Thursday, September 20, 2007

How the pigs ate my shoes (I get to it eventually)

The Yummy Biker is related to a lot of people out this way. His family were original homesteaders, and once they got settled in they lost no time in marrying everything that didn't move fast enough. The further out you travel, then, the more likely it is that any old person we meet will come up and exclaim 'Hey! Biker! I used to babysit you!" which embarrasses the Biker and cracks me up.

One of the families we're related to are the Funkyhauers.

Years of rural isolation, poor or no education and strange German notions of what does and does not constitute 'edible' had left the Ferndale branch of the Funkyhauers registering about a six out of ten on the 'weird' meter. Now for the majority of the Funkyhauer bunch, this was only a state of mind; they looked and acted 'normal'. They had money; they owned property, everyone was employed.

Grandma Funkyhauer was a woman so self-effacing, so bereft of initiative and so subservient that she was actually transparent when the light hit her right. 'What a lovely woman' was the phrase most often used. I never saw her smile. Not once. Not even in a photograph. Grandpa Funkyhauer farmed, and as far as I know he didn't have a tooth in his head because he never smiled either. In fact he seldom spoke (and never to me.) He didn't have to. His least whim would be not only obeyed by Grandma, but anticipated. There isn't a single adjective to describe how unsettling and somehow sinister this was to watch.

Their son, Dim Funkyhauer, had been a childhood friend and partying buddy of the Bikers from way back when. When the Biker and I rolled up to their property that first time, then, he was expecting to find the same cheerful hippie couple he remembered from the past; fun people we could be friends with. What he didn't realize (and didn't for some time because he is a guy) was that at some point during the intervening years, Dim and his wife had 'relinquished the world' and had become 'Born Again'.

Really, really really really really really, really really REALLY 'Born Again'.

Exactly one nanosecond after they met me, their single mission in life became bringing the Bikers' foulmouthed whore girlfriend before the throne of Christ.*

The Biker, to be fair, had never been exposed to ecstatic Christianity and had no idea whatsofuckingever that the Funkyhauers were being anything other than simply nice... strangely, determinedly, bend-over-backwards, too-friendly, Stepford-nice. As someone already familiar with born-again culture, I smelled bullshit.
Sure enough, the bullshit started immediately. Every single time the Biker left the room Dim and the little Mrs. started in. (Of course, they had too much innate respect for the Biker to importune him thusly. ) 'Aren't you concerned about going to heaven? Aren't you worried about your daughter growing up without God?' etc.

Apparently, 'relinquishing the world' meant 'living in medieval squalor in an uninsulated travel trailer waaaaaaay out in the unincorporated county'.** They cooked on a woodstove and took water from a hose stuck in through the kitchen window.
And the bathroom window.
Yeah.
When the front door slammed, the entire back wall of this trailer would flap out a couple of inches and then smack back, re-nailing itself to the frame.
It sat somewhat back from the main road, surrounded with wrecked cars and derelict farm equipment, sagging outbuildings roofed with corrugated aluminum, blackberry bushes, junked excavators, part of a collapsed radio tower, a dismantled railroad bridge, a schoolbus and an indeterminate number of dogs and chickens in varying stages of mortal illness. The only evidence that it was the inhabited structure were the twin dirt ruts that ran up to the door. And here lived Dim, his wife Cowed, his malevolent eldest daughter Orla, his feral middle daughter Grenade, and his infant son Loolis.

These children spent the first five years of their lives at home, naked, filthy and shoeless. The only time they left or wore clothes was to go to the store or to church. Because they were barely able to make themselves understood verbally they communicated by screaming and hopping up and down. They ate dirt. They pissed where they stood. They killed the chickens, tormented the dogs, dug up the garden, threw rocks at passing cars and bit one another until they bled.

This was 1988. Dim Funkyhauer owed no one a single dime. Not only that, the man was making 25.00 an hour plus full benefits; extremely good money indeed for that time and place. (not including overtime and whatever came in from his own welding and machine shop.) I imagine that's done nothing but go up over time...he still works for the same place. Never missed a day. So why did they live like this?
Where did the money go?

Guess.

