Monday, January 24, 2011

PIG FARMING

Big Al use to play for the Kansas City Chiefs.  He was a big offensive guard for the team and was well respected in the old American Football League.  Whenever I watched a Chiefs game on television, I would look for number sixty on the field protecting the future Hall Of Fame Quarterback Lenny Dawson.  Al played in the very first Super Bowl in which the Chiefs lost and he would retire before the Chiefs went back to the fourth Super Bowl.  I always wondered whether he regretted retiring as he watched his Chiefs pound the Vikings in Super Bowl IV.

After retiring from football Al tried to fulfill some of his dreams.  One of those dreams was to be a farmer and as I entered into my teen years Al was starting to raise pigs.  He seemed to enjoy raising the pigs and he had a nice little place way out in the country where he kept them.  He and his family did not live out there but Al was out at the pig farm constantly.

Al had worked out a deal with some of the other local farmers that would benefit both.  After the corn farmers would harvest their corn there was always some corn that the combines had missed.  These ears of corn would lay out in the field and rot away or become meals for crows and other scavengers that the farmers did not want to invite onto their land.  The deal was that Al would go through the fields after harvesting and pick up the stray ears of corn and then feed them by hand into the combine.  The resulting grain would then be carted off to Al's pigs for feed.  A true American coop in action.  You scratch my back and I'll scratch your.s

Al had a lot of other more important things to do than to walk around a corn field stacking old corn ears into piles and then feeding them to the combine.  He figured he could get some kids to do it and pay them a slightly larger then extremely small wage for their work.  After talking to his wife he came across three names that she had developed a relationship with at her church.  These boys were dependable, hard working and honest.  These boys were Ronnie, Scott and myself.

Al approached us about the job one summer day and we happily agreed.  All of us could use a little extra money to buy music and extend our collections.  So early one summer Saturday the three of us walked over to Al's house for the trip out to the country.  It was to be harder work than we imagined.

Al dropped us off at a large cornfield.  He demonstrated what the first step was to be.  Each of us would take a row in the field and walking together pick up any ears of corn and throw them into a pile.  Al would be back later to wrap up this field before we went to the next.  By noon we had walked through the entire field and had dozens of piles of corn ears ready for Al.  When we saw Al he was driving a big green combine which he stopped at the edge of the field.  He came over to us and told us that as he drove the combine up towards a pile of corn we were to pick up the corn and toss them into the sharp teeth of the combine which jutted out about six feet in front of the combine cab.  We were warned not to get too close when we were throwing the ears of corn into the teeth or we just might loose a hand.  By the time we got done with the field we had all become fairly good at tossing the corn into the teeth of the combine from a safe distance.  When the leftover corn was all in the combine, Al drove us up the highway in it to his little pig farm.  We were then to take shovels and clean out the back of the combine into a shed he had built to store the corn in.

As we rested our backs after the corn was finished, Al would proceed to let us watch him feed the pigs.  It became apparent that a person does not want to be between a pig and his food.  Those pigs were large and strong and could rip a young teenager into shreds without thinking twice about it.  When the day was done the three of us were exhausted but we had earned enough money to buy some records.  Al told us it would be the same drill the next Saturday and we agreed before walking home to rest our backs and our bodies.  I don't think I had ever worked as hard as I had on that pig farm that first day.

The next Saturday found us in a different cornfield.  We slowed down the pace a bit from the week before but still worked consistently and made progress.  After we had gotten all the corn picked up and piled we sat to eat our lunch while waiting for Al.

It was Scott who first spotted the bull on the other side of the fence.  It is a pitch black bull with horns and it had been watching us.  The fence that protected the bull from Scott was barbed wire with an electric wire strung across the top of it.  Scott decided that this would be exciting and made a bet with Ronnie and me that he would go over and try to touch the bull.  To Ronnie and myself this did not sound like a very good idea but coming from Scott neither of us were surprised.   Scott was a risk taker who enjoyed doing things on the spur of the moment.  The more crazy the task the more Scott liked the idea.  It was with little trepidation that Scott climbed between the strung barbed wire and into the field with the bull.

At first things looked Pretty good for Scott.  He was walking slowly towards the bull and the bull was eying him with a lot of suspicion.  Then Scott went crazy, or seemed to go crazy in mine and Ronnie's eyes.  He started waving his arms and heckling the bull, daring it to came get him as he walked closer and closer to the animal.  Ronnie and I just looked at each other and shrugged our shoulder's.  It was Scott, what else should we expect.

Suddenly the bull seemed to have had enough of Scott's antics.  It turned and start walking towards Scott then started to pick up speed as it began to gallop.  Scott turned and started to run for the fence with a small yell emoting from his throat.  Scott ran as fast as he could and when he got to the fence decided to jump it.  All three of us forgot about the electric wire running across the fence.  When Scott arrived at the fence he put on hand on a fence post and the other one square on the wire.  It did not make a sound but Scott yelling suddenly turned into more of a yelp.  As Scott land on the other side of the fence I looked up at the bull.  The bull was slowing down apparently pleased that the intruder had left his field and had gotten stung while doing so.

We checked Scott's hand to see if it was okay and there wasn't a burn on it.  The jolt was just enough to make his spine tingle and made his hand feel like it had fallen asleep.  As we sat down to calm our nerves from the close escape Scott had just pulled off we heard a voice behind us.  It was Al.  He apparently had arrived just as Scott was going over the fence.

He asked Scott if he was okay and then looked at the corn field.  Time to start chucking that corn into the combine he said.  We got up and followed Al over to the first row of corn.  Al didn't say much about what he saw and he never mentioned it to any of our parents but as he climbed up into the cab of the combine he said with a little chuckle, "That was about the stupidest thing I have ever seen and I have seen some stupid things".

We did about three more corn fields for Al that summer.  We never saw another bull in an adjoining field but I doubt if Scott would have been up to challenge another bull if we had.

The Inspiring Story of Al Reynolds Grandson - Worth looking at.

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