When it comes to cuddling cows and owning pet pigs, we were way ahead of the trends on my 1960s boyhood farm. In my early teens, I’d have a personal-therapy session with a stubborn Guernsey every morning. And when I was younger, my brothers and I cared for three runt baby pigs–not realizing these little squealers would end up as bacon in the breakfast frying pan.
Nowadays, comfort seekers apparently pay good money for the chance to snuggle up with a cow–something about the zen-inducing heartbeat and breathing patterns. Maybe it’s the rhythmic cud chewing or the fragrance of dried milk and cowhide, but some think the therapy sessions are the best thing since goat yoga.
Bossy was our milk-producing bovine. The trite name did not disguise the fact that she had her own strong personality, and cuddliness was not one of her traits. Before school, I’d position myself on a three-legged stool and lean my head against her side as I tried to squeeze out a bucket full of warm milk. The sound of the liquid hitting the stainless-steel pail might lull me into a zen stupor, but Bossy knew how to keep me grounded. A sudden back-leg kick could send the bucket flying, or a slow wave of her tail could fling mud and manure at my face.
Most sessions ended with a certain bucolic aura–Bossy would grind away at the grain mixture, the barn cat would lick off the milk I’d squirted onto its fur, and I’d lug the milk to the kitchen before spending time getting the smell of a cow’s udder off my hands before boarding the yellow school bus.
Cows do have a certain amount of cool, and I guess the therapy sessions might help some achieve a bovine peace, but I wasn’t sad when Bossy dried up and my cuddling days were over.
The pet pig trend has also intrigued me. Teacup piglets are cute, but–like adult humans–they grow bigger and “less cute.” The movies have shown us that Wilbur was “some pig” and
Babe was a talented actor. But I’m not sure I’d want the hooved creatures tapping around my kitchen floor. Some city councils are also dubious, as municipalities deal with neighbor complaints and pet-zoning laws.
The closest we came to pet-pig care was when my two brothers and I promised Dad we’d do chores for three runt pigs that had been bullied to near death in the feedlot. That was before we were old enough to get into the pattern of Saturday morning manure-pitching sessions in the hog house, so we still thought pigs were fun.
Dad built the little pen out of wooden end gates, and we probably moved small buckets of feed and ran a hose for water in the best manner we could at that age. I’m sure we had some cartoonish names for the three, but in the end, the porkers headed to town on a truck with the others.
For us, cuddling cows and caring for pet pigs merged with the taste of fresh milk on cereal and the smell of bacon in the kitchen. I guess a certain amount of zen was achieved.
by Dan Gogerty (top photo from iheartradio.ca, middle pic from flickr-cushingmemoriallibrary.com, and bottom pic from metro.co.uk)