Jack and Beverly LaPont had escaped the confines of the city for life in the country. Behind their small farm was a slough that was bordered on the south by the Johnson’s cornfield.
The Johnsons were the LaPont’s closest neighbors and living near them was always an adventure. The Johnsons loved animals. They lived on five acres that overflowed with their menagerie.
Seven dogs shared the small house with the family of five. Outside, they kept a stable of five horses. Their chicken population grew steadily because they didn’t have the heart to butcher the birds. Roosters crowed from dawn until dusk as each one made sure his voice was heard over his rivals. Their final, and newest acquisition was a gestating sow.
It was late winter when the sow gave birth to a litter. The runt was born crippled and when its mother rejected it, Maave Johnson stepped in and rescued the little piglet. She bottle-fed it until it was weaned. Worried that the other pigs might attack their deformed sibling, the Johnsons kept the youngster in their yard during the day. The pig’s crippled legs kept if from running too fast but even so, one day in early summer the pig disappeared. Although they searched the countryside for him, the Johnsons couldn’t find him. They figured they had seen the last of the little piglet.
Jack LaPont eagerly anticipated the opening day of pheasant season, October 16, his first chance to hunt on his own land. But as the saying goes, “the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry” and on October 15, autumn ended early and the area met with the first blizzard of a winter that would become the worst Minnesota winter in 30 years.
The snow was still falling on the 16th, but undaunted, Jack put on his hunting garb and he and his golden lab set out to hunt the slough. There were no pheasants in the slough though; the heavy snow had driven them to seek shelter in the cornfield.
As Jack approached the edge of the cornfield, he heard his dog barking and a squealing such as he had never heard before! The squealer was the Johnson’s crippled pig! It was no longer a little piglet. Its sojourn in the cornfield had let it eat until its heart’s content and it had developed into a massive boar. It was one of the biggest pigs Jack LaPont had ever seen!
Because its hind legs had never matured, its front legs had developed into strong limbs that pulled the pig’s girth along in a gait that resembled something between a stumbling walk and a crawl.There was no way this pig was going to get out of the cornfield on its own!
Jack leashed the dog and the pair trudged back through several inches of the new fallen, still falling snow. The wind was up and temperatures were rapidly declining. If the Johnson’s opted to save the pig, they would need to move fast. Even though the pig had survived the summer, it was doubtful he would survive the blizzard and the impending sub-zero temperatures.
The walk that had taken only minutes, seemed like hours on the way back home. Finally, Jack opened the door. He was greeted by the aroma of fresh-brewed coffee and fresh-baked cookies.
On hearing the door shut, Beverly walked into the kitchen. “Give up on hunting?” she asked.
“No,” Jack replied, “I found the Johnson’s pig!”
“You mean that crippled piglet? Is it dead?”
“No, it’s very much alive and has grown into the biggest pig I’ve ever seen!”
“That’s saying something, considering you were raised on a farm. Where is it?”
“It’s in the Johnson’s cornfield. I’ll fill you in on the details later. Right now I need to let the Johnson’s know I’ve found it and see what they want to do about it.”
A quick phone call to the Johnson’s confirmed that they were interested in rescuing their runaway pig. However, it was far too hazardous to drive and the pig was far too heavy to carry. But of course, the Johnsons came up with a plan.
Soon the Johnson family was at the LaPont house: Arlen, Maave, and their three children, who rode gleefully on a large, saucer-shaped toboggan. Jack grabbed his coat and went out to meet them.
“You might want to leave the kids here. It’s a hard walk through this weather,” Jack said. “If we can find him again, I think the three of us should be able to load him on your sled. Besides, my kids could use the company and,” he smiled, “Bev’s just finished baking cookies.”
“Thanks,” said Arlen. “Didn’t have to ask the kids twice,” he smiled as he turned and saw them already going through the LaPont’s door. “Do you think we’ll be able to find him? Your tracks are sure to be covered by now.”
“I didn’t find him the first time. Harley did. If we take him along, I think he’ll be able to find him again.” Seeing the worry in Maave’s face, he added, “Harley won’t hurt the pig. He just barked at him before. I’m sure that’s all he'll do when we find the pig.”
Jack couldn’t decide whether it was more difficult going up the hill from the slough or down the hill to it. The snow was still falling fast and hard and snow that had covered his boot tops on the way home was now ankle deep, on the slippery hillside but at least the wind was dying down.
Harley was the happiest of the three. A hunting dog at heart, this was a holiday. Two outings with his master on the same day! Yet, the moment the small party was at the sloughs edge, it was as if he knew what his purpose was. The dog went bounding into the cornfield and in just moments Jack and the Johnson’s could hear the barking and squealing.
The threesome let the clamor lead them to the pig. When Harley saw the group approach, he immediately quit barking and sat down.
“Good dog!” exclaimed Jack in surprise.
“Oh Porky, look at you!” Maave exclaimed. “what have you done?” As if the big boar remembered her, his loud squeals immediately faded to quiet, almost contented-sounding, grunts.
Maave and Jack held up the pig’s rear while Arlen shoved the toboggan under it. Arlen had also jerry-rigged a t-strap to keep the large animal from slipping out the back on the trek up the hill. Maave and Jack both grabbed the rope to pull the pig along as Arlen stayed behind to be sure the t-strap held.
The snow had stopped sometime between finding the pig and pulling it out of the cornfield. The sky was clearing, but the winter sun was already sinking low into the western sky. As they breached the hill, Jack wondered if Bev or the kids were looking out the window. He was sure their party must be quite a comical sight: a dog frolicking in the snow while three weary adults pulled a pig on a toboggan.
The LaPonts were lucky to make it to town and back most days of that snowy winter. They didn’t see the Johnsons again until spring. When next he encountered Arlen, Jack asked what had become of the pig. Arlen told Jack that soon after they had brought the pig into their house, it had developed pneumonia and died. Maave insisted that they bury “Porky” in the cornfield.