Monday, August 31, 2009
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A strange thought occurred to Roscoe as they pushed through the underbrush, getting farther and farther from the mini-pig sanctuary, Janice and everything they'd ever known. "Sometimes you have to get lost to find yourself."
"What!" Rosie griped, impatient and out of breath.
"Nothing," he answered quickly. He hadn't intended to think it out loud, and certainly didn't want to encourage his sister's wandering. But the notion kept repeating itself, looping round and round in his brain. What did it mean? Why was he thinking it just then, when they were getting deeper into what Roscoe knew was trouble.
"Huh?" Rosie had startled him with her sudden command.
The babble of the brook was little more than a memory now, and other sounds were beginning to emerge from up ahead. Roscoe swiveled his ears forward and listened. He'd met children at the sanctuary once or twice. Human piglets were much like piggy piglets, full of energy and enthusiasm, darting from one end of the compound to the other, squealing and chasing anything that moved, making all the adults laugh one second then frown the next. Their unmistakable shouting and laughter rang out in the woods.
"Let's go!" Rosie said.
Although he knew they were plunging even farther in the wrong direction, Roscoe followed eagerly. The shadow that had been stalking them near the stream, and which he was certain had followed them to the other side, would be driven off by the sounds of play and laughter. Just a quick peek, then they could go home with a real story to tell.
Rosie picked up her pace to a brisk trot. Suddenly they broke into a clearing. Ahead lay acres and acres of rolling lawn, shaded by towering cedars and Douglas firs, whose trunks seemed to Roscoe like the legs of ancient, protective giants. They spotted the source of all the shouting and squealing up ahead, and both the piglets stopped for a second, amazed.
There, in the middle of the clearing, stood a strange contraption of metal and rope. Children climbed all over it, some perched at the very top, others inside, still others ran round and round the base, making the thing spin as fast as they could. It reminded Roscoe of the tree Janice had put up in the house last winter, only this one was decorated with brightly dressed children instead of shiny balls and tinsel.
"Yahoo!" Rosie shouted, charging across the rolling lawn to join in the fun, Roscoe following as fast as his legs would carry him.
"Awww! They're so cute!" "Oink, Oink." "Le'me see!"
The children swarmed off the merry-go-round and surrounded Rosie and Roscoe. Hands stroked the bristles on the piglets' backs. Rosie and Roscoe wagged their tails excitedly, signaling they wanted to be friends and play with the human pack.
"Lisa, get away from those animals!" an adult at the outer edge of the crowd grumped.
"I said get away. They're filthy. Who knows what kinds of diseases they might be carrying. I'm phoning the SPCA."
Pouting, the little girl named Lisa pushed her way out of the crowd.
None of the other parents seemed concerned about their children playing with Rosie and Roscoe. Most of the kids lost interest quickly though, and returned to their spinning Christmas tree contraption. A few stayed behind, fascinated with their new companions.
"Whew! That's a little better," Roscoe said. "I thought for a second we were going to be trampled."
"I like this one," Rosie said, nudging a quiet little boy, who sat on the grass in front of her. "If I got to choose, he would be my human."
Her human seemed to know that quick motions and loud sounds made Rosie and Roscoe nervous. He spoke softly. Of course they couldn't understand his human gibberish, but they could tell he was saying 'It's okay. I just want to be friends,' so they moved a little closer, grunting in reply.
"Mom," the boy said. "Can we take them home?"
His mother sat down on the grass beside him, stroking Roscoe's snout and tickling behind his ears. You could never tell with humans. Some were friendly, others mean. Young as they were, the piglets had learned that much from visitors to Hearts on Noses. This mother and son were obviously of the kinder sort.
"No, Jeremy," the woman said, and though he couldn't understand her words, Roscoe detected the sadness in her voice. "But I think I know where these little guys have come from, and if you ever want to visit them, and all their brothers and sisters, and all their friends relations, I'm sure that could be arranged."
The boy looked unhappy, but didn't object.
"In fact, Jeremy, you could volunteer to help out at the sanctuary. It's just up the street and I'm sure they could do with some help. You're a good worker."
"Yes. It's called the Hearts on Noses Mini-Pig Sanctuary. I bet we could have them do a presentation for your class. Do you want me to phone and find out?"
Jeremy nodded. If he couldn't have his own pig, at least he could learn about them and be around them. "They're really smart, Mom," he said.
"Oh yes," she agreed. "As smart as dogs. They make very good pets. But people sometimes buy them, then get tired of them. That's why the pig sanctuary exists - to take in all the mini-pigs people buy, then abandon for one reason or another. If it wasn't for the sanctuary, who knows what would happen to those poor animals..."
