Welcome to Swampton: The pig with no ears

Michael DeWitt, Jr.

Posted June 7, 2021

By Michael DeWitt, Jr.

This column is dedicated to all the speech therapists and speech pathologists who help our children find their voices, and to the animal lovers who help every little piggy know that they have a place in this world.

As far as pot-bellied pigs go, she was an ugly specimen. Deformed, some would say. But that didn’t matter to Cash.

“Hey, Pwetty Gul,” the boy said, spitting his words clumsily. The pig stopped eating and lumbered over to him.

“Samanfa,” the boy said. “Mrs. Samanfa.” The words were there, inside he knew them, but they were fighting him, defying his tongue, tripping from his lips. “Mrs. Samanfa!” the boy wiped tears away, clinched his fists, tried again. “Mrs. Samanfa!”

Pretty Girl came closer and touched his angry fist with her wet, dirty snout, and Cash smiled. “Pwetty Gul. Mrs. Samanfa wud like you.”

“Cash!” Momma Shakes yelled. “The bus is here!” A blur of coat and book bag and lunch box and yellow and black, then Cash was on the school bus and Momma Shakes watched it take her youngest child away, and she cried a little inside like she had done every day since school began.

“He’ll be back soon, honey,” Jimmy said, putting his arm around his wife.

“I know. I just worry so much about him. It’s been almost three years, and he still isn’t talking much. He never talks to you, he barely talks to me! The only time he talks is to that pig.”

“That stupid pig,” he laughed. “I don’t know why you bought her home. A pig with no ears—I’ve never seen such.”

“They were going to kill her. No one wanted her, and she is scared of people.” They walked out to look at the pig. It would come right up to Cash, but run and hide when anyone else approached. “What do you think happened to her? You think a dog chewed her ears off?”

“No, I don’t see any scars. I think she was born that way.”

Momma Shakes got sad again. “I’ve said it since he was born – they took him too early. He wasn’t ready. He just wasn’t ready!”

Momma Shakes cried, and Jimmy hugged her tighter. “He’s going to be fine, babe. The boy is smart. You can look at him and tell! He’s just having a little trouble with his words. Try not to get upset and worry too much,” he added, but knew the futility of those words before he said them. Telling a mother not to worry is like asking a hurricane not to blow.

“I can understand the speech therapy, but I don’t understand the occupational therapy, the sensory disorder stuff,” Momma continued. “Does he really need all that? I’m just so worried that people won’t ever think he’s normal!” She sobbed again.

“That’s not going to happen, now stop worrying! The school knows what they are doing. Mrs. Samantha knows what she is doing.”

The school days came and went, day after day of packing lunches and catching yellow buses and homework and worrying. Each week it was a new syllable, a new sound, a new word for Cash to master. Some were easy, some—like that hated “th” sound—bedeviled and defied him.

There were good days, when Mrs. Samantha sent home smiley faces, and days when Cash came home crying. There were days when the school called and Cash had completely shut down, refusing to attempt his work. There were days when Cash didn’t talk at all.

Through it all, almost every morning and afternoon, Cash could be found in the pig pen with Pretty Girl, away from adult ears, lips forming words and sounds and sentences, telling her secrets that only they knew. Pretty Girl always listened, and did not judge, no matter how the words came out.

Slowly, the bad days grew fewer and fewer, and soon winter turned to spring and then to eve of summer, and it was time. Momma Shakes and Jimmy waited on the porch for the bus that would bring Cash home with his progress report.

“It’s going to be bad,” she said, “I just know it. They’re going to keep him in speech another year, I just know it. He’s not making enough progress. Why else would they call us in for a meeting tomorrow?”

“If that’s what they recommend, then that’s what’s best for him, honey. It will be alright,” But Jimmy knew that was not what she wanted to hear.

Cash leaped from the school bus, handed his mother the envelope from Mrs. Samantha, then ran to the pig pen. He did not hear Momma Shakes shriek. He did not see her thrust her hands skyward and begin dancing in the yard. He did not see his father walk behind the shed and cry tears of joy, because sometimes that is what fathers have to do.

All Cash saw was his pig.

“Hey, Pretty Girl. Mrs. Samantha said to tell you hello!” The words dripped smoothly and victoriously like honey from his tongue.

So Momma Shakes danced, and she danced like our ancestors did, praising the gods and offering tears to the heavens. And so it slowly came to be that a little boy who could not talk, spoke, and he had lots of things to say. And a pig with no ears who could not hear, listened, and heard every word, and grinned and grinned.  

If you have never watched a Momma dance, or heard a child’s first true word, or seen a pig grin, then you have missed out on the finest pleasures in life.

Michael M. DeWitt, Jr. is the managing editor of The Hampton County Guardian, an award-winning journalist, columnist and outdoor writer who has been published in South Carolina Wildlife, Sporting Classics, and the author of two books.

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