I’m gearing up to move to the mainland for a month while Chris is recuperating from his kidney transplant, and I play nurse-maid. I am wanting to finish a couple of books with Chris’ help, and work on my big projects of ZooFit- How Animals Changed My Health and Fitness, Stupid Questions, and Conservation Fitness Guide.
Finishing these projects will be a huge deal. I have a lot of work before they are ready to be sent off. One of those tasks is reading and studying comparable titles. I have the Scribd app on my phone which is perfect for listening to books while at work or in the car.
I have such a slew of books, I decided to challenge myself to read and review 10 books in 10 days. Many of these books are competitive titles to my major projects, but a couple are solely for fun.
I really hope I take a chunk out of my reading list, and learn some insightful ideas in the next few days.
My first book I finished was The Good, Good Pig by Sy Montgomery. I’ve wanted to read this book for a long time. I can’t remember who suggested it, probably some of my co-workers when I moved to the Family Farm. But I knew about Sy Montgomery for a long long time. She came up on my radar in a significant way while at a Conservation Conference. She was a guest and was stationed in the vending hall, selling her numerous books. I wanted to bring her in for a Book Club meeting, but it never worked out.
Which may explain why I have about a dozen books BY Sy, but I haven’t read any of them.
Getting Scribd on my iPhone has helped bump titles off my “To Read” list. When I Saw The Good, Good Pig on a list of available titles, I downloaded it so I could potentially listen to it while weed-eating at work.
This is what I did yesterday. I plugged in my earphones and went to work mowing down all our excessively long grasses on the Gun Battery field.
I finished the book today, but I was a little disappointed. I can tell Sy Montgomery is a decent writer. But her story of an “exceptional” pig was a little disappointing.
I admit, I’ve been spoiled in my life by having relationships with insanely exotic and unusual animals. So, in my mind, a pig isn’t that unusual. But Sy writes as though Christopher Hogwood (named for a famous classical symphony conductor) was God’s gift to swine. And that having a pig normally bred and produced to be eaten was some unnatural act of rebellion.
Let me inform many of you- It is not unusual. Sy was not the first to “save” a runt from slaughter, and she will certainly not be the last.
I guess I felt the story felt less than extraordinary because I’ve worked with pigs at the Family Farm. My experience in working with them, sharing them with the public, and just being around them was pretty eye-opening. I think I was hoping for a story which demonstrated how smart pigs are, and how fun they are, but in a different way than how I experienced them.
Christopher Hogwood was smart. He was an escape artist, and outsmarted Sy more times than she could count. I wish she had written of training Christopher, though. Pigs are very trainable. The kune kune pigs I worked with knew how to sit, stay, and come when called. Watching a pig sit is one of life’s greatest delights. Because their legs are so short, when they sit, it looks more like a squat.
I also got a little perturbed at the description of Hogwood’s diet. There is little discussion on him eating grains, or pellets, or anything produced specifically for pigs. Instead, Sy recounts how her pig was fed an influx of slop. From bakeries, restaurants, neighbors, visitors, table scraps, garden scraps, leftovers, and everything in between.
I’m not saying pellets and grain is the end all be all of food for swine, or farm animals in general. But neither are donuts, spaghetti, pancakes, beer, or cheese. Christopher was never given meat to eat, but all the slop brought the porcine to a hefty 750 pounds, and was declared overweight by a vet.
I think it’s the idea that feeding such gross and unnatural foods to a pig was considered good welfare is the most disturbing to me. Animals are more basic and more primal than we are. We KNOW certain foods aren’t good for us in excess, or at all, but we make the choices. If we fed our children a steady diet of muffins, cakes, and cookies, we would be told off by someone close to us. It’s not healthy. And children aren’t mature enough at that point to make decisions about what they should eat on their own.
Well, animals are the same way. Of COURSE Christopher refused to eat other slop after tasting Ben and Jerry’s ice cream! That’s how primal lizard brains work.
I expected to cry when Christopher passed away. I cried like a baby when I read Alex and Me about the insanely intelligent and remarkable African grey parrot. Even The Art of Racing in the Rain, which was fictional, made me want to curl up in a little ball and never come out of a cocoon.
But Christopher didn’t do it for me. It wasn’t the writing. It wasn’t the story. It just wasn’t for me.
I’m not giving up hope on Sy Montgomery yet. I have a dozen more books to try out. I’m sure in the midst of her writings, there is something to connect me to her world in a profound and life-changing way. The Good, Good Pig was not it, though.