Many years ago, I was teaching in a private school. One year I was sponsor of what many of the faculty labeled as the most difficult of the senior classes. Actually, I found them to be a very energetic and imaginative group, perhaps less concerned with the rules than most, and certainly less studious. But they were interesting, fun and goodhearted. I never had a problem with any of this class.
So it was no great surprise when they proposed holding a greased pig chase as a fund raiser. I raised a number of objections, but they countered each with a reasonable answer. After seeking approval from administration, a date was set.
One boy in the class had an uncle who raised pigs, so that was taken care of. Posters were made. In fact, those in charge of publicity were very innovative . One day they were more animated than usual. The greased pig chase was being publicized on the local radio station most popular with high school kids. However, only students from our school could participate in the chase.
Entries began immediately ,with an amazing number coming from the freshman class. Briefly, I wondered if there was any coercion, but dismissed that thought. In fact, the whole school was buzzing about the upcoming porker party.
The day before the event, I received a call from an animal rights group. They were concerned about the safety of the pig. I thought to dismiss that thought also. The pig was soon to be shipped off to the packing house which would be a much worse experience than being chased by screaming teenagers. But the animal advocate was very serious. I explained that the pig would not be harmed. Once caught and secured by one or more students, he would be quickly returned to his home on the range. The contestants were allowed no tools, no aids at all. They must catch the pig using only their hands, and maybe their feet. Instantly, the pig’s protector worried that someone might kick the pig. I assured her no kicking was allowed.
What were we going to put on the pig? Well, it was a “greased” pig contest. I guaranteed her it would be only natural products, quite possibly coming from the pig’s ancestors.
“This might be too tiring for the pig,” she continued. “I must insist you allow a rest period every five minutes.” I suggested every fifteen minutes and we ultimately compromised on ten minutes. I wondered how effective this would be. Would the pig understand a rest period?
The day finally arrived and Joe drove his truck in with a very sturdy cage in the back containing… The Pig. To many, it looked like a wild boar. It snorted and banged against the cage, and several of the small freshmen began to have doubts about chasing this wild animal. Some worried the razorback might chase them instead.
The class committee decided to use vegetable oil to grease the swine, assuring the pig would be very hard to hold. Ten minutes before start time, students lined up behind a rope marking the starting line, and Joe and two classmates poured corn oil on the shoat, who didn’t care for the attention. Hands would pop in and spread the oil and jerk back before the pig could bite.
Though close to eighty students had signed up, there were probably only fifty on the starting line. Possibly some had second thoughts after seeing this ferocious looking bovine. But there were probably another two hundred and fifty spectators. On the count of three, the rope was dropped and the door to the cage thrown opened.
Porky just stood there.
After railing against the cage, it didn’t want to leave. Joe grabbed a pencil out of his shirt pocket, reached in the cage, and jabbed the pig in its hindquarters. The bore took off. And as the contestants started running and screaming, the pig kept running.
Two or three students got a hand on the porker, but the slippery oil let the swine escape. Several dove at the pig and got nothing but a handful of grass. However, twin brothers had devised a plan and simultaneously dove at the pig from opposite sides. As the greasy bovine slipped out of one twin’s hands, it put him in the brother’s arms.
In three minutes, the contest was over. The twins held the oil covered pig down for the required thirty seconds and were declared the winners.
This special class had once again deviated from the norm. During the week leading up to the event anticipation saturated the school and grabbed the attention of the entire student body and most of the faculty.
And though the contest was very short, everyone in attendance seemed to have a great time.
Except, perhaps, the pig.
James R. Callan
Callan is no longer teaching. He writes mystery and suspense novels. Thus far, none has featured a wild pig, with or without grease. But he’s not ruling that out.