We boys helped Dad notch the pig’s ears. He had a system, and I remember that the right ear notch marked which litter the pig came from. The left ear notches designated the pig’s number in that litter. Notching pig’s ears was easy work and quite enjoyable. There are few animals cuter than a baby pig, with its soft bristles and pink nose. They have a delightful squeal.
Phillip, Bob, and I would catch the piglets, hand them to Dad, and he would put the notches in. Then Dad would hand the pig back, and the process continued until all the young stock had their markings.
When pigs were put out to pasture, they tended to rut. They would tear up the sod, seeking grubs or minerals. It was their natural instinct to root up the earth. They would root under a fence and escape from the pasture. I witnessed an area in the hog pasture where the pigs were rooting and it looked like artillery landed there. We had to “ring the pigs.”
My first job in “ringing the pigs” was to place the wire rings into the special pliers used to hold the nose rings. The ring was C-shaped, with two sharp bends. Phillip would catch a pig and hold it. Dad would put a ring in its nose and hand the pliers to me. I put the ring into the notches of the pliers, and Dad put another ring in the pig’s nose. Usually two rings per pig.
When you’re eight years old, you do a lot of foolish things. I did the dumbest thing ever while “ringing pigs.” I was alone in the hog barn waiting for Dad to return from the garage. Phillip and Bob were gone, so I had nothing to do until Dad returned.
I placed one of those rings in the pliers and brought it up to my nose. I squeezed the pliers together just a little bit, to see how it would feel to a pig. Only I didn’t intend to put the ring in my nose. I only wanted to squeeze a little bit and then stop.
Well, I didn’t stop squeezing the pliers soon enough, and I ended up with a ring clinging to my nose, just a bit, but enough for me to bleed and scream a lot.
Just then Dad entered the hog pens through the sliding door, and saw me with a ring in my nose, bleeding and crying. He started to laugh but held it back. He grabbed a wire cutter and cut the copper nose ring into two pieces. Thankfully, the ring fell from my nose.
Dad told me to go to the house to get a bandage, which didn’t help because the bleeding came from inside my nose. I wasn’t really hurting, but I was embarrassed beyond belief. What I feared most was that Dad would tell Mom, which he probably did. But more important, I didn’t want him to tell my brothers and sisters. That would have hurt more than the physical pain.