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Authors: Lois Lenski

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BOOK: Corn-Farm Boy
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“I'll get the bird then,” said Elmer.

“What do you want it for?” cried Dick. “Let it alone—it won't hurt you any. Let it alone, I say.”

“You can keep your old crow's nest,” said Elmer. “I saw this one first and it's mine.”

Elmer slid down the tree with the baby bird in his fist.

“‘A bird in hand,”
he quoted,
“‘is worth two in the bush'
See, I've got it!”

Then he staggered back, so surprised he did not know what had hit him. Dick's action was quite unexpected. His fist had shot out and slugged Elmer right in the face.

“Turn that bird loose!” cried Dick in an angry voice.

The suddenness of the blow made Elmer drop the bird. It fluttered on the ground. Dick ran and picked it up. He put it inside his shirt, just above his belt. He could feel it warm and fluttering, against his undershirt.

Elmer stared at him.

“You go on,” said Dick. “Go round the corner of the barn and wait for me there.”

“What you gonna do with
my bird
?” asked Elmer.

“It's not
your
bird,” said Dick. “It's
mine
now. I won't kill it like you intended to.”

Dick waited until Elmer was out of sight. Then he climbed up and put the bird back in the nest.

“Fly away soon, little bird,” he said, “and then you'll be safe.”

Dick went over where Elmer was waiting. He walked up to Elmer and said, “I can do something nobody else can do.”

Elmer looked up in surprise. Dick was not in the habit of bragging.

“What? Tell me. Bet I can do it too.”

“I can ride a hog!” said Dick.

Elmer shouted with laughter. Here was something new to tease Dick about. He liked making fun of Dick. “Show me,” he said.

The boys made their way to the hog lot. They heard voices up by the house and saw the girls. Elmer's sister Donna, aged thirteen, had come over to visit Wilma.

“Come on down and ride a pig!” called Elmer.

Wilma and Donna came on the run, with Margy following.

“Don't be a tag-along sister, Margy,” scolded Wilma. “Why do you have to go everywhere I go?”

“I can do all the things you big girls do,” replied Margy.

Dick opened the gate and they all went into the hog lot. The hogs ran off to the far corner. They began to scratch their back on the fence posts.

“Grandma's the best one to ride,” said Dick.

He went over to get her and soon Grandma came lumbering up—an oversized Yorkshire, dirty white in color. She was caked with wet and dry mud from wallowing. She snorted and grunted.

“I named her Grandma,” said Wilma, “because she's so old and grouchy. She's so old she's got three wrinkles across her nose. And look at those nasty little tusks coming out of her mouth! Yah!”

“She acts like she's blind,” said Donna.

“Hogs have got to raise their heads to look up at you,” said Wilma. “They always miss the hole they're supposed to go in. Their eyes are fixed to look down.”

“Their ears cover up their eyes too,” said Donna. “No wonder they never know where they are going.”

Dick brought Grandma up closer.

“You're not going to ride
her
, are you, Dick?” asked Donna.

“Oh sure,” said Dick. “Grandma's a great pet of mine.”

“You don't mean
her
?” said Elmer.

“I sure do,” said Dick. “If I ride her and stick on, will you promise to do it, too?”

Elmer looked scared. He hedged. “I'll bet a dollar you'll fall off,” he said.

Dick scratched the hog behind her ears. Then he jumped on her back. He had ridden her quite a few times before, so she was used to him. It was not easy to stay on a pig's back because of its short hair. Dick put his knees up tight against her sides, leaning over low. He rode around the lot, guiding Grandma with gentle slaps on the side of her head.

The girls cheered. Even Elmer shouted with delight.

“Your turn now, Elmer!” cried Dick, jumping off.

“Let's let the girls try it,” said Elmer. “You're next, Wilma.”

Wilma and Donna laughed and were game. But they did not get far. Their legs were too long and dragged. They could not hold on tight. They tumbled off on the ground and got up laughing.


My
turn now!” cried Margy eagerly.

“Oh, you're a baby,” said Wilma. “You can't ride.”

Margy stamped her foot. “I'm
not
a baby! I'm a big girl!”

“Your turn now, Elmer,” said Dick again.

Grandma was over by the wagon, eating corn. Elmer climbed up on the wagon, then jumped off and landed with a jolt on the hog's back. The hog was surprised and started off squealing. Elmer yipped at the top of his voice. Suddenly Grandma turned and started back. Elmer was not ready for turning and fell off to the ground. He got up, rubbing his head. He leaned over, rubbing his leg.

“Gee, that was no fun,” he said.

“You didn't hurt yourself, did you?” asked Dick.

Elmer refused to answer. The boys and girls walked slowly out of the lot. After Dick fastened the gate, he saw Elmer and Donna going off down the lane.

“He's not sore, is he?” Dick asked Wilma.

“Well, if he is, he'll get over it,” said Wilma.

When they went in the house, Mom called: “Dick, you'll have to take this runt out of the house. I've had it in here long enough. I'm tired of it.”

“Aw—shoot!” said Dick. “Don't call it a runt. Its name is Squeaky.”

“Remember you've got the chores to do,” Mom went on. “Dad and Raymond won't be in from the field till late tonight. Margy, you go gather the eggs.”

Dick knew he could not keep Squeaky in the house forever. So he and Margy carried the little pig out in its box. Wilma followed.

