A Short Story

Introduction – Meet Oliver

Oliver Hawkenmiejer was a ninety-two-year-old Hoosier. As robust now as he was during the 1939 State Final when, with only 17 seconds left in the ball game, he intercepted a pass and ran it back 92 yards. He was a local hero destined for fame. But he’s been handling hogs ever since. Dropped out of school and inherited the family pig business when his daddy had a heart attack, right about the same time Oliver cleared the last yard. However, speculation is that the fall killed the old man, not the heart attack.

There he was at the top of the bleachers jumping up and down with youthful cheerleading enthusiasm. Nearly four hundred pounds of him bouncing and shouting, “Go, go, go!” encouraging Oliver into to the end zone. Then all of a sudden his “Go, go, go” became an “Oh, oh, oh” and he grabbed his chest and fell backward over the railing, twenty or so feet to ground. A misfortune compounded by landing on top of the Strutenville Hogs’ mascot, Wilber. No one then realized Wilber was flat as a pancake beneath the old man until the paramedics, two of them and six football players, rolled Mr. Hawkenmiejer over and onto a makeshift stretcher. To this day, Oliver blames that interception for both their deaths.

Chapter 1 – Pigs

The year is 1922.

“Grab that piggy boy!”

“Yes sir, daddy. I’ll get her!” said Oliver, covered in four or more layers of mud, slipping and sliding through the hog pen, “Gotcha!” But the slippery little piglet slipped right out of his grip.

“Almost had her, daddy!”

“Almosts don’t count, boy. Now get out of there and wash up for dinner.”

Oliver, with arms waving, slipped and slid his way out of the pen, climbed over the fence and laid a muddy trail to the pond where he cannonballed into the murky water. Water snakes and turtles surprised and frightened, quickly dove beneath the surface. This was likely the last bath Oliver would have until next Saturday.

“Tormenting the pigs again?” asked Elisabeth, setting baked ham on the table with one hand as she picked off a glob of mud from behind Oliver’s ear with the other.

“I can think of no better linebacker training than running down slippery piglets,” said Hawkenmiejer, stabbing his fork into a thick slice of the ham. He took a large bite out of it before setting it on his plate, and said, “Mmm, mmm” as he reached for the mashed potatoes.

“Oliver would you like some ham?” asked Mama, absentmindedly from a lifetime of servile courtesy; she knew well that he didn’t. Oliver had a dislike for flesh ever since he squeezed out of her womb ten years ago. It seemed he and the animals always shared a mutual affinity, and he wasn’t about to betray the trust by eating them, or having any part of it that he could help.

“No thanks, Mama.”

“Boy you can’t grow-up to be a big strong linebacker on nothing but green vittles,” said Daddy, scooping another helping of mashed potatoes onto his plate as he reached for the peas.

“He’ll be just fine eating his vegetables,” Mama said. “There’re lots of strong and healthy vegetarians, some of ’em football players, I suspect.”

“Nonsense. Pass the rolls. A man’s supposed to eat meat. Shoot-dang Elisabeth, besides, raising hogs is how in we put food on the table, and how we paid for that pretty Sunday dress of yours. What in tarnation town folk gonna say about a hog farmer who won’t eat pork?”

“I suppose they’d say he’s a vegetarian hog farmer, dear.”

“Crazy talk. Pass the milk.”

“Don’t want to be a hog farmer, daddy,” said Oliver. “I want to play football.”

“Ain’t nothing says you can’t do both. But you’re gonna have to put some substance on that scrawny hide first, and ‘em vegetables ain’t got no meat to do the chore with.”

“Oliver, would you say grace, please?” asked Mama, in more of a command than a request to stem the conversation.

“Thanks for the food, God. Amen.”

“Short, sweet, and to the point, just how me and the Almighty like it,” said Hawkenmiejer, forking over two more slices of ham to his plate.

“Oliver, would you like milk?”

“No thank you, Mama.”

After they had eaten supper, they gathered around the farm radio and listened to the Betty and Bob show before they went to bed.

