By Gordon Gent – Balgonie, Sask.
I am nearing retirement and my memories of growing up on the farm in southern Saskatchewan near Coronach revolve around the animals we had.
From chasing litters of pigs, to milking cows, to converting chickens from running to roasting pan, we had some interesting times. The pigs especially provided a lot of stories.
We usually had a sow or two farrowing in a couple of pens in our small barn. I remember them being very touchy once they had their litter.
There was no friendly ‘oink’ from them if you leaned too far into their pen or stepped into the pen. There was a ‘woof-snort’ and a sudden movement in your direction which was a clear signal to bail out of there.
In the commotion, she’d step on a little one which caused it to squeal and that would agitate the sow even more. It was best to disappear and let things settle down.
I always worried that the large sows would lie down on the piglets. Occasionally we’d retrieve a dead one.
Other than ear, it looked normal
I got a real surprise one time when I fetched one out and found it to have two bodies attached to one head.
Other than a double flap for a third ear in the middle of the top of its head, it looked normal and had been born fully formed.
With two bodies, movement likely wasn’t too efficient and the sow probably laid on it.
I remember cleaning it up and showing the family. We thought somebody at the university might be interested, but we later learned an aberration of that type wasn’t uncommon, so the university wasn’t interested with it.
One sow was ready to farrow when she broke out and disappeared. We found her across the road in the shelter-belt of an abandoned farmyard, nestled in a wallowed-out bed of brush, leaves, and grass among the trees.
She had farrowed by this time and upon seeing us approach gave a very unfriendly ‘wuff’ and an abbreviated threatened rush which again told us to clear out.
After telling dad, we eventually herded her back to the farmyard, keeping a safe distance away.
Kids would squirt cats
While milking cows, we kids would commonly squirt milk at cats and they’d quickly learn to follow the stream of milk to the source.
This worked well until a cow lifted up her hoof and set it on the paw of a cat that had been busily slurping the milk I was squirting.
With the yowl that went up and me panicking and reaching down to lift the cow’s foot, the cat must have thought I was causing its pain because it bit clear through the side of my finger.
I managed to get the cow’s foot off and the cat disappeared – and I learned a lesson.
We also had a litter of piglets that would wander around the barn and we tried squirting them. If they were hit on the mouth, it was evident they enjoyed the taste.
One piglet learned to follow the stream of milk right up to the cow.