Chasing a Pig

18-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Thursday, July 3, 1913: I and a pig ran a race this evening. It led me up and down the road three or four times. I wonder how much speck I lost.

Source: Kimball's Dairy Farmer Magazine (July 1, 1913)
Source: Kimball’s Dairy Farmer Magazine (July 1, 1913)

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

Speck is an old-fashioned term for weight. I think that the way it is used in this sentence has Pennsylvania Dutch or German origins.

I bet Grandma lost a pound or two. I’ve chased pigs a few times in my life and they are darn hard to catch.

I’m not talking about greased pigs that are sometimes seen in competitions at fairs. I’m referring to chasing a run of the mill farm pig that has escaped from a field or pen. You’d think that it would be easy to chase back into the field or pen. Wrong!!

When chasing a cow, all you need to do to get it to turn is to stand in front of it—and the cow will immediately turn and can be directed back into the pen or field. Pigs, however, are very smart (and surprisingly fast), and they know where you want them to go. No matter what you do, a pig will refuse to head in the direction you want it to go. If you stand in front of a pig to try to make it turn, it will almost run you over as it continues going wherever it feels like going.

45 thoughts on “Chasing a Pig

  1. Her entry had me laughing. Along with the little Pennsylvania Dutch that I know, I also know a bit of German. In German, the word ‘Speck’ means bacon. Not only is she losing weight, she may have come close to losing the bacon too :-).

  2. A few years back, an accident on the motorway gave 4 pigs on their way to be made into bacon to escape. They hit the news headlines and national TV. On the run for several weeks they became known as the Tamworth 4. All wishes them well, when the runners were eventually discovered they were taken to an animal refuge to leave out the remainder of their days contentedly. Public opinion being they had earned it!

      1. That’s what I was thinking. I was happy to lean a new word — speck. My family are PA Deutsch, too, some of them. I wonder what they worried about. 🙂

  3. I’ve never chased a pig, but I can imagine it’s difficult! Glad you explained what “speck” meant. I’d never heard it used that way before!

  4. Wow, what a strenuous activity. I’ve never chased a pig, but I have tried to catch chickens (rather unsuccessfully) and that was exhausting.

  5. Sometimes it’s like reading a diary from another world. Chasing pigs is an alien occupation to me, and the word “speck” for weight is new too. I think I might need to chase a pig since I have a lot of excess specks! 🙂

  6. I was almost run over by an escaping hog at the Michigan State Fair long, long ago. King of frightening until the keeper rounded him up with one of those hooks on a long stick, as I recall.

  7. Too bad that it’s too late to pass this bit of information to your grandmother. One way to deal with an errant pig is to put a bucket over it’s head. Because it can’t see where it is going, it will not go ahead but will back up in an attempt to get it’s head out of the bucket. It’s back-up is much slower than it’s go ahead and it can be maneuvered fairly well. As an entertaining note, when the neighbor boy and I were just kids we used a six volt battery and an ignition coil from a Model T Ford to electrify a wire that we laid out on the ground and then scattered grain along it. When chickens or pigs would come to eat grain we would turn on the voltage and give them a shock. We could shock the chickens several times before they would wise up and go away but it only took once for the pigs. It would be several days before any pigs would fall for that trick again.

  8. Thanks for sharing your pig experience, it really brought your grandmother’s journal entry to life.

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