A few years later, at the insistence of ourselves, his pastor, the congregation and his parents, Dim built a house. Partially. It remains unfinished to this present day.
It had no insulation, no sheetrock, no flooring and no interior doors...and exposed utilities that would have made a code inspector piss himself in terror. They used a woodstove for heat and cooking. Of course they now had running water, sporadic electricity and walls that didn't flap in the breeze, and this was a step up, all things considered. For a brief while the children were bathed and sent to school (very, very briefly) and even started wearing clothes voluntarily.

Unfortunately, all this 20th century up in the house meant paying for things like building permits and utilities, which Dim found both worldly and appalling.
Dim decided that this would not do. He embarked on a self- sufficiency crusade. Dim was going to live 'off the grid'.

One of these projects was raising pigs for meat and market.
This isn't a bad idea. In fact it was one of his better ideas. And his husbandry couldn't be faulted either, in the beginning. He built a huge enclosure for the pigs on the back of his property in a stand of alders overgrown with blackberry bushes. The pigs flourished on the forage, the alders flourished on the extra manure, and the blackberries died and never grew back.

Then autumn came, and Dim lost interest. The pigs were huge Volkswagen-sized beasts now and not terribly habituated to human contact. They broke through the enclosure at whim, which was repaired with pallet and wire. They tore out the electric fencing, which suited Dim fine because it 'sucked power like a vampire' according to him. They screamed and called all day long for food.
Neighbors began losing animals.

The 'care' of the pigs fell to Dims' wife...tiny, chubby Cowed.
Cowed, who suffered from 'migraine headaches'.
Which turned out to be cancer.
And killed her a year later.

I came by one morning while Cowed was just struggling into a coat in preparation to go take care of the pigs. She was carrying a washtub full of corn and shucks, chicken waste (they'd just slaughtered) and date expired dairy products. We loaded up a wheelbarrow and took it out.

The pigs were waiting for us. You could see them standing lined up along the fence-now nothing but a series of sagging, splintered pallets that Cowed had wired together or tied with whatever came to hand. Each pig had its forefeet on the top rail and each pair of eyes watched our every move as we approached. When they caught a smell of the food, their mouths opened in unison and saliva gushed out in a flood over their teeth.

Cowed and I stood well back and began hucking the pigs their breakfast as far as we could throw. These animals were good- they'd leap up and snag a corncob out of midair like a dog. They were fast and quiet, too, and had long, sharp teeth. This came as a disquieting revelation to someone whose previous exposure to swine had been cute baby piggies at the fair.

While we were doing this, one of Cowed' s gloves came off and fell into the pen. I jumped in after it, like a doofus, like a sandwich, like a big roast haunch of fat broad, and waded out into the pen through the churned up pig-mud to retrieve it. I grabbed it, looked up, saw the pigs racing towards me and jumped back over the fence. My shoes stayed behind, sucked off by the mud.

I stood on the other side of the fence in my socks and watched the pigs race over to the spot and root my shoes out of the mud, fighting and squealing.
'That wasn't' very smart," laughed Cowed.
"No, I guess it wasn't, huh, " I said, while the screaming pigs furiously tore my shoes into small pieces.

________________________________


*and the ironic part of this is that I was ALREADY saved. (yup- that's right. my name is writ in the Blood of the Lamb in the Book of Life.) i must have told them a hundred times and they simply never heard me.
this was a sad, funny relationship. they were trying to 'help' us without our catching on, while we were trying to help them without them realizing it.

**
Why they thought this pleased Jesus was never determined since they were the only members of their congregation who lived this way.


Hey! I have a lot of time on my hands this afternoon so I've added a new feature. Every time I exaggerate in recounting one of my quaint stories from days gone past I'll highlight the suspect passage in RED. Then I'll give out with the true fax at the end, in the overly-lengthy footnotes that nobody reads.
Ready? Here goes!

1. Some of these people were actually quite fleet of foot.
2. Not really transparent. Very anemic, though.
3. Oh fine. So sometimes they also visited relatives, went to a restaurant-imagine the managers face when he saw them pulling up-or took a trip to the beach. Just, not always fully clothed. Yes, really. As in, the kids might fall out of the car dressed only in shirts, or wearing only one shoe.
4. Actually only ATV sized.
5. Sandwiches can't jump. Ha!