Their conversation was interrupted by the arrival of a truck, which pulled up in the parking lot. Jeremy and his mother glanced over, distracted by the murmur of the other parents.
"Over there!" Lisa's mom directed the SPCA attendant. "Aren't you going to get a lasso or something to catch them with?"
"Pigs are very intelligent and very skittish," the woman answered calmly. "They'd figure it out in a second if I started at them with a bunch of gear."
"Let's get out of here," Rosie said.
"Because I don't like the looks of this. That human's walking the way Janice does when she wants to get us back in our pens. She's come to get us."
"And bring us home?"
"Don't know and I'm not waiting around to find out."
Rosie edged away from Jeremy and his Mom.
"But we want to go home, don't we Rosie?"
"No we don't!" she snapped. "Not until we've found the wild pigs."
"What if there are no wild pigs?"
"No wild pigs?" Rosie echoed in disbelief. "Don't ever say that Roscoe!"
"Because if there's no wild pigs, there's no such thing as freedom. And if there's no such thing as freedom... well..." she couldn't describe what she was feeling, but Roscoe sensed a fear in Rosie deeper than his own fear of the shadow that had been tailing them. A fear like being locked up with not even the hope of ever escaping. He shivered.
While they'd talked, the SPCA attendant had approached to within a few feet. She was a caring person, Roscoe could tell, but he edged away, too, following Rosie's lead. His sister needed to find what she was looking for, which meant they could not allow themselves to be captured, not even by a friendly.
"Let's go," Rosie shouted.
Squealing, the two of them wheeled and ran, stampeding past the merry-go-round, then veering toward the park gate.
"Stop!" Jeremy called after them. "She won't hurt you!"
Roscoe felt bad, abandoning Jeremy like that, but had no choice. Rosie wanted to find her wild pigs, and he had to figure out why. Why wasn't it good enough to have all their siblings and friends at the sanctuary as companions? Why did they need to look for something that might not even exist?
A car honked, driving by.
"We have to get off the road," Rosie panted.
They veered right, clattering across the pavement then diving into some brush on the other side. They kept on running, bulling their way through the thicket until they were deep in its tangled core.
"I think we can stop now," Rosie gasped.
Roscoe didn't say it, but he knew they had to stop. He couldn't run another step. He wished he could sprout legs like Buddy's, and run ten times as fast, ten times as far as a pathetic little piglet. But it was no good wishing for something that couldn't be. Besides, even the fastest runner wouldn't be able to outpace the shadow, he suddenly realized. You might be able to forget about it for a while, but the shadow would always catch up to you. You couldn't get away.
Next - Segment 7
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
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"Okay. We can go back now."
Rosie wasn't listening. She picked her way through the forest outside the sanctuary fence, moving farther and farther away. Every few steps she would pause, press her sensitive nose to the earth and snuffle inquisitively. High above the leaves rustled their secrets, talking to the wind. A Stellars Jay chided noisily.
"Rosie!" Roscoe grunted. "You said just a romp, then we'd go back."
"Haven't finished romping yet," she replied.
"We're going to get lost."
"No we're not."
"What if somebody sees us?"
"Quiet," Rosie ordered, tilting her head and rotating her right ear toward a sound that interested her.
Fearing the worst, Roscoe focused both his ears in the same direction, listening intently. Frightened as he was, he had to admit it was exciting being on the outside. His whole body tingled. The slightest puff of wind raised the bristly hairs on his back; his nose twitched incessantly, analyzing every molecule of air; his ears could pick up the sound of a leaf falling even before it hit the ground...
"Water," Rosie said.
Roscoe could just make it out too - the sound of water gurgling and splashing. He'd never heard water that way before. It hissed, when Janice squirted it out of their garden hose, and drummed when it hit the bottom of an empty bucket or drinking dish. But this was definitely a playful sound.
"Come on," Rosie commanded. "Let's take a look."
They darted across an opening, their hooves clattering on the hard surface of a paved road, then back into the trees on the other side, pushing on through the underbrush. The babbling got louder with every step, until they burst through the resisting shrubs, tumbled down an earthen bank and landed on their backs with a loud splash.
Roscoe squealed loudly, thinking surely they'd blundered into a trap.
Rosie squealed too, but with laughter.
"What's so funny!" Roscoe objected.
"You," she said. "You're afraid of your own shadow."
It was true, Roscoe thought sadly. Rosie was far braver then him. If it wasn't for her, they'd never have ventured outside the sanctuary, and they'd never have any stories to tell, except the same old story as everyone else.
"Wow!" Rosie cried out.
