“First Pig” by Douglas Woody Woodsum

Douglas Woody Woodsum


You ever tried to get a pig in a truck?
I did last winter in the snow and frozen mud.
I made a ramp from scrap-wood
and leaned it against the back of the Chevy.
I remembered someone telling me,
“It takes two very strong but not very smart
men to get a pig in a truck.”
So I called my buddy, Lenny Dragon.
We scrummed around with that pig
for about a half-hour before we quit.
Lenny said, “I got my rifle in my truck;
a dead pig’s an easy-to-move pig,
and the damn thing’s going straight to the slaughterhouse.”
That sounded good to me; I was ready
to go at it with a baseball bat myself.
But that was my first pig; I wanted to do it right.
Everyone I knew delivered their pigs live.

When I got my pig, all I wanted was pork.
Seven months later, when I called Lenny
for help getting the pig to slaughter,
all I was thinking about was ham steak,
chops, and sausage; jury-rig a ramp,
apply a little muscle to the pig
and away we go. I didn’t know
how hard it is to get a pig in a truck.
Pigs are so low to the ground, they don’t budge.
Till they start fightin’ and put it in four wheel drive.

In a small town, word gets around.
Long after I got that pig in the truck,
I couldn’t go anywhere without a barb
or two of pig lore. The next time I make a fool
of myself, I pray to God it won’t be in winter.
Farmers got too much free time then,
too much sitting in greasy spoons
or around woodstoves talking about whose ass
is muddy and whose boot’s full of snow.
Since that day with the pig, I’ve heard it all,
why it’s so hard to get a pig in a truck:
“Pigs don’t like change,” or “Pigs can smell death.”
One friend pointed to this almanac passage:

“When preparing to slaughter your pig,
keep in mind that pigs seem to know
what is about to happen to them.”
If I’d’ve known, I might’ve raised chickens.

What finally happened was Lenny was cold,
wet, and threatening to leave. I said, “Hold on;
I got an idea.” I called the oldest farmer I knew.
He was decent, allowed as how he’d had a few pig scrapes
in his day. He said, “Put a five gallon bucket
on that pig’s head. Lift up one rear leg,
and use it like a tiller. Steer that pig backwards
with that raised leg. Drag and push the bast’d
right up your ramp. Don’t stop once you start.”

The old man was right. Once we got the bucket
on the pig’s head and one rear leg in the air,
it was easy as pissin’ in a boot.
The farmer got a slab of bacon
for his advice. Yup, he made it easy
but for one part: You ever tried
to put a five gallon bucket on a pig’s head?

from Rattle #27, Summer 2007


Douglas Woody Woodsum: “I grew up on the coast of Maine, studied poetry in Vermont, Maine, and Michigan, and have written over five thousand pages of poetry (and some prose) in my twenty, four-hundred-page journals. I use my journals as commonplace books, as well, to record favorite poems, quotations, moments at readings, and so on. I love poetry because it is part autobiography, part therapy, part photo album, part spirit-work, part play, part music, and part beauty. It can be frustrating as all get-out, too. Some of my favorite moments are readings in small town libraries, cafes or bookstores. I like to read with my students, too. As a bar tender on the Bread Loaf campus for fourteen years in the ’80s and ’90s, I wrote poems about that beautiful landscape, and I benefited from the instruction of the staff.”

Rattle Logo