Tuesday, November 30, 2010


Today's post is from Paul Wheeler, who has many a wild story to tell!

Hog poop. A subject all it's own. In free range hogs, not much of a problem, but containment hogs...Pee U. As we designed and built the hog facility a bit at a time, we went with pit construction, meaning all the poo collected in pits that required frequent pumping and dispersal in the fields and plowing it under. The nature of the operation, being what it was, the pits were very full before we acquired a "honey wagon". Ben and I loaded up and headed to Vaughn, Montana, to a farm auction which included just what we needed. Ben introduced me to my very first strip club experience in Missoula on the way through. Ben was sacked out in back of the truck on the way to Vaughn, so I just kept driving on to Giant Springs, arriving in the wee hours and sacked out myself until the auction. We were successful in acquiring the honey wagon but towing the huge thing back was a slow and sometimes trying experience, as they're more designed for slow towing behind a tractor than highway speeds.

I was workin’ on the roof of the finishing barn when Ben backed the pump up to the pits for the first pumping. He carefully hooked up the hose, pulled the bowling ball "cork" on the pit and engaged the PTO.  [power take-off] He was standing at the back of the wagon, admiring the jerky hose doing its thing, sucking the pit dry, when the connection let loose, giving him a ten thousand gallon gusher of a shit bath. He was so pissed or shocked that he just stood there and took it all! Up on the roof, we were paralyzed between laughter and fear. Ben's a very mellow sort, but when he's mad, he's real mad. Then too, no one was real excited at the thought of having to help him clean up.

Growing a hog farm, seems we were always at least one step behind in building the facility. Before the finishing barn was complete, we had hogs everywhere we could create a place. The finishing barn was attached to the rest of the hog buildings to facilitate natural and hopefully, easy movement of the animals as they grew. Concrete is the building material of choice to make it easier to keep a clean facility. At one point, the main structure was up, pits and floors poured, dividing walls poured, roof and ventilation, plumbing and electrical. Bit by bit we framed up and poured "kit-kats", our own term for the concrete pieces that would span the manure pits at the back of each enclosure. (kit-kats because they resembled the candy bar) We made up kit-kats with left over concrete from other pours, so we were always building and installing more as the building progressed. As quick as one section was completed we filled them with hogs and continued about our building.

Early one morning, I worked my way through the barns, feeding and making sure all the waterers worked, taking care of other odd jobs as I went. When I got to the finishing area, I soon noticed that 30 or more hogs were missing. My first thought is that they had escaped to the fields. After a quick look around the place I was puzzling how so many hogs could just up and disappear like that. Then I heard a grunt coming from the pit. Don't tell me...thirty hogs got loose and one by one decided to jump into a six foot deep manure pit half full of manure slurry? I went and got a flashlight and came back to investigate further and puzzled how in heck we were going to get thirty 200 pound hogs out of a six foot deep pit, half full of pig poo.

About that time, the other two hands showed up and I presented our latest predicament. We tried a few things, anything to avoid getting in there and trying to wrestle them out. The hogs rather seemed to like it down under the kit kats. We tried jamming sticks down between the kit-kats at the far end of the 100' long pit, trying to drive the pigs up to the area where where the kit-kat gap was, so we could access them. We tried slings, we tried ramps, we tried anything that came to mind with not a single rescue. Finally we realized there was no alternative, we had to go in.

Poor Rob Bob had the misfortune to be small. He was always the chosen one for the most onerous jobs on the place, like backing up the bolts in a new feed bin. Spending the whole day in a hot, sweaty bin, holding a wrench while we rat a tatted all the bolts home. Rob Bob was the first adult any of us ever gave birth to, at least that's how it felt when we had to grease him up so he could exit the small hole at the bottom.

This particular day, it was obvious he was the likely one to have to hunker down and go a hundred feet up the pit and try to herd the pigs down to Bob and I, who would try to catch shit covered, squirmy, 200 pound hogs and hoist them to dry land. Resigned, he jumped into the pit, hunkered down and sloshed his way through the mire to the far end of the pit, pushing his way past the subterranean herd and then started herding them to Bob and I. As we snagged the first one, it let out a bellering squeal that echoed like a million starving hogs. Bob and I were so involved with our own hands full, that we failed to note that the other 29 hogs turned about and ran/swam right over the top of little Rob Bob and made their escape down to the far end of the pit again. One up, 29 more to go.

When Rob Bob came up for air, we repeated the process another half dozen times. Then the ones we had already rescued for some reason I'll never understand, bowled both Bob and I over into the muck as they jumped back into the pit to join their brethren. Sorry Mary, I had to leave off there to go cry at the memory.

It was an all day, exhausting job, but we saved all of the hogs, and made certain that it couldn't happen again. Hogs are interesting critters, like humans, they can be amiable, curious, angry, emotional, mean, and clearly, sometimes stone stupid.

As an aside to this story, I thought it was interesting to note that different groups of hogs, in the same situations, had different house keeping methods. Some hogs were scrupulously  clean, while other groups reveled in filth. I was always curious to know if there was a particular leader or enforcer but never detected one, as they were all from the same litters or age groups.

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