“I'll do the chicken chores, Dick,” said Wilma, “if you'll do the pig chores. Then we'll all bring in the cows and Mom will come and help us with the milking. Margy can gather the eggs.”

“O. K.,” said Dick. He was glad Wilma liked to help. She enjoyed outdoor work better than housework. Dick liked the pig chores, because he liked pigs better than chickens. The chore he hated most was gathering eggs.

Dick and Margy set Squeaky's box down in the alleyway of the hog-house. Margy brought a pan of milk. The little pig tipped it over, so she had to get some more.

“We'll soon be feeding Squeaky shelled corn and pig pellets,” said Dick. “Then she'll grow fast.”

Suddenly the boy heard some one calling.

“Dick! Dick! Come here right away!” It was Wilma's voice.

“Go and see where she is, Margy,” said Dick.

Margy ran out and soon came back.

“Wilma's cornered in the barn and can't get out,” said Margy. “She told me not to come in, because the mother pig is mean. It's too dangerous. She might take after me.”

“Oh, heck!” cried Dick. “Now, what next?”

Dick ran out. “You go back to the house and stay with Mom, Margy,” he called.

Margy scuttled away.

One glance inside the barn door showed Dick what the trouble was. Wilma had come in the barn to get chicken feed and had been cornered by an old sow and her little ones. Dick looked. It was the one he had named Lady. Wilma was hanging halfway up the hayloft ladder. She did not want to go up and she was afraid to come down. She could not get past the pig below.

“Lady's not supposed to be in here,” said Dick.

“She wanted to make her nest here in the straw,” said Wilma.

“We'll have to move her to the hog-house,” said Dick, “and it won't be an easy job. Wait till I get a bushel basket.”

“Get me down!” cried Wilma. “Get me down!”

“Give me time,” said Dick.

The boy ran to find a basket and filled it half full of straw. It took a lot of courage to pick up the little pigs. He picked up the first two. Lady turned from the ladder and grunted at him. Dick scratched her on the back.

“Now you get down slowly, Wilma,” he said, “and pick up the others and put them in the basket. I'll keep rubbing Lady.”

Wilma did as she was told.

“Now go open the door,” said Dick. “You go out first. I'll bring the basket and see if she'll follow me over to the hog-house.”

But Lady did not come. Dick set the basket down and came back with a board. Wilma brought a stick to help. Dick got behind the sow and hit her a little to keep her going. Lady refused to move, so he climbed up on a partition and prodded her with his foot. Wilma touched her lightly with her stick. These motions got her started. But she headed in the wrong direction—right toward Wilma.

“She's got it
in
for me!” cried Wilma, frightened. “She's coming after me!”

“Don't act scared,” said Dick. “Hold your ground. Tap her on the nose with your stick to turn her around.”

It was easier said than done. By careful coaxing, the boy and girl got the pig started in the direction of the hog-house. Dick ran ahead and brought the basket with the little pigs in it. The pigs were squealing, so the sow followed. Dick and Wilma kept on walking to the hog-house. Here Dick had a pen ready and the door into it stood open. He emptied the little pigs out.

Lady made sure they were all there. She smelled them, snorted a little and lay down. Most of the little ones wandered off, but one was under the sow, so Dick kicked her over. He picked up the little one, and that made Lady mad again. She started after Dick. He jumped out of the pen and closed the gate quickly. He looked the little pig over.

“She's mashed it,” said Wilma, coming close.

“No,” said Dick, “but she's hurt its leg. It can't walk.”

He set it down. The little pig tumbled over in the straw. Each time he helped it get up, it fell down again.

“It's the left front leg,” said Dick. “I'll put a splint on it.”

“Oh, you can't put a splint on a
baby pig!
” laughed Wilma.

“Who says I can't?” replied Dick.

The boy found a piece of slat and whittled it down to the right size. He reached in his pocket for his handkerchief. He usually carried a clean one for emergencies like this. He ripped off a strip and used it to bind the pig's leg to the slat.

“There! That's supposed to be a splint,” said Dick. He put the little pig back in the pen with its mother.

“O. K., Doctor Dick!” laughed Wilma. “But I don't think it will do much good.”

“We'll see,” said Dick.

“Can I come in now?” called Margy at the door.

“Yes, if you'll help me with the pig chores,” said Dick. “Want to get some oats for me?”

“Sure,” said Margy. She took a basket and ran over to the corncrib. The oats bins were overhead. When she came back her basket was half full. She set it down.

“Look what I got!” she called.

In the basket on top of the oats lay three baby mice.

“They came down the chute with the oats,” said Margy.

“They're cute,” said Dick thoughtfully. “Wonder if I could tame them.”

“Let's teach them tricks!” cried Margy. She clapped her hands.

Dick brought water to fill the water troughs. When he came back, he looked in the basket and said, “What did you do with your mice?”

“Oh!” said Margy, with a long face. “That mean old cat, Bob-bob, came and ate them. He gobbled them down so fast I couldn't stop him.”

Dick looked out the door. “It's going to rain,” he said.

He heard the tractor in the lane. Dad was coming in. He stopped and took a good look at the little pig with the hurt leg. It was busily nursing its mother. He looked at Squeaky in the box in the alleyway. The runt was curled up in the straw, fast asleep. Dick smiled.

When chores were done, he saw that Wilma and Mom had brought the cows in and were milking. Outside, it was raining. Dad did not get much corn planted, after all. Dad had shut off the tractor motor.

BOOK: Corn-Farm Boy
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