Amos and Andy Live – Episode 12
From the Northern Exposure Meets Jame Herriot Series
Intro: You don’t expect adventures in the throes of January. Just staying alive in a land of ice and snow is challenge enough. But every now and again, life appears to disdain routines, this disruption bringing Amos and Andy into our lives, a comedy routine we were destined never to forget.
If it’s darkest and coldest just before dawn, then January in northern Alberta is the ultimate pre-dawn experience. It seems even too cold for the sun to get out of bed, since it just barely breaks the horizon before it tucks in for another long, frigid night.
It was in the blackness of yet another minus fifty degree morning that our neighbors called us and asked if we were interested in adopting two little orphan pigs into our expanding family of motherless lambs. These two new piglets hadn’t been in the world 24 hours when their ma decided she wasn’t interested in the job. She had gone on a rampage and the result was her adding to the current child battering statistics. Only this duo managed to escape the melee with their lives, and they were now ensconced in the neighbor’s kitchen awaiting adoption.
The phone rang before breakfast. Joyce’s shy request came right to the point. “We were wanting to know if you guys would like two newborn piglets?”
“Piglets,” I queried. “I don’t know the first thing about pigs.”
“Nothing to it,” she said calmly,” just give’em their iron and their vaccinations, and they’ll do the rest.”
With the instincts of a closing salesman, Joyce pushed right on with the sorry tale of how these two little urchins became orphans, and before I could give it a moment’s sane consideration, I had agreed to the adoption. That was my first error, the one where I said, “Yes, I’ll take them.”
When we finished breakfast, Fred went out to see if he could get the truck started. The daylight had brought the temperature into the minus 40s, and the truck had been plugged in all night, so the chances were at least 50-50. Sitting on the truck seat was like sitting on wooden bleachers, so frozen was the upholstery. He left his thick mittens on so as not to freeze his fingers on the steering wheel. His breath quickly created a white fog in the small cab. As he turned the key in the ignition, the engine turned over in slow motion as it tried to force molasses-like oil through the nooks and crannies where it needed to flow. Five cranks and it finally snapped to life, but not happily. Fred sat nursing it for some time until he could be sure he could let the clutch out, and not stall it. By then I was ready to go and slipped behind the wheel as he slid out. Shifting into reverse, I clunked down the driveway on frozen tires more square than round. For the first quarter mile, I’d have sworn that horse and sleigh would have been at least as warm and a lot more comfortable.
It took only a few minutes to chug the mile or so to their yard. Once inside their kitchen, it was invitingly warm and filled with the rich smell of coffee. In the corner against the wall was a liquor box with the two new born piglets snuggled up inside. As I peered over the cardboard side, a sorrier looking twosome I could not imagine. One was long and so skinny you could count every rib he had. The other, looking more like a cube than a tube, was almost as short as he was wide. Their homeliness was quickly lost on me, however, for I had never seen new born piglets, and I was fascinated by the vulnerability their pink nakedness suggested. Reaching gently into the box to stroke one and let them know all was well, my concern was acknowledged by a piercing squeal that came as close to ‘butt out’ as any reaction I’d ever heard. This was my first indication that lambs and piglets had little in common. Only, unfortunately, it didn’t register immediately, and like any slow learner, I was to pay for my ignorance.
Normally I’d have stayed for a cup and chatted awhile, but with my trucking running outside to ensure that I’d get home, I opted instead for Joyce’s quick course in pig management. It amounted to: take their milk teeth out in a week, keep them very warm and give them their iron. That was it.
We threw some old rags on top of the duo to keep their heat in, and I swiftly bundled them out to the cold truck. The piglets were quiet, which lulled me into thinking there truly would be nothing to this — my second big misconception about pig rearing…
If you want to know how it ends, click here.
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