Those of you who know me, know that I spent half of my childhood growing up in the same little Amish town where my father grew up. I spent a lot of happy years running pretty free in our little neighborhood surrounded by cornfields and rolling hills. And, it was always exciting when my parents announced a trip to my Aunt Judy and Uncle Ed’s farm in Kentucky.
On the farm there were several hundred acres of trees and pastures, there were cows, chickens and pigs. We understood that the animals were there to provide food. The cows were milked, and the milk sent to a local dairy, the chickens laid eggs, and the pigs were slaughtered for meat……all but Brunhilda. Brunhilda was a special pig. She must have weighed 500 pounds (please keep in mind that I was a little girl, and she seemed huge to me, I have no idea how much she really weighed, and it would have been rude to ask her of course!)
Anyway, Brunhilda was our friend. I was seven when I met Brunhilda. We (Buddy, my little brother and I) would ride on her back around the pigpen. Brunhilda and I had more than a couple of long girl talks….well, really I talked, she snorted occasionally… she was quite a good listener. So over the years, we developed a close relationship. The first thing I’d ask when I talked to my aunt or uncle was of course…..”How is Brunhilda?” She was always fine.
When I was a teenager and my family moved back to my native Los Angeles, we stopped at the farm for a night before continuing on our trip. We got there late at night, but as always my aunt had a lovely dinner prepared for us, mashed potatoes with gravy, pork chops and applesauce, a nice hearty farm meal. I enjoyed the meal while the adults talked, and finally I asked about Brunhilda. My Uncle Ed looked solemnly at me, and nodded toward what was left of my pork chop. I was horrified. Had I really been eating my friend?
Years later as an adult, thoughts of Brunhilda led me to eat a primarily vegetarian diet, and for many years I avoided pork.
And when my youngest brother, Victor, who had been a baby when we left Ohio, joined the army, he went to boot camp in Kentucky. On one of his leaves, he went down to the farm to visit with our aunt and uncle, and Victor accused our Uncle Ed of making me a vegetarian!
“What are you talking about?” Uncle Ed asked him, and Victor relayed the story of Brunhilda as I had told it to him.
Now my Uncle Ed is not a small man. He’s a big, manly farmer, I always thought of him as a giant….the Paul Bunyon type….(okay, I’m not denying that in this story I may be slightly prone to exaggeration, but it’s my story, so let me tell it!). Anyway, apparently when Victor told him the story, our Uncle Ed began laughing hysterically, he laughed until he cried, and he laughed until he was rolling on the floor…..(hey, that’s how I heard the story, I wasn’t there, so if that’s an exaggeration, it’s not my fault). Eventually, my big, lovable uncle was able to contain himself, and told my brother “If I told Tari that, I was just kidding….we never ate Brunhilda, she was a pet!” He thought it was hysterical that I had avoided meat for so many years because I thought we’d eaten my favorite pig.
I was relieved to find out that we hadn’t eaten Brunhilda, and a few years later when Uncle Ed was ill, I decided I wanted to send him a little gift to cheer him up. I found a t-shirt that said exactly what I wanted to say….unfortunately, it only came in pink, but somehow that seemed appropriate. The front of the shirt said:
“Pigs are friends NOT FOOD!”
I still have wonderful memories of roaming on the farm, holding the piglets, riding Brunhilda, and especially of my Aunt Judy and Uncle Ed.