He followed her over a gravel bar to the edge of the flowing brook. Now the burble was so loud it blocked out everything else. They'd never seen so much water flowing so fast and so noisily. Rosie waded into the stream until the cool water tickled her belly. Then she drank. "It's good," she announced. "We've made a very important discovery, brother," she said.
"Water doesn't only come out of a hose. There's plenty to drink for a wild pig."
"We're not wild pigs, Rosie," he protested.
"How do you know?"
The question stumped him. How did he know? "Because we grew up inside the sanctuary fence," he answered at last. "Janice has given us everything: food, water, shelter, fresh straw."
"But we can become wild pigs, can't we?"
Roscoe stared at her, amazed. "I don't think you become a wild pig, Rosie," he said thoughtfully. "I think you're born that way. Just like Buddy could never be a wild dog; and Mr. Trots could never be a wild horse; and Scratch could never be an eagle..."
They laughed at his joke about Scratch. But Roscoe still felt a bit funny, thinking what life would be like for a wild pig. A part of him shivered for fear; another part tingled with excitement, and he couldn't decide which part of him was telling the truth.
"Shhh!" Rosie said urgently.
She was listening again, this time to the forest behind them. Roscoe tuned in too. A twig snapped deep inside the brush. Leaves swished, as if they were brushing against sleek fur. Something was moving inside the woods, and it took the shape of a dark, sliding shadow inside Roscoe's imagination.
"Let's go!" Rosie whispered.
"We can't," she said. "Whatever that is, it's between us and the sanctuary. We'll have to go the other way, and circle back when we can."
There was no point arguing. Rosie was right. They trotted upstream, moving as quickly and quietly as they could, then fording the brook and scrambling up the far bank and into the forest on the other side. Like a real shadow, the thing stalking them followed... or was Roscoe only imagining it?
Fear, he thought. That was part of being a wild pig, too.
"We're going to find them," Rosie said suddenly.
"The pigs, Roscoe," she answered fiercely. "The wild pigs. We have to find them."
Next - Segment 6
Friday, August 21, 2009
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Flickr photo by BinaryApe
Mr. Trot's barn sat on a hump of land in the far corner of the pasture. The pigs made their way toward it, keeping out of sight as best they could, crouching in the tall whispering grass. "Shhhh," it sighed. "Shhhh," and clutched at them with its feeble hands.
"I'm not so sure about this," Roscoe fretted. "Mr. Trots may be a grumbly old clomper, but he's wise, too. He says we won't ever get back if we set hoof outside that fence."
"Oh, come on!" Rosie objected. "Grown ups always exaggerate. That's like Mom saying, 'Eat your vegetables or your brain will shrivel up like an old raisin.' Or like Janice saying, 'Stop squabbling or I'll put you back in your pens.' They're just trying to scare us.
They broke out of hiding and hurried across the trodden earth near the barn, hoping to get out of sight before anyone spotted them. "We're okay," Rosie panted, peeking back into the pasture. "But Mr. Trots is over by the compound. We better get moving."
The opening in the fence wasn't hard to find. About half way down the back of the barn the wire had been pulled up and twisted, so it didn't touch the ground anymore. A piglet wouldn't even have to squirm to fit through the space. "Let's go!" Rosie said.
"Huh?" Roscoe balked.
"What's the matter," she complained, looking back, half through the opening.
"We were just going to peek, remember."
"Oh, come on! We didn't sneak all the way out here to look at the world outside. I want to be able to say I've set hoof in it. Just a quick romp, then we'll go back to the compound. Mom will never even know we've been gone."
"Rosie!" Roscoe grunted angrily.
Startled, the piglets whirled to face the sudden racket. Scratch the rooster glared at them from a few feet away, his beady left eye locked onto them like a laser. He bobbed his head, taking a couple of steps toward them. "Er-Er-Er-Er-Rooo!" he said again.
"Shut up!" Rosie hissed.
"Just doin' my job," he said. "Lettin' everyone know there's danger developing in the barnyard."
"There's no danger!"
"Is too. You've got two feet outside the barnyard fence, and two more attached to your rump, not far behind. Then there's the four feet of your friend Roscoe, here. That makes eight feet outside the barnyard fence. Plenty of danger in that. "Er-Er-Er-Er-Rooo!"
"Shut up! You'll get us into trouble."
"Better 'n letting you get yourselves into worse trouble out there. Where you going anyway?"
"We're going on a journey to explore the big wide world," Rosie informed him.
"What!" Roscoe squealed. "I thought we were just going to take a peek."
"Have you ever been out there?" Rosie asked Scratch, ignoring Roscoe's objection.
"Oh no! I could ne... ne... never go out there," Scratch said, alarmed at the suggestion.
He thought about if for a second. "Because I'm a chicken," he said at last. "And I know the world out there is full of weasels and raccoons and coyotes, and that I'd be somebody's dinner in no time... Er-Er-Er-Er-Rooo!"
