Christopher Hogwood came home on my lap in a shoe box.
On a rain-drenched April evening, so cold the frogs were silent, so gray we could hardly see our barn, my husband drove our rusting Subaru over mud roads sodden with melted snow. Pig manure caked on our boots. The smell of a sick animal hung heavy in our clothes.
It did not seem an auspicious time to make the life- changing choice of adopting a pig.
That whole spring, in fact, had been terrible. My father, an Army general, a hero I so adored that I had confessed in Sunday school that I loved him more than Jesus, was dying painfully, gruesomely of lung cancer. He had survived the Bataan Death March. He had survived three years of Japanese prison camps. In the last months of my fathers life, my glamorous, slender motherstill as crazy about him as the day theyd met forty years beforeresisted getting a chairlift, a wheelchair, a hospice nurse. She believed he could survive anything. But he could not survive this.
The only child, I had flown back and forth from New Hampshire to Virginia to be with my parents whenever I could. I would return to New Hampshire from these wrenching trips to try to finish my first book, a tribute to my heroines, primatologists Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Birute Galdikas. The research had been challenging: I had been charged by an angry silverback gorilla in Zaire, stood up by Jane Goodall in Tanzania, undressed by an orangutan in Borneo, and accosted for money by a gun-toting guard ten thousand feet up the side of a volcano in Rwanda. Now I was on a tight deadline, and the words wouldnt come.
My husband, who writes on American history and preservation, was in the heat of writing his second book. In the Memory House is about time and change in New England, set largely in our corner of the world. But it looked like it might not stay ours for long. For the past three years, ever since our marriage, we had lived, first as renters and then as caretakers, in an idyllic, 110-year-old white clapboard farmhouse on eight acres in southern New Hampshire, near mountains that Thoreau had climbed. Ours was the newest house in our small neighborhood. Though our neighbors owned the two- hundred-year-old antiques that real estate agents praised, this place had everything Id ever wanted: a fenced pasture, a wooded brook, a three-level barn, and forty-year-old lilacs framing the front door. But it was about to be sold out from under us. Our landlords, writer-artist friends our age whose parents had bankrolled the house, had moved to Paris and didnt plan to come back. We were desperate to buy the place. But because we were both freelance writers, our income was deemed too erratic to merit the mortgage.
It seemed I was about to lose my father, my book, and my home.
But for Christopher Hogwood, the spring had been more terrible yet.
He had been born in mid-February, on a farm owned by George and Mary Iselin, about a thirty-five-minute drive from our house. We knew George and Mary by way of my best friend, Gretchen Vogel. Gretchen knew we had a lot in common. Youll love them, Gretchen had assured me. They have pigs!
In fact, George had been raising pigs longer than Mary had known him. If youre a farmer or a hippie, George had reasoned, you can make money raising pigs. George and Mary were quintessential hippie farmers: born, as we were, in the 1950s, they lived the ideals of the late 60s and early 70speace, joy, and loveand, both blessed with radiant blue eyes, blond hair, and good looks, always looked like they had just woken up refreshed from sleeping in a pile of leaves somewhere, perhaps with elves in attendance. They were dedicated back-to-the-landers who lived out of their garden and made their own mayonnaise out of eggs from their free-range hens. They were idealistic, but resourceful, too: it did not escape them that there are vast quantities of free pig food out there, from bakeries, school cafeterias, grocery stores, and factory outlets. George and Mary would get a call to come pick up forty pounds of potato chips or a truckload of Twinkies. To their dismay, they discovered their kids, raised on homemade, organic meals, would sometimes sneak down to the barn at 4 a.m. and eat the junk food they got for the pigs. (We found out because in the morning wed find these chocolate rings around their mouths, Mary told me.)
Excerpted from The Good Good Pig by Sy Montgomery Copyright © 2006 by Sy Montgomery. Excerpted by permission of Ballantine Books, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Blood at the Root
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