Ode to the lowly Whistle Pig.

My fellow TCC members. Most of you have gotten used to the fact that some, if not most of our stories, are a bit on the odd side. When I say most, I mean all and let’s be real, all of you possess an uncommonly high degree of common sense elsewise you wouldn’t be here.

But for the time being, let’s all lay aside our Heavenly bestowed overabundance of smartitude and talk about one of the more mundane and somewhat boring of God’s creatures. The lowly Whistle Pig (Groundhog for the uninitiated).

Firstly, they fry up rather nicely and taste a lot like squirrel, which tastes a lot like rabbit, which in turn tastes a lot like chicken, which in turn tastes a lot like…(vicious circle best saved for another story).

Aside from their crispy goodness, I have never stopped to consider their uncommon knack for problem-solving, comradery, and common sense. That was until just a few short years ago when I purchased an old farmhouse, complete with its very own (well-established) Whistle Pig community.

They were cute enough to begin with; mornings were spent with a hot cup of coffee while I watched their comings and goings. My neighbor joined in on my little nature watch, sitting on his rear deck watching the wonder of life unfold before our eyes. I soon discovered each critter possessed a unique personality and character, and soon the leader became evident. All was good at the old farmhouse until that fateful day, a friend came to visit.

He listen patiently as I shared the details of my Whistle Pig neighbors until, at last, he was able to fit a word in edgewise.

You do realize those things will destroy your house, don’t you?

What? I couldn’t believe my ears.

He went on and on, filling me with terror as he shared tales of my foundation sinking, my neatly kept lawn full of holes. By the time he was finished, I was certain those cursed rodents had to go.

Que the “Caddy Shack” theme song.

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I now had a mission, a Holy calling, so to speak. I was gonna rid my property (and save my house) of those evil varmints.

I began humanely, of course; I procured a few live traps from I don’t remember who, and placed them near the entrances to their burrows. Once set, I gave myself a well-deserved pat on the back, secure in the knowledge I was doing the proper thing in sparing their tiny lives.

That didn’t work; as a matter of fact, I’m sure they were sitting down there in their little hole in the ground, snickering and laughing at my expense. I was certain my neighbor was doing the same.

As I told the boys at the local hardware store of my plight, I was inundated with countless homespun, surefire methods to rid myself of my ne’er-do-well squatters.

Mothballs works every time; trust me, they said, that’ll get ’em. Mothballs it was handfuls of ’em, under the house, around the house, down the holes. I even went as far as to open a box and place it next to their front door (hole). I then warned that neighbor of mine, get ready, I said, they’re coming to live with you in just a couple of days.

Did it work? NO.

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The little jerks even stole the box I had set down; to this day, I have no idea where that daing box went. Once again, they sat there in that little hole of theirs, laughing at me; I was certain of it. The daddy groundhog went as far as to parade back and forth in my backyard, rubbing my face in my failure.

The rage began to boil inside me: ” If his chest had been a cannon, he would have shot his heart upon it.” Sorry, borrowed a bit from Moby Dick there.

Leg traps, yea, that’s it, brutal, yes, but I was losing myself in my rage. Leg traps it was.

I retrieved some old fox traps from a friend’s barn; I chuckled to myself maniacally as I cleaned and oiled the medieval things. It was pouring rain, but that didn’t stop me; I cursed them each one as I set the gruesome traps. Some errands needed running, and I smiled as I drove into town confident my problem was near an end. Did it work?

As I pulled into the drive, the rain was heavy, but it didn’t phase me. I leaped from my truck, making a bee-line to the traps. In the pouring rain and darkness, I saw a lone figure lying in the grass; I had him. My heart raced as I closed in, only to crash in utter defeat; a rather pitiful old Tom-cat stared back at me. What had I done?

With tears in my eyes and a heavy heart, I removed the cat’s leg from the horrible trap and lovingly carried him to the porch. I gently dried his fur with a bath towel and doctored his bruised paw. The old cat gazed into my eyes, and I felt the love, we were having a moment that cat and I, then suddenly, THWACK.

With a soul-curdling howl, a left hook landed hard on my cheek, and the claws dug in, almost instantaneously followed by a right hook. His rear feet dug into my chest as he catapulted into the yard and disappeared into the dark, leaving me battered and bleeding on the porch.

