Weeks went by without a sign. I took down parts of the electric fence, but couldn't be too bothered to tidy up much of the pig pen. I felt kind of foolish - one of our piglets was intended for our friends at a farm down the road, and here I couldn't even keep them safe for a few weeks.
I had intended to give them the larger of the two females. Tocino, our gentle little bacon seedling that had gone to visit the first graders, was such a sweet thing that we wanted to keep her. And our friends had specifically requested a female. Besides, the Spare, as we've taken to calling the other female, was the most skittish & least friendly of the pigs. Rocky was a bigger, curious boy, always intent on seeing what we had brought when we came to the pen. The Spare was determined to sneak away. I had absolutely no evidence to support it, but I had fixed all of the blame for The Great Escape on the Spare.
And the coyotes which I was pretty sure had eaten them all.
I reached out to the farmer where I got the pigs. Sean lives out in central Massachusetts, and has a great stretch of land. And I know he's had his own share of predator problems. We talked about different styles of predator problems - if it had been a big cat, there would have been a mess. With coyotes, it's likely that the piglets would have been taken back to the pack, and you'd hardly see a sign.
That certainly fit. Life went on at our house, but I really did miss my morning ritual with the pigs. And I really missed all that potential bacon that had been destined for my freezer.
Fortunately, I knew the farmer that I used to get my pigs from (before I took it in my head to start raising my own) had gotten a couple of piglets of her own again.
I wasn't sure she was actually going to have them this year - you may or may not be aware of the Great Pig Shortage of 2014, but pigs are a much rarer commodity than they were a couple of years ago. I called her up and asked if she had a buyer for the end of season yet - lucky for me, they were still unclaimed.
While this didn't replace the pleasure I get out of raising the meat myself, or the interaction with the animals, at least I had some assurances of not missing a year in my prosciutto pipeline.
Life returned to normal, more or less.
Until this past weekend.
Another neighbor down the road who keeps goats came by on Sunday while I was in the garden weeding, and cursing the deer who've been raiding my pea plants & tomatoes. (Seriously. What the hell. Eat all the damn peas you want, if that's your thing. I'll be irritated, but I can call that an acceptable price to pay. But why do the damn deer insist on cropping off the tops of all my tomato plants, leaving me with little stubby shrubs with nary a flower on them? The density of deer population in our town is about 10x what a 'healthy' population would look like. On the one hand, this gives rise to the tick population, and hello lyme disease! But if that weren't bad enough, you've got to go and sabotage a man's tomato crops? I take that kind of thing personally).
Over my cursing, I heard someone calling my name. "Your pigs have been spotted!"
What the hell? That was 4 weeks ago. My pigs are coyote poop at this point.
Except they apparently weren't. That morning, a group was hiking through the trails about 2 miles from our house on a guided bird watching tour (that's the kind of town we live in). And out of the brush trotted three little spotted pigs. Friendly and curious.
I had her draw me a map, and I hopped in my truck and sped over. It's 2 miles through the woods, but it's about 5 miles to actually drive the round about path, and then you can only get so close to the trail head.
I had grabbed a bucket of peanuts, and some feed, and hiked about a half mile in either direction on that trail, making big loops through the woods, rattling the bucket and calling out. Thinking the whole time that these pigs were going to become the Flying Dutchpigs of Carlisle, Massachusetts - appearing without warning, and disappearing again into the undergrowth before the startled eyes of birdwatchers.
I dumped the bucket of feed at the trail head, hoping the pigs might find it and enjoy it at least. I hiked back to my truck and headed home. Just before I pulled in my driveway, one of our local police officers pulled in behind me and turned his lights on.
"Your license plate is mounted funny. Can you fix that?"
Sure, officer. Never mind that the truck is a 1967 ford, and that the license plate seems to have been just fine for the last 47 years. I'll get right on that. But for now, I have to go inside and pull about a half dozen ticks from the crevices of my body. Unless you want to help me with these ticks who have decided to get personal, can I work on that license plate thing later? 'Kay.
I went back in the garden to grab my hoe & put things away, and my Bride came running out.
"That police officer just knocked on our door!"
Seriously? OK, fine. I'll remount the damned license plate. Jesus.
"Someone just called in with a pig sighting!"
Holy shit. Back in the truck, and I headed back to the general area. I tried a different way in to the conservation land. From the fields back in the woods, I called the police station. "Where exactly were they spotted?"
"The caller said they were lying just off the trail, enjoying the sunshine. Hang on, I've got an officer at your truck now. He will lead you there."
So I went back to my truck, and sure enough, one of our police officers was waiting for me. It was a different policeman than had pulled me over & knocked on my door.
He smiled and we shook hands. "We've got our motorcycle officer coming in the other way. Follow me, and we'll get you to the trail head."
(If you're keeping count, I had three police officers and central dispatch coordinating the pig hunt with me. My town doesn't often have days this exciting.)
We got back down to the same trail head I had been on before - the good news was that the map that our neighbor had drawn was accurate. The bad news was there was still no sign of the pigs. I walked the trail a bit again, but I figured the woman who had called it in had been a part of that same birding group who had seen them, a few hours before. The police found a few kids fishing near the pond, and asked them if they had seen three little pigs.
"Um. No." I think the kids thought the cops & I were pulling some kind of prank.
I was a bit embarrassed by the whole thing at this point, what with taking up the time of most of our town's on-duty police force, but the senior officer just shrugged. "We're a farming community. It happens."
I shook hands with the police officers, and called off the hunt.
I went back home again, and once again began the process of de-ticking, shaking out my clothes, and taking an extended hot shower.
I had just started to make dinner and think about a much anticipated cocktail when the phone rang again.
"Mr. Grady, this is the Carlisle police department. There's someone on the trail with your pigs right this very minute."