Why The Smile
On the way back from Colorado, my Aunt Connie’s and my long, boring drive was happily interrupted, of sorts.
I had to wake her up to hold the wheel, so I could use my camera and photograph this pig sticking his head out of the truck.
I worried if she would act fast enough, and coherent enough, with her “road-lag” daze, before the pig decides to withdraw his head back in the truck and join the others. Either he was enjoying
the scenery or the fresh air, or his head was caught there; we didn’t know- but he didn’t move. No, not even when Connie steered her car up closer, so I could take a better picture; did he budge from his little port hole. And he was alive! His eyes blinked as he watched us endanger our lives just for a picture of him. Maybe that’s what made him smile.
“I’d take a long look too, if I was going where he is,” she joked, as she settled back in her seat again. I was alarmed into silence, and didn’t respond. I was so engrossed in the getting of the picture of this cute, but odd, smiling pig, that I didn’t grasp the whole ramifications of his true situation; until Connie said this. I was a teenager then, eighteen or nineteen, which wasn’t very contusive to my grasp of logic. This pig’s reality crashed into me. I stopped photographing, traded my camera back for the steering wheel and closed the window to let the air conditioner try to catch up. I was so engrossed in this poor pig that my foot eased off the gas. Connie didn’t object, she probably had the same
feelings I did, seconds after she made the joking comment; that didn’t make us laugh.
The truck driver maneuvered us partially out of our gloom and took our breath away at the same time, when he pulled his semi in front of us. Not that the truck was close enough for us to be in any danger of having an accident, but the fumes from the manure
overtook us with a vengeance. The air-conditioner, with the windows closed; didn’t help matters. I either had to continue to slow down and pull over, in our grief, or speed up and pass the truck of pigs, soon to be pork; which was the better idea. We opened both our
windows, and breathed deeper, on the way around the truck, and left it finally, we thought,refreshingly behind us.
Some time afterward, when we stopped for gas, the truck of pigs had taken the same exit we did and passed us, as we filled-up the car. The smiling pig was still at his port hole. We both waved to him, then frowned at each other. When Connie came back to the car after paying, I was sitting on the passenger side; electing her to drive now. I had lost my energy and was a little depressed from looking in the pigs eyes, as well as contemplating his short life. If I didn’t see him I could have probably driven further. I had no idea, however, what Connie had in mind, and just how depressed we were about to become that day. She often apologized years afterward for following the truck to the slaughter house, instead of just getting back on the interstate and continuing our drive home to Pennsylvania.
If the truck wasn’t in front of us, we could have found the place by following the smell. Then, with the strange piercing noise, that we discovered as we got closer to what looked like a huge, muddy, run down warehouse; was the actual screaming of thousands of pigs. They were fenced in all around the complex and appeared to make their own fog, that rose above each pen. And seemed to produce their own damp dreary weather here, in their
hellish destination, that was quite different from the warm, bright, afternoon weather back at the gas station. But, with that, what made Connie turn around that memorable day, the last straw for her, and without an argument from me; was the gut wrenching smell of death – ten times as worse than the manure – that engulfed us. Our nose stung and our eyes couldn’t produce tears fast enough for it’s intensity. So much so, that our showers that night took
exceptionally long, and our appetite for pork was gladly left on the side of the interstate; becoming as wholesome and nutritious to us as a road-kill.
They say that a pig is more intelligent than a dog. Taking that into consideration; I feel that that pig was even more intelligent than his panicking friends around him. That pig knew
full well what was happening and realized he had no escape. His response was just as Connie said that she would do in the pigs predicament; taking one last look, out his porthole, at the world, savoring all it’s beauty before …
But, I like to think, and picture this special pig, walking up the planks to his demise, would be without a whimper of fear. And, with no hesitation in his stride, would nod his head to the butchers as he passes; with no blink in his eyes of what’s coming next, or from the terror on the face of the one ahead of him. And, maybe he would remember Connie and I, those daring humans that photographed him earlier in the day; and, hopefully that
would help him keep his composure, and his smile.