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"Rick! Go feed the pig. Move!" Yelled Mama for the third time.
It wasn't Rick's favorite chore but he reluctantly unwrapped his long, skinny legs from the kitchen chair legs and pressed one hand against the table top in preparation of rising. He was reading one of the many books he had gotten from the library on Saturday. The eleven-year-old boy stood up slowly, letting his eyes follow the words, trying to finish one more page before leaving.
"Okay Mama. I'm goin'."
Letting the screen door close itself, he jumped from the top step landing flat footed on the dirt. Near his feet lied a rock as big as a baseball, so he naturally kicked it. He kicked it all the way out to the pig pen, with first one foot, then the other.
"Uh oh, empty, the fence is down." He began looking in earnest then. He could feel trouble coming way down in the pit of his stomach if he didn't find that pig. Mama wasn't famous for her sense of humor.
Using some of the skills he had learned from reading about Daniel Boone, he began to track the pig. The little three toed tracks left in the soft earth led over to the bamboo patch, which was beside the hen house. Then they circled back toward the garage. Exasperated, and keeping his eyes alert, he followed the tracks behind the pile of wood, around the garage, and back out to the driveway where they completely disappeared at the paved county road.
Rick began to feel sick to his stomach. He knew even ole Daniel couldn't track a pig on the pavement. He was going to have to tell Mama and she was going to be mad. The animal was more than two hundred pounds.
Rick hurried back to the house, shouting, "It's loose, Mama! The pig is gone!"
"What?" Mama grabbed a dish towel to wipe her hands, then reached out to turn the burners off. Supper would have to wait. "Get it! Where is it?" She was already out the door.
"I tracked it to the highway Mama, it's gone. I've looked everywhere!" Rick shouted at Mama's back.
She turned and looked at Rick with a frown, like she suspected him of hiding it. Then she ran to the car shouting over her shoulder, "Come on, Rick. We have to find it!" Mama was going tracking.
Slowly driving up one road, and turning down another, with Rick hanging his head out of the window looking for tracks, they drove for hours. They would stop often and stand on the running boards of the car to gaze out across the fields of alfalfa and cotton, hoping to see a traveling pig. Mama was boiling mad. When she became upset, her left eyebrow twitched. Rick tried his best to keep his face blank whenever he looked at her, he thought blank was a look of seriousness, but his eyes and mouth betrayed him. He had a strange sense of humor. He thought it was kind of funny, the eyebrow that is, not the situation.
Mama stopped at the farm houses along the way and alerted the farmers of the run-a-way. No one had seen it, but they promised they would keep an eye out. It was becoming dark and no more searching could be done, so they went home. Mama couldn't help but be worried. That pig represented much work, cost, and meat for her family.
Rick, his little brother Mac, and Dad repaired the fence together, anticipating the pig would eventually return.
A couple of hours later, Mr. Souza called, saying the pig had showed up at his farm, looking for a hand out by raiding his corn field. He had missed his supper you see. Mr. Souza said, "Its a big healthy pig, but I don't give hand outs. My dogs have it surrounded and are herding it into a pen. It'll be here."
Mama, Daddy and Rick climbed into the car to pick up the truant. The pig was going to have to ride in the open trunk, tied tight so he couldn't escape. After an hour of lifting, dropping, dragging, and yelling, they finally got him loaded, tied down and secured. The little group convinced the pig that riding was better than being pulled along behind, but, one way or another, home was where he was going.
"Okay Rick, climb in and hold him tight." Dad chuckled. "This little piggy is going home."
Rick hung onto the pig, though it was securely tied. It wasn't going anywhere. Rick had hung onto his sense of humor, and with relief, began to laugh when he heard Daddy still chuckling from inside the car. Mama wasn't.