“A little girl is one thing, a little runty pig is another.” E. B. White, Charlotte’s Web
E. B. White opens his children’s classic with the birth of a litter of spring pigs. One of them, the runt of the litter, will just make for trouble; and so Mr. Arable is poised to do away with it.
“This is the most terrible case of injustice I have ever heard of,” announces Fern, his daughter, the young girl who will save the pig on her own terms.
Thoughts of Fern ran through my head when my younger daughter pulled into the driveway with a large yellow bin sitting on the seat beside her.
“What you got there?” I asked.
Proudly, she pulled the bin from the car and held it down so we could see inside. There, nestled in with old newspapers and several towels, lay a pink spring piglet.
“The sow at the farm had a litter, but she killed all of them except for this little guy. We rescued him from certain death. His name is Lucky, because he’s lucky to be alive.”
She carried the yellow bin into the kitchen and sat it on the floor. From her pocket she pulled a plastic baby bottle, filled with formula. “Wanna feed him?” she asked, handing me the bottle.
I pushed the rubber nipple gently against the piglet’s pink snout. He soon latched on and began to suck and swallow like a hungry newborn.
“How does he get along without his mother?” I asked.
“He’s got his own bed under a heat lamp at the farm. He’s gotta be fed nearly every hour round the clock. I’m usually up with Mr. Christensen anyway, so I offered to take a couple of feeding shifts over the weekend.”
Mr. Christensen is the octogenarian that my daughter takes care of during the week. He’s got Alzheimer’s dementia. My daughter makes his meals, bathes him, helps him get dressed, drives him to the adult daycare program at the assisted living home, and makes sure he gets to his doctors’ appointments on time. She did the same thing for his wife up until she passed away this past February.
Lucky dropped the nipple from his mouth and lay down in the bin. He pushed against the towels with his snout and closed his eyes. For all appearances he looked to be one contented piglet.
“Are you going to keep him here overnight?” I asked my daughter.
“No, he might get cold. He’ll probably do best in his own bed under the heat lamp. I just wanted to stop by and show him to you.”
She picked up the bin with the sleeping piglet inside and carried it back outside to the car. The engine roared to life.
“I’ll drop by sometime next week for dinner,” my daughter said. “I’ve gotta get back to the farm to look in on Mr. Christensen.”
I watched her back down the driveway, negotiating the tight turn into the street. She waved from the open window. In that moment, she seemed supremely happy.
I reckon spring piglets will do that to you. Taking care of older folks who can’t fend for themselves does that as well.