I’d never seen a pig in my forest until a new neighbour bought the house across the road and befriended piglets from the woods behind his property. Five years of no pigs; only birds, mason wasps and other insects, spiders, geckos, frogs, mice, worms and, occasionally, a possum. And now this.
The neighbour said he couldn’t help it. He made it sound like they had come down from the hill because they wanted to be with him. Made it sound like he was a reincarnation of Francis of Assisi.
He’d named one of the piglets Freedom* and had started treating her like a pet. Francis* said Freedom had been abandoned by her mother, so he was more or less forced to take over the tasks of rearing and nurturing her.
Freedom and Francis adopted each other. Francis petted the piglet and fed her, and Freedom was allowed in his house. Freedom was feral; she would bite your hand or snap at your ankle, but she was still small and adorable.
Initially, I didn’t mind her roaming around and starting to cross the road. Whenever I caught a glimpse of her, I saw she was still adorable, though fattening up rapidly. But I noticed a lot of new forest growth being uprooted by a curious nose. I wasn’t sure whose nose (I forgot to tell you there are rabbits around as well), but another neighbour insisted it was Freedom. He had seen her eating his freesias. He was annoyed. Very annoyed. A lot more annoyed than I was.
Freedom grew big and found a mate. She gave birth to little piglets. She was now running around the neighborhood with her new family.
Obviously, I didn’t have freesias, because I don’t have much of a garden at all. I think the forest is doing a great job at keeping my surroundings green and beautiful. But I did create a flowerbed by my spare bedroom, a caravan away from the house, where a poppy was growing from seed.
Meanwhile, my other neighbour talked with Francis of Assisi and asked him (well, told him) to contain his pig. Francis protested. Freedom was wild and free. He couldn’t contain her. ‘But you domesticated her’, said other neighbour. ‘We never had pigs in this forest until you came around. And your pig is eating my freesias. And my vegetable garden.’ Francis promised to do something about it when he had the money, time and less stress from all the other things life was demanding from him.
He never did.
Though he did sell Freedom’s baby piglets at a nearby stockyard.
Then the poppy started flowering abundantly in the most vibrant red-orange. I was delighted, and so proud that I took photos. There was one fantastic flower and nine more buds on the same plant. I looked forward to the remaining buds opening out to make this healthy poppy look even more impressive. But when I came and had a look the next day, the poppy was gone. Chewed down to the ground. Disappeared. Annihilated.
I was annoyed. Very annoyed. A lot more annoyed than the other neighbour, the neighbour with the freesias.
‘The pig’, said the other neighbour of the eaten freesias. ‘Or maybe rabbits?’ I tried. ‘No way; if a rabbit ate that many poppy buds, it would pass out. Definitely the pig.’
I decided to go and find out what the rules are around here about roaming pigs. Perhaps I could put some pressure on Francis if I got the authorities involved. Maybe they could talk with him. Was it even legal to exploit wild creatures for monetary gain?
In the council offices, Jim* was brought in to talk to me. He seemed uninterested but was very helpful. ‘Who owns the pig?’ he asked. ‘Nature,’ I said. ‘Well, in that case, your neighbor can’t be held responsible.’
‘But he domesticated her. He sells her babies,’ I tried. ‘Doesn’t matter,’ said Jim. ‘If he doesn’t own it, it’s wild, and he is not responsible for it.’
‘So what do I do?’ I asked. ‘If a wild pig comes onto your property, you’re allowed to shoot it,’ said Jim. ‘I don’t like murdering creatures,’ I said.’ I’m 90% vegan. Besides, I don’t own a gun.’
Jim shrugged his shoulders. ‘You ask around; there are plenty of hunters up there. Get someone to do it for you.’ Jim didn’t see the problem. ‘I would have done it myself, but I’m a bit old for that now.’
‘But it’s not the pig that is the problem,’ I persisted, ‘It’s the guy who lured her out of the forest and treats her like a pet and moneymaker.’
Jim shrugged his shoulders again. ‘It’s the law. Can’t do anything about it. If you don’t like it, perhaps you should move back to town.’
Freedom is still rummaging around my forest. She’s had another litter. A few weeks ago, I saw her piglets being carted away on the back of a stranger’s trailer. Poor Freedom. I wonder if Francis profited from her babies again. He and I no longer talk. I’ve planted all my seedlings high up in pots on my veranda. I’m not moving back to town.
*All names in this story have been altered to protect the privacy of pigs and people.
© Sitara Morgenster