called farrowing crates. These were usually of a metal tubular construction and kept momma sow “in check” so that she wouldn’t, inadvertently, hurt her little ones. Sows were often known to just go ‘kerPLOP’ on their sides when the wanted to lay down. The problem with this scenario is that tiny piggies didn’t always have the common sense to see that their momma was falling their way and could get crushed under her weight. With momma sow now in the farrowing crate, she would have to first drop to her knees, and then stick her legs out the sides of the crate in order to lay flat for feeding her cute little pink, corkscrew-tailed darlings. As a little farmer boy, I had often watched this new, safety-oriented process happen. It was almost as if you could hear the little grunters squealing (in their oinky language)…...”WATCH OUT!!!! MOM’S COMING DOWN!!!” as they scattered in a myriad of directions before returning to “mom’s milk bar” for a meal. 😉
Our good-hearted daddy, on a number of occasions, was known to bring some of the runt (extra tiny and sickly) pigs up to our farm house and settle them in a box behind our wood/gas cooking stove in the family kitchen. Maybe the mother sow had rejected these tiny ones. Maybe there just weren’t enough milk nipples on the mom pig for these puny porcine princesses to get enough milk from their mother. Whatever the occasion, father knew when little ones of his animal kingdom needed some extra care and love. Dad would unzip his outer jackets and sweaters and then tenderly slip a piglet, or two, into the warmth of his own body cocoon as he protected them from any biting blizzard winds that were sure to steal his (and their) breath away as he carried them up to enjoy rest, relished warmth and rejuvenation behind the cozy stove of this Norwegian Farmer’s Son.