Monday, March 14, 2011

Blame It on Sallie!

Petunia and Jezebelle are both Berkshire Duroc X. In this photograph,
taken March 5, 2011, the pigs are four months old and
weigh approximately 100 pounds each.

I was not your average daydreaming teenager in the 1970s. I didn’t dream of cruising in a lime-green Pinto or disco dancing the night away in platform shoes and bell-bottom jeans; I didn’t have a crush on the teenage icon of my day, David Cassidy. No, not I. I was a girl driving a team of workhorses, square dancing in the barn alley dressed in jean overalls and work boots, and my crush was on a character named John-Boy in the famous TV series The Waltons. I went to bed like any true barn girl at 8 p.m. to rise at dawn for the 4-H fairs. One of my many 4-H fair memories was cheering for my best friend’s pig, named “Sallie,” to place first at the countywide fair!

To this day when I close my eyes, I can see Sallie’s big belly, snout, ears. Mostly, I see Sallie’s stall plate above her pig pen in the old 4-H show barn. I visualize a heart-shaped piece of barn board painted in perfect cursive with the letters S-A-L-L-I-E. The letter “I” was not dotted with a plain ole everyday dot, but a big fat red heart! Yup, my teenage memories living 20 minutes north of Boston in the “burbs” were full of 4-H farm dreams, barnyard friends of flesh and fur, and living vicariously through the television shows Little House on the Prairie and The Waltons.

Well, here I am, many moons and miles from my teenage years dreaming in Woburn, Massachusetts. I now live my dream with my amazing family in an old Vermont farmhouse complete with barns, chickens, and yes, you guessed it, not one pig but two! My life is good. It only took me 35 years to finally raise porcine critters, but darn it, I can now check pigs off my list of things to do!

Piggie Petunia and Jezebelle sleeping. This was the first night
the two pigs spent at our farm. They were sound asleep within a bale
of straw . . . just like pigs in a blanket! They were eight weeks old.

I am of the theory that most animals need names. No one wants to be a number or a no-name. Naming gives an identity, a soul, to a living being. For example, two of our identical hens are both named Hen-rietta. Our little mini-Rex bunny is named Max. Hmmm . . . What to name two pigs? Silly friends and coworkers suggested such names as Babe, Chops, and Bacon. Let’s face it: there will never, ever be another Babe. The name Sallie was out, because once again in my heart there could never ever be another Sallie. Bacon, Chops . . . no way!

In honor of holy nostalgia, I introduce you to Petunia (written not with a dot for the letter “I,” but a big fat heart) and Jezebelle of Red Barn Sap Bucket Farm in Shaftsbury, Vermont.

Now, Petunia doesn’t smell like a flower, nor is my Petunia ever going to compete in a 4-H county fair show ring, but both their stall plates are dotted with a big ole fat heart! Here is a toast to teams of workhorses, 1970s John-Boy crushes, and big ole fat hearts!

Petunia sniffing her name plate

You know . . . The Waltons . . . the 1970s TV show?! Didn’t every teenager wait for the next weekly adventure on the farm on Monday nights at 7:30? Let me remind you. The show was set on a farm in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, during the Great Depression; the Walton family makes a small income from their sawmill on Walton's Mountain. The story is told through the eyes of John-Boy, who wants to be a novelist, goes to college, and eventually fulfills his dream. The saga follows the family through depression and war, through growing up, school, courtship, marriage, employment, birth, aging, illness, and death. The cast of characters include the whole family: Grandpa, Grandma, Ike, Olivia, John-Boy, Corabeth, John, Elizabeth, Jim-Bob, Ben, Erin, Jason, the Baldwin sister, and Maryellen. One of the show’s signatures was a long roll call of names at the end of every show starting with “Good night, John-Boy.” John-Boy would reply, “Good night, Momma.” Then John-Boy would say, “Good night, Maryellen”. . . well, you get the good-night signature. More importantly to me than the cast of characters were the farm animals and country-livin’ lifestyle.

Friends not only teased me by saying, “Good night, Maryellen,” as in the sign-off for The Waltons, since my name is Maryellen, but friends also laughed when I would rather muck a horse stall than go to the newly opened Burlington Mall just north of Boston. I did not give care to the latest bell-bottom designer jeans or Icelandic sweater. I cared more for my barn coat and work gloves. I cared about the next episode of The Waltons! Was John-Boy going off to college?

I guess you might say that Sallie the Pig and my being a fan of The Waltons made me who I am today.

— Maryellen Mahoney, Special Sales Account Manager


Gardeningbren said...

I loved reading this, so touching and heartfelt. Thank you for sharing and also, the piggy cute is that, tucked in for a good night's sleep.

Anonymous said...

I am happy to share stories and photos of our piggies with you!
This morning when I did my morning barn chores at 5am I heard loud snoring in the barn. I thought the Jolly Green Giant had taken up residency with Petunia and Jezebelle!
I tip toed quietly to spy in the pigs pen, expecting a jolly green fellow tucked in the hay bale... No green giant... but a big giant Petunia I found!!! She needs some snore strips!!! Nothin' like starting your day with the sounds of a pig snoring! Heck, with daylights saving time in effect I think Petunia had the right idea! Sleep in!

Mimi Foxmorton said...

That buried piggie pic is the absolute best! Ah, if we could only all sleep that innocent! ;)

Unknown said...

Love, Love Love it!! We'd love to meet Petunia and Jezebelle. Thank you for sharing!! :) Amy

Anonymous said...

I agree Mimi, too bad we all can not sleep so soundly! Did you notice that little patch of black fur at Petunia's snout? The black fur belongs to Jezzebelle...Her fanny!
I always find the piggies sleeping spoon style!