The Day the Pigs Took Over
(a story by Herbert C Heilig)
The following story by Herb Heilig demonstrates the importance and attachment that the German pioneers attached to their swine.
‘Years ago, farmers who lived reasonably close to a saleyards, also a few who didn’t, would sometimes ‘drive’ their pigs to market on sale days. It was of course, a fairly slow process, though it did save the exertion of catching the pigs and loading them into carts, drays or wagons, and then unloading them again at the pig saleyards. Pigs cannot be driven at a fast pace because of the danger of overheating, therefore they have to be left to amble along in a leisurely fashion. So guiding them on the way to market required some skill and considerable patience, particularly where road and boundary fences were not pig proof, and then again pigs can be mighty curious critters poking their noses, or snouts, into odd places. Usually it was the procedure for someone to walk or ride ahead of the mob of driven pigs. The man in front would perhaps carry a sugarbag of corn grains and drop a handful of grain here and there, to entice the pigs to follow. This was generally sufficient lure to get them to follow the leader of the drovers, although if the pigs were too well fed that morning, the lure wouldn’t always work. So naturally farmers who drove their pigs to market rationed their pigs at breakfast on sale days.’
‘Very clearly do I recall a pig drive-to-market in the Goombungee district on the Darling Downs one morning during the 1920s. The pig drive progressed fairly smoothly until the farmer and his helpers reached the township proper. Apparently the mob wanted to explore the town. Perhaps they had a premonition that they would never pass that way again. Suddenly the pigs became restless and the mob broke and scattered to various points of the compass until they were all over the town, in ones and twos. Rounding them up was then a problem. Sergeant Birmingham, officer-in-charge of local police at the time, and his constable, together with volunteers from the townspeople joined in the pig hunt. But those pigs were cunning coots, and with an evasive urge most of them sought to hide beneath low-to-the-ground buildings – shops, hotels, churches, etc. Some rested beneath the floors of these low-to-the-ground buildings and refused to budge. In some cases dogs were sooled beneath the low buildings, but their efforts were not always successful. Beneath one of the floors of the Pioneer Arms Hotel, a sow planted herself and resisted all efforts to extricate her. At last, in an effort to assist, the hotel-keeper gave permission for some of the floor boards of a bedroom to be removed so that the sow could be lifted out. However, just to be contrary, the sow sauntered from beneath the building of her own accord just as the last of the floor boards was pulled up.’
‘While the pig hunt was in progress one pig, more inquisitive than it’s mates, strayed off unnoticed and climbed up onto a low house veranda in Mocatta Street – the township’s main street. No one challenged the intruder and the pig, making itself at home, sauntered from room to room. At last it came to a room where the door was slightly ajar. Inside were noises like water splashing. Quietly the nosy pig inched the door open with its long snout. A woman was bathing in a large tub, her back to the intruder. To the pig, hot after its long trek from the farm, plus its jaunt around the town, the water in the bath tub must have appeared considerably inviting. Suddenly, without even a warning grunt, the pig jumped into the tub beside the woman. The suddenness of this unexpected intrusion shocked the woman into hysteria. In her fright she jumped out of the tub and ran outside the house into the backyard totally oblivious to the fact that she was stark naked. In her state of shock the woman screamed loudly. A man walking along the street heard the commotion and then caught sight of the nude woman in the house-yard. Believing that she had suddenly become demented, he raced into the yard, grabbed a horse rug which was hanging over a nearby paling fence and threw it around the woman’s body to cover her nakedness. Meanwhile the woman gesticulating wildly screamed, “Pig! Pig! Pig!” Thinking that the woman was referring to him, that she might be annoyed because he had noticed her nudity and that in her hysterical state she might possibly claim that he was molesting her, the good intentioned passer-by quickly vamoosed from the scene. The woman continued to do a turn until she attracted the attention of some of the pig hunters. Her hysterics quitened down and gradually the men gleaned knowledge of the whereabouts of yet another of the runaways. Assuring the woman that she was now quite safe, the men entered the house from front and back doors to recapture the naughty escapee. Inside the house they heard several contented piggish grunts, and a few seconds later they discovered the pig calmly luxuriating in the tub of nice soapy water. It continued to wallow quite contentedly until the men yanked it rudely from the tub. Then just to show its displeasure the pig bit one of the captors on his leg. However, despite its protests it wasn’t long before the belligerent one found itself securely yarded with its runaway mates down at the pig saleyards. But even then this particular pig caused a certain amount of disturbance – or at least argument. Some said it just wasn’t natural for a pig to smell soap-suddy clean like that one. One of the pig buyers stated that it wasn’t really a healthy sign – not for a pig anyway! And it was reported that the soapy-sud pig was actually the last pig to be sold on that particular Goombungee pig sale day!’