Pig Farmer Kin Sayings

My mother’s father farmed pigs. Courtney Johnston loved his grandkids. As we ran to him, he’d welcome us in his arms with the endearment: “My little runts!”


You have to know that “the runt” is the littlest pig of the litter. And the youngest grandchild was ever his “runt.”

What we do shapes our language.

As descendents of pig farmers, we still find pig-sayings creeping into our language.

My father, asked if we should wait dinner for a late arrival, answered, clearly hungry, “We’ll wait for them just like one hog waits for another.” That is to say, with our snouts in the trough, eating!

My Aunt Grace (my mother’s sister and Courtney’s daughter) just turned 82 and came to visit me in St. Louis with her daughter, my Cousin Cynthia. Aunt Grace told the family story that it was said: “A doctor counts his patients just like we count hogs to send to market.”

This was a cautionary tale not to submit automatically to everything a doctor suggested, but to realize there was a business aspect to the doctor’s care, no matter how well intended the doctor might be.

We kept pigs at home when I was growing up. My father and I tended a ruptured mother pig after her birth once. I was so scared, and young, but stepped forward and helped anyway, instead of running away. My father, in rare praise, said then, and still says, how brave I was.

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  1. Janet,
    The fact that you helped in spite of your fear, shows a deep reverence for life. I love the fact, too, that this animal’s life was so important to you and your father.

  2. Wow Janet!
    Now I’m thinking about of all the pig talk I’ve learned over the years. “I’ll be hogged tied,” “Happier than a pig in S—,” “This little piggy” and “Does that pig swim.” “Piggy bank,” Oink, Oink…
    Thanks for that taste of “Hog Heaven.”

  3. You were maybe 15. The pig had her piglets and she ruptured and her uterus came out. It was a Sunday afternoon and we couldn’t get a vet out. All of them were dog and cat vets, anyways, they didn’t know what a pig even looked like!

    She would have died, of course. And then all the little pigs would have died, because they wouldn’t have had a mother.

    You held the light. There was no electricity in that part of the basement. You held the light while I wrestled with the pig. It wasn’t a calm situation. The pig wasn’t happy.

    I tackled the pig. It would have been nice if there’d been one of these football stars to show me how to do it. I tied her feet so she couldn’t get back up.

    There was an old druggist I knew in Alton. He told me to have everything clean and to use nylon thread. I had the blessing of a man who I thought knew what he was doing and did it.

    She recovered.

    You stood the pressure very well. The light was where it needed to be anyway. You brought the light over to where I was working. I figured you’d come through with whatever needed to happen, and you did.

    Ruth brought in the hot water and the bandages. I’d say, “I need…..” and she’d go get it.

    We played hospital…do you remember the time we gave the horse an enema? Santas was miserable and laid there and groaned. The vet was booked up and couldn’t come. I said the horse would be dead in 3 days.

    Ronnie Wendt got Santas on his feet and the girl talked to him and gave him the sympathy he needed…and Ruth kept the water coming from the house…pretty soon the stuff started coming out and…he survived it.


  4. Dear Erwin and Janet,
    This may be more than this city girl wants to know about giving enemas to horses! I’m sure my cousins have similar tales from their farm days as would my husband have had…no one thought to bring me up to date until your impassioned shift from language origins to the real thing! Thanks, I think.
    PS…warn me if you schedule such activity when I come to visit, please!

  5. This is the year we celebrate our 2nd’s. Mom just turned 82. I’ll be 52 in Nov and Elizabeth will be 22 Aug 6th. Aunt Ruth was included in our trend because she’s 10 yrs older than Mom (92).

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