We would go in the old International truck with the wooden panels to the Country Kitchen factory in Lewiston to get old loaves of bread and expired doughnuts to feed the pigs along with their evening slop. That is the good thing about having a pig, nothing goes to waste. As kids, when we didn’t close our mouths to eat, we were threatened with going down to eat out of the pigs’ trough if we couldn’t be quiet when we were chewing. I pictured actually sticking my face in the slop and sucking it in like the pigs, and then I would smarten up.

We liked to visit the pigs at their pen and talk with them just to get them to grunt back at us. We’d also reach over the side of the pen to scratch their backs. They’d move and grunt and nearly knock the wall down for us to keep at it.

Each time a pig was sent to the butcher shop there would be a box of parts we had them save, besides the cuts labeled for the freezer. The fat was saved for Mom to boil down for lard using an old pressure cooker pot with a broken cover. Mom would melt it all and save it in sealed coffee cans for when we needed it. The last batch she melted would be left in the pot to be reused many times before it was replaced by a cleaner batch. A good flaky pie crust can be made with a strong helping of lard, too.

The feet and tongue were always given to Grampa Darwin to pickle. The heart was there for him, too. The tongue was always a shocker stuffed on top of the box from the butcher. I couldn’t imagine how someone would want to eat it.

Mom also used the lard for chocolate doughnuts. They were rolled in sugar and devoured as soon as Mom made them. Mom used a doughnut cutter that cut a hole in the middle so we would have holes as well as whole doughnuts to snack on. After school, the smell of doughnuts cooking often welcomed us at the front door. We begged Mom to buy frosting sugar so we could make powdered doughnuts. Mom never gave in because the granulated sugar worked just fine. Mom made plain and applesauce doughnuts too, but the chocolate ones were everybody’s favorite.

I remember taking doughnuts for a treat in my classroom when I was in fourth grade. The teacher asked how Mom made them so she could try to duplicate it. The teacher used vegetable oil for the frying and I thought to myself, “There’s no way these are going to taste as good as Mom’s.”

It does take some practice to get the lard to the right temperature and to make sure the doughnuts aren’t gooey in the middle and yet crisp on the outside. They were acceptable that day in fourth grade.

Then we got a pig named Momma. I’m not sure if that was her immediate name or if she grew into it the more piglets she had. Seems Momma could find a way out of her pen and into the garden patch not far away. Mom would find footprints and nose prints in the garden but no plants rooted up or stomped on. And Momma Pig would be back in her pen at feeding time. Mom thought she must be pretty smart and decided she’d keep her to have piglets instead of slaughtering her when fall came.

Once, we got a snowstorm of 3 feet or more, enough to bury a pig. Mom went down to check because she figured Momma might have frozen to death. There was no roof over the whole shelter, only a small cover in one corner. Mom was calling to Momma Pig and watching the snow when she noticed a small blow hole. Mom kept talking and eventually heard a pure grunt like a pig will do. Mom was amazed that she’d made it. After that, Momma Pig was moved up to the lean-to beside the garage.

The odd couple

Come springtime, she was sharing the yard with Bully. They were about equal in height but Momma was a bit wider. Bulova was our watch dog, a typical shepherd with one ear that stood and one that fell. He was a large black presence in our yard and never fixed so he could be a bit territorial with other animals. There were a few times Dad stopped his scuffles with a 2-by-4 because that was the only way to get him to listen. Momma had piglets in the lean-to beside the garage and Bully was so proud. He herded those piglets around like he was the proud Poppa to them all.

Bulova loved Momma as many people who passed our yard could attest. One of Bulova’s habits was tossing an old milk jug into the air to catch and toss again. Momma watched him do that enough one day and figured she ought to try it. And she did it. Bulova also had a habit of thinking he could help Momma have more piglets. Passers-by would do a double take, wondering if they had just seen a dog and a pig getting friendly in our yard.

Momma wasn’t destined to live forever, in the flesh anyway. She eventually ended up on the butcher block but Dad got sick every time he had any pork from her. We ended up tossing a lot of it out. But the memories of her troddling around the yard acting like a dog can never be forgotten. And the many batches of doughnuts aided by her predecessors will always be remembered.

Hannah Hinckley is a writer, veterinary technician, whitewater guide and Pampered Chef Kitchen consultant. She lives in Winthrop and may be reached by e-mail at [email protected]

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