I slunk into the house and collapsed into a chair like a wad of chewed gum, completely defeated, and certain my house was doomed to a groundhog burrow. (Exit stage left)

The rain was over and the sun was bright come morning; I watched through the kitchen window as my neighbor took his usual spot with his usual coffee. I had accepted my fate, the birds were singing, and all was right with the world, But there he was.

The daddy Whistle Pig simply stood there with his back turned to me, the rodent equivalent of giving me the finger. The rage exploded within my heart; I grabbed the closest thing, (a large knife) and bolted through the house, nearly knocking the front door from its hinges. Around the house I ran, coming to a stop at the corner.

His back was still turned as I crept towards the beast. Why had he not turned? Surely he knows I’m here. My neighbor stood in his housecoat, noticing the drama playing out before him. My skin tingled, my ears screamed. Why had he not turned around?

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At ten paces, my shaking hand lifted the knife above my head, ” from Hell’s heart I stab at thee, for hate’s sake I spit my last breath at thee” ( Melville again, but it works). Then it happened, he turned, and with a scream lunged at his pitiful human attacker, (Melville ringing in his head as well).

I sidestepped his advance, and we both ran for the house; I knew where he was going and screamed as I chased him, knife held high above my head. We rounded the corner, his hole was in sight, but I was losing the race. I noticed another groundhog poke his head from the burrow, empowering his nestmate. I dove at the rodent in a final lunge just as he ducked into the hole; he was gone.

I lay prostrate in the wet grass, complete in my defeat. I lay there until I heard a faint sound, a clapping. I lifted my head to see my neighbor, my former friend, clapping his hands and smiling from ear to ear. He stopped and lifted his coffee cup, I was not certain if the toast was for me, or my opponent, either way, message received.

Sometime later, I sold that house, complete with its Whistle Pig community. I drive by every now and then; it’s still standing. I can’t help but wonder if they are still there. I’ve never had another groundhog issue, but my new house does have some noisy dogs next door; I don’t mess with ’em. Instead, I’ve read Melville a few times, ol’ Ahab and I got a lot in common.

Dear reader, most of this story is fact; some of it, well, maybe I added a little spice. I’m gonna leave it up to you to discern what parts have been sprinkled a bit. In the end, I don’t think it matters much; the lesson is the same (if there is a lesson). I sometimes think that, without our knowledge, we become our own Ahab, and in the heat of the moment, it can be very difficult to see who we have become.

But…that’s just my opinion; feel free to make it your own.

As always, we thank you for spending a bit of your precious time with us and are honored with the sacrifice. Please hit the like button and share with at least one person if you liked it. Comments, well, let us know we are doing just a bit of good. God Bless you

Always Choose The Wing (a revisit)

  (A reflection of Character)

WELL HOWDY FRIENDS. Good news, good news. The Tin Cup Clan’s new digs is almost done. But let me tell you…these ol’ bones feel every nail and hammer blow. Since I’ve been rather short on time of late I’ve been repostin’ some of the older stuff. I figured this might give our newer members a chance to catch up a bit. But that’s about to come to an end!!! This should be the last of the reposts’. But don’t let that keep ya from reading on.

Ya see…many a lesson can be learned from the humblest of items. In the past we’ve discussed pink socks, button jars, DWB’s, and so on. But for now, let’s talk about the lowly chicken wing. So just for a minute or two why don’t you sit down, clear yer head of all the nonsense goin’ on around you. Then let this simple little chicken appendage bounce around in that ol’ noggin’ of your’s.

Never can tell…you might just learn somethin’ before we’re done.

ALWAYS CHOOSE THE WING.

Southern folk are a peculiar folk, raised a bit different we were, but southern “mountain” folk…well, that’s another subject entirely. I’m afraid I cain’t speak for everyone else, all I can do is relate insight on how I was taught, unfortunately, that’s a time long gone. This new-found writing career of mine has taught me to find stories in the most unusual of circumstances. One of these circumstances presented itself just the other evening whilst I sat staring at (of all things), a platter of fried chicken. You, my dear friends are about to discover one of life’s most important lessons, you’re about to find out why… “you should always choose the wing.” So, fasten your seat belts folks, here we go.

