Editor’s note: I wrote this factual tale from my childhood several years ago; I believe it may have been penned in 2004. It was – and still is – perhaps my biggest departure from the sports realm in regards to a column. It would be fair to call me a “city boy” since my parents moved us in 1991 to what is still their home in Early. But from 1980-91, I lived in rural northern Brown County and did country boy activities like breaking open freshwater mussels and catching catfish with them, feeding grasshoppers to garden spiders, etc. I hope you enjoy my account of a memorable day, which appears as it was originally written.
Everybody's got those childhood stories they can still recall sharply decades later.
I've never written a non-sports column, and it's by choice. I don't know if I can spin this as an athletic tale or not, but it's interesting nevertheless.
Although I easily made the transition to the city, I actually grew up on a ranch north of Brownwood until I entered junior high. When I was 10 years old, my father and I made a three-hour roundtrip to purchase a half-dozen pigs we were planning to raise. My dad primarily owned cattle, so this was actually more of a recreational hog activity as we planned to keep them in a pen beside our house.
Dad, my five-year-old brother and I each named two of the pigs. I chose Fay and Ruth while my brother, who was a hardcore Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fan, named his pigs Leonardo and Donatello. Pops, quick to let the animals know who's boss, went with Pork and Chop.
We tried to "pig proof" their pen as much as possible ahead of time, looking to cover all possible escape routes. As we arrived home that Saturday afternoon and began to put the pigs in the pen, little did I know the Great Race of 1990 was about to go down.
Ruth, one of the two baby pigs, ran three circles when her feet hit the ground and then turned into a white blur with black spots as she exploded through a tiny hole not noticeable to us beforehand. She sped down a steep hill behind our house with plenty of big rocks, cacti and mesquite trees as my dad and I gave chase.
Below the hill was a large stock tank, which probably contained a few catfish larger than Ruth herself. As the two of us made it down the hill, this little piggy looked like a hybrid of a beaver and record-setting swimmer Michael Phelps as she cut through the tank waters like a hot knife through butter. We sprinted across the road beside the tank, but Ruth swam so fast that, as we rounded the corner of the waters, she hit the ground seamlessly like a hovercraft to narrowly elude my outstretched fingers.
My dad and I proceeded to chase this preposterously athletic pig across two fields before she seemed to disappear into thick brush lining the edge of our neighbor's land. At this point, the outlook appeared grim considering this pig had no chance to survive on its own and certainly didn't know us well enough not to continue its escape attempt. Luckily for us, endurance wasn't everlasting for Ruth on this January day.
As we crossed the fence into the neighbor's property, it was a scene of waist-high weeds and 15-foot tall trees with only the ruts of the road enabling soil to be visible. In what felt like a winning lottery ticket without the cash payoff, I saw a little white mound lying in one of the road ruts about 50 yards away from us.
As we raced closer, there was no drastic movement made by the animal in question. Ruth had actually collapsed from exhaustion in one of only two places in the area (the other road rut) where we would've actually been able to see her. She looked a bit like Superman in flight with her front legs forward and back legs behind, belly heaving in a search for more oxygen.
Although she was still scared of us, the hog's all-out escape efforts left her too tired to even look up as my dad picked her up out of the dirt. Ruth did get out of the pen again when she was older, but by that time she felt at home and just rooted around for food in the immediate area. She was even kind enough to let the boy who named her get a bareback ride without bucking him off.
I wish I would've caught Ruth before she reached the tank or, better yet, done a more thorough job of pig proofing the pen. But it all worked out in the end because she just happened to take her last step of the approximately two-mile long chase in that 10-inch rut.
You'd think a couple of able-bodied humans could catch a young pig, but this Baby Ruth could flat-out fly, by land or sea.
Tye Chandler is the sports editor at the Glen Rose Reporter. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.