At the sound of Scratch's crowing Rosie bolted, trotting as fast as her legs would carry her into the outside world. Roscoe hesitated a dreadful moment...
"Don't," Scratch advised. "Two lost pigs is twice as bad as one."
He teetered on the brink, not wanting to go, but already fearful for his sister.
But Roscoe couldn't let Rosie go it alone. He darted through the opening, too.
"Er-Er-Er-Er-Rooo!" Scratchs' warning followed them.
Next - Segment 5
Saturday, August 15, 2009
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"Now what are you two porkballs doing in my field?"
Rosie and Roscoe froze, recognizing the slow, deep voice of Mr. Trots. They'd been in such a rush to get to the pasture fence, they hadn't noticed the thud of his hooves approaching from behind. Now the two of them turned awkwardly to face the big old horse, who gazed at them knowingly through his gigantic brown eyeballs.
"Your ma know you're here?"
"She didn't tell us not to come into the pasture today," Rosie said quickly.
"Hmmm." Mr. Trots shook his shaggy mane and twitched his withers, trying to keep off the buzzing swarm of flies. He looked immensely unimpressed with Rosie's answer. "Don't often see squealies small as you trampling my grass."
"Got enough company with all your cousins and nephews out here stompin' and chompin' on everything in sight. Where you think you're going?"
"We're exploring," Roscoe said. "We just wanted to take a peek outside the pasture fence."
"Ah," Mr. Trots said.
"You've been outside before, haven't you?" Rosie asked.
"Done my share of trail riding. Seen a few things on the outside. Never gone anywhere a human didn't want me to go, though. Never been a wild horse, if that's what you mean."
"What's it like?"
"Not gonna tell you," Mr. Trots answered stubbornly.
"Because if I tell you the little bit I know, you'll want to find out more. Then you might get all fired up with crazy notions. You might even find the hole in the pasture fence, and be fool enough to push those plump bodies of yours through it. I'd strongly advise against it. Plenty of humans out there, who wouldn't see nothin' but sausages on legs if they set eyes on you two."
"Is there such a thing as a wild pig?" Rosie wondered.
"Think I'm lookin' at a couple of 'em," Mr. Trots joked.
"Remember my advice now," he cautioned, sauntering away. "Don't even go near that hole in the pasture fence - the one just behind my barn. No squealer's ever gone through it, and any squealer that did would never be coming back. I'm pretty sure of that."
Rosie and Roscoe watched Mr. Trots move off toward the compound. "Do you think he's going to tell on us?" Roscoe wondered.
"No," Rosie said. "I don't think he's going to say a word."
Next - Segment 4
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
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So Rosie and Roscoe began planning their adventure into the world outside.
Every day Janice would open up the pens and let her pigs roam about the sanctuary grounds. Rosie and Roscoe had always stayed close to their mother, who didn't wander very far from the pens. "It's cool here, under the shade of the trees," she always said. "And Janice may give us some treats today."
When Rosie and Roscoe begged her to let them roam into the pasture out back, where some of the older piglets went rooting, she would say no. "There's plenty for youngsters to do here in the compound. You don't need to be wandering out there."
"We'll have to sneak away," Rosie said.
Roscoe didn't much like the idea. But when she teased him for being such a chicken, he came round. "Okay," he agreed. "But just for a peek. You have to plan if you're going to go exploring outside the sanctuary fence. You can't just run off without any idea where you're going."
Rosie promised they would just go for a peek. So when their mother looked away, they slipped outside the gate and trotted as far away as they could through the long, swishing grass.
Next - Segment 3
Monday, August 10, 2009
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They were born in a place called the Hearts on Noses Mini Pig Sanctuary, not far from the town of Maple Ridge in British Columbia. Janice Gillett, who runs the sanctuary, is crazy about her pigs - all 40 of them.
From dawn 'til dusk she fetches water, builds pens, spreads comfy straw for her pigs to lie on, hauls buckets and buckets of food, clips hooves, and a thousand other things that need doing for her herd. But most importantly, she talks to her pigs, addressing each by his or her proper name, and treating them all with the respect they deserve.
Wanna see how much Janice likes her pigs? Check out this YouTube.
See what I mean!
But no matter how lucky we are, the grass always looks a little bit greener and smells a little sweeter on the other side. So Rosie and Roscoe would often sit with their noses pressed up to the sanctuary fence wondering, "What's it like out there?" and thinking "It must be more interesting than it is in here."
Their mom, who knew a thing or two, told her piglets never, ever to set hoof outside the sanctuary. But you know what piglets think when they're told not to do something. Don't you?