Back in the day… long before they were slathered in Buffalo sauce; or attained center stage in trendy eateries. Long before they found themselves delivered by barely covered young ladies, only to be gnawed on by beer soaked middle-aged men. (I’m referring to the wings not the ladies). These humble and understated parts of the chicken were known by one and all as “poor people” food. Yep, that’s right… it wasn’t very long-ago, wings were most often bought by the gallon bucket at your local Piggly Wiggly. Wings, livers, and gizzards gave the most bang for the buck, and let me tell you something…I ate more than my fair share of those things. Well… not the gizzards, I don’t like ’em, the longer you chew ’em, the bigger they get. Where’s this going you ask? Well…hold on a minute, we’re just about there.

You see…there’s a lesson to be learned in the humble wing, you could say a quiet, solemn, sense of purpose, free from vanity (unlike those prima-donnas of the poultry world known as chicken breasts), and those thighs… well we’ve all heard stories about those guys. Nope…the wings have a job to do and they know it, and part of that job is teaching us just a little about “humility.”

I was told as a child, “better a peaceful penny than a stricken dollar.” As a boy I could never make sense of that, but now…I get it. Our world is full to the brim, packed tight with folk after the best, the fastest, biggest, most expensive, me, me, me, my time, my life, my this or that. And at what cost?

In my not so humble opinion, life needs to be a bit more like the supper table, and that platter of fried chicken, (told ya we’d get there). My mother never, and I mean never grabbed the first, or the last of anything. Grabbing the first piece was frowned on, and viewed as arrogant and self serving, while grabbing the last was seen as selfish and uncaring. In our house, this resulted in a dozen or so hands grasping at the same plate at the same time. For more of this, refer to the great Jerry Clower and his story “The last piece of chicken.” The nuts and bolts of this little tale boils down to watching out for the one behind you. As crazy as this may sound…the type of piece you choose, reflects the personality you posses.

Let’s get preachy: Romans 12: 10 NIV

“Honor one another above yourselves”

Get it now? Watch out for the one behind, or beside you. Don’t go around grabbing the best parts, don’t go around leaving nothing for the next to arrive. Stop thinking so much of yourself and focus on your neighbor. All of this from a chicken wing; never saw that coming did ya? But wait, there’s more.

Remember the sacrifice made by our parents? In a large family with extremely limited resources, it was common to hear Ma’ say, “well, I didn’t really like pie anyhow, or, I’m not in the mood for chicken tonight.” She was always the first to make the sacrifice when there wasn’t enough to go around. We need more of that; we need more folks willin’ to take the high road.

Preachy again…   Luke 14:10 NIV

“But when you are invited, take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, “Friend, move up to a better place.” Then you will be honored in the presence of all the other guests.”

My stepdad told me, “never be the first to enter a room.” That stuck with me, when I open the door now, I let the person behind me enter first, out of instinct, not strength of character on my part, or a conscious decision, it just happens, like blinking. “It’s impossible to straighten the bend in the oak, the crook that grew in the sapling.” Ever heard that one? Ever had the door shut in your face at the grocers? Yea…that dude grabs the breast off the platter every time, I guarantee it. Next time you’re at the Piggly Wiggly, Stop, open the door for a stranger, Please.

All this, and we’re still talking about a chicken wing, what about that. Once again, that little wing teaches us humility, and in an odd sort of way, makes a better person. So…as you go through life remember, don’t be the first to enter the room, it has a Ta,da, aura about it, nobody likes it I promise. Make sure and take the lowest seat at the table, both literally and figuratively, trust me, it’s embarrassing if someone asks you to move a few seats back. You may be the center of “your” universe, but you ain’t the center of “the” universe. Yea… that one’s not original either. Never take the last piece, or slice of anything unless asked, once again, literally and figuratively, doing so makes you come off as selfish and inconsiderate. And finally, always grab the humble wing, leave that breast for momma. That little wing is sorta like an outward manifestation of inner humility. (hey, that little comment’s an original, with a big word thrown in for extra measure). For once, let someone else have the best piece, you’ll get yours, I promise. Trust me, folks will notice and tell others, just like I have passed it on to you. “We need a lot more folks chewin’ on a wing, and far fewer chokin’ on their words.” (That was another original). So, this Saturday go out and grab ye’self a big ol’ bucket of wings, Come Sunday you’ll be sittin’ about that table just drippin’ with humility. But that’s just my opinion, feel free to make it your own.

If you like this little tale I would appreciate it if you would share it, at least once. You gotta know somebody who needs to read it, we all do. Leave a comment if you can, I sure do love reading them. Till next time… Thank You, from The Tin Cup Clan. Better still, press the follow button, I’m trying to build a platform here.

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