19 comments:

  1. I have a friend who spent 2 years on a pig farm delivering babies. Yeah, she said it was not too pleasant.

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  2. Thanks, FN. That was a most enjoyable read.

    Now if I could only get "Dueling Banjos" out of my head...

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  3. awaiting: the thing is, pigs are trainable and can be nice animals. still...ever see 'Snatch'? "Nevah troost a man what raises pigs!"

    'shot: oh, there's more where that came from, too. let me add that i have met actual normal people in my life. (let me also add that in this story, the pastor and the church got involved, cared, lived their religion and actually made a difference for the better in whatever way they could. they really did. Dim just undermined it all on the strength of his 'personal revelation'..i.e, he was a raving nutjob.)

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  4. I very much look forward to the day that you and the biker (and whoever else wants!) can sit at the dinner table with me and swap stories. There may even be food (I'm thinking some sort of pork product).

    Isn't that how it went in days of yore? A meal for a tale?

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  5. I disagree...if you leave a sandwich out long enough it will either: A) develop the ability to jump B) get jumping assistance from the tiny livestock and vermin C) due to the laws of probability, while it's highly unlikely that a sandwich will jump, there's always that chance.

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  6. Now, I wonder how much red would feature in the Tale of Clan Meadows? Some (limited) experience in a shelter-help suggests probably not a lot!

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  7. 'shot: or, you could put a big toad between two pieces of bread or a bun or something and if the toad was alive, it could jump. if it was frightened. or maybe if there was a bug, you know.

    dinah: this has given me an idea! i went back and posted my labels...everything with a label, except for 'The DaVinci Code' is about the Meadows Family. now everyone can share the fantasy!
    are you really going to make me read all that over and hilight it, though? *whimpering, cowering, trembling*

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  8. I do own a copy of that fine film 'Snatch' when I see a big pig I see walking meat and start to drool.

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  9. The Funkyhauers? your pulling my plonker, is that their real names? or have you changed the names to protect the guilty?

    Absolutely brilliant post

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  10. Wait... where did his money go? The church? His mattress? Whores and booze?

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  11. I am betting that he wasted all his money the Church? I still didn't understand why he didn't shoot the pigs - he could have made some thing from them. Clothes for the children maybe?

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  12. knudie: heard about the guy up in canada recently who raised pigs on vancouver street meat?

    frobi: i'd be delighted to pull your plonker. geeze, i changed the name. and thank you! XX

    danator: france. no, the church. specifically, it's mission to south america. meanwhile the local met in the basement of an unfinished building. ironic as hell... this church was worth a shit, too. they actually tried to help.

    muttley: that was the original plan. he was going to raise the pigs and sell them, slaughtering off some of the meat to keep (which is another post in itself). until he lost interest. then he gave them away.

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  13. "I am betting that he wasted all his money the Church?" Grrrrrr

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  14. caillou is a sweet natured pig. he loves the red cow who he thinks is his momma. he was talking to her last night about her new baby calf.

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  16. 'shot: in this case? yes. but:

    EVERYONE? FOLKS? PLEASE READ THIS.

    religion was NOT the culprit here, kids. it wasn't. Dim was a nutjob. he was under the delusion that he had a 'personal revelation' from God in this matter.
    his pastor wouldn't accept donations from him when he realized what the man was putting his family through in the name of God. his pastor tried to set him straight. his pastor tried to MAKE HIM STOP. Dim just went over his head and donated to the foreign mission anonymously. it had nothing whatsoever to do with religion and everything to do with mental illness.


    pink: does he have lunch with the calf? i've seen cats do that. horses, too. interesting the animals who make friends with cows, have you ever noticed that?

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  17. Aagh - I'm here! Sorry I've been so quiet. What happened to the kids? Bittersweet it sounds to me.

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  18. i love the aliases you make up for people.




    those were aliases, right?

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  19. God I missed reading your blog!!! FN, I can see that I'm going to spend a lot of my work hours catching up on reading your posts. Girl, you need to write a book, a big long interesting yet disturbing book. I know I would buy several copies for Christmas presents.
    If I'm fired it will be your fault. Just letting you know.

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