Can you hear me?
Can you see me?
Are you somewhere up above
And am I still your own true love?
With a pitchfork handle as my microphone, I belted out a mournful ballad of love and loss, to a standing-room only audience full of … hogs. They were pretty attentive at first, but soon went back to their grunting, oinking, and squealing as I continued to sing and dance my way through my afternoon chores.
Let’s pick up the pace a little bit with this next tune by Johnny Tillotson…. Poetry in Motion.
I was Dick Clark. I was the featured performer on American Bandstand. I was every dancer on the show. As I tied pieces of baling twine to the gate of each pig pen, the twine became the hand of my dancing partner and we twisted, and strolled, and slow danced through the most boring part of my day-chore time.
After 54 years I still can picture ten-year-old me, dancing and singing in the barn as the hog waters filled. One of my first jobs on our little farm was to fill the barrels with water so the hogs could drink. Using a garden hose, draining the hose, and hanging it neatly on an old truck tire rim on the side of the barn- it took maybe 45 minutes. Forty-five minutes of standing and waiting and moving the hose from one barrel to the next. It seemed like an eternity.
It was very important that I not overflow the water barrels, because if the water spilled into the hog pens, the hogs would go nuts…. they loved to roll in it and create a huge mess inside each pen. If I let just one overflow, the straw bedding got wet, the hogs got wet (and more susceptible to illness) and my dad would have to clean out the pens with a shovel and fill the manure spreader with the mess.
To save myself from boredom, I sang and I danced and I pretended my chore time away. Sometimes I was a princess locked up in a terrible place (what could be worse than a smelly old hog barn?) A handsome prince would come and rescue me. Fighting off the evil swine, he would sweep me up in his arms and carry me off. We would, of course, live happily ever after. Kind of ironic that many years later the “prince” that finally swept me away was, in fact, a hog farmer himself. My “happily ever after” relocated to another hog barn!
My favorite song to sing while watering the hogs was “Teen Angel”. It was about two teenagers in love whose car stalled on a railroad track. They quickly got out but the girl went back to the car to get her boyfriend’s high school ring and was killed. I still love that song. I’m sure the hogs loved it too.
Learning simple farm chores at a tender age created a positive work ethic for me. Learning about responsibility, and the consequences of not fulfilling that responsibility followed me in all my jobs and finally my career. I grumbled and complained when I was ten, but my parents knew what they were doing, and I am grateful for those important life lessons.