Chapter 2 – Rouster and Roosters

Rouster rousted the Hawkenmiejers every morning with an over-enthusiastic and ear-piercing cock-a-doodle-doo just outside their window. He was a conscientious farm cock if there ever was one, who took his duty to heart. But old man Hawkenmiejer swore the enthusiasm was a purposeful aggravation, “That damn rooster,” he’d say, startled from his slumber.

Like most pig farmers, the Hawkenmiejers had a rooster, hens, an outside dog, a few barn cats, and a multitude of other not-so-welcomed critters on their farm. But these other creatures hold no relevance to this tale so I’ll just let them go their way while we go ours.

Rouster was a Jersey Giant; a proud and handsome cock, living like royalty on a free-range diet supplemented by high-quality mash, and allowed the run of the farm and farmhouse. Not unlike the male of every species, he had a healthy inclination and enthusiasm to mate, and was on occasion, allowed to mingle among the hens to participate in the egg fertilization process. Fertilized eggs keep Hawkenmiejer in chicken meat, gizzards, and eggs by hens that served him no more justification than just that.

While Rouster enjoyed his life of leisure and freedom, most roosters never have it so good. Less scrupulous farmers and redneck inbreed often raise roosters for what they call a Gamecock. A bird they conditioned for strength and stamina, injected with antibiotics and hormones, then use in a despicable, mostly illegal though rarely prosecuted blood sport known as the cockfight. An event around these parts that draws just about everybody, including the sheriff, mayor, judge, and Pastor Jones, all of whom consider themselves experts in the anatomy of cockfights, all looking to make a quick buck placing bets on their favorite cocks.

To reduce the fighting birds’ exposure to injury during battle, they cut off their comb, waddle, and earlobes, and they do it all without the benefit of anesthesia. For what the hell would these brain-dead yokels care? On fight night, with the crowds gathered round, they’d put razor-sharp spurs on the cock’s feet and put him in a ring called a cockpit with another bird so equipped. There they’d fight a short, bloody battle to the death. And not unlike the sword fights between men of old, the results are often the same: one dies quick, the other dies agonizingly slow. Now you might like to know—as I take pleasure in knowing—that these lethally fitted cocks with their razor-sharp spurs have often, although not often enough, inflicted wounds, sometimes severe, and occasionally fatal to their human handlers.

Oh well.

Seems I’ve spoken more than I intended on both the well regarded and the mistreated chickens, but I would like to make one more point. Oliver, as you should have reasoned by now, would never think to eat a chicken, nor is he keen on eating their eggs—that is, unless mama put her face on and insist that he do. But even then, he’d just pick around the yoke for a time until she got frustrated and told him to get up and go outside.

This morning, before Rouster finished his cock-a-doodle-doing, Oliver was up, grabbed the pigskin from under the blankets, tucked it under his arm and jumped down from the top bunk. He carefully placed the ball on a tee on top of his dresser. It was the proud attraction of his room. Then he untied his piggy-patterned pajama pants and let them fall to the floor, stepped out of them and into a pair bib overalls—commando style. Barefoot he ran downstairs and out the back letting the screen door slam behind him. There, next to barn he relieved himself, spelling out his name, Oliver J. Hawkenmiejer, in cursive, on its old dry-weathered boards.

Beneath the lean-to, Oliver scooped out two old Folger cans of chicken scratch from a Wirthmore burlap bag and scattered it over the ground. The hens, barely containable in their excitement flew out of the coop no sooner he opened the door; excited as a big-city shopping-mob on Black Friday. And damn near as dangerous in their path.

With the hog troughs filled and the morning chores done, Oliver sat on the fence in conversation with the pigs who paid him little mind, intent as they were on breakfast. It wasn’t long until mama called him to his own breakfast of buttered flapjacks, maple syrup, and homemade apple juice.

The Hawkenmiejer farm kept anywhere from 60 to 120 pigs, though it was equipped to handle more. Today, they numbered 116. Oliver gave each pig a name—no easy chore considering the number of pigs in and out the farm—and recorded it in his journal. Beside each name was its birthday, a short description of its markings, and a narrow column at the edge of the page where he’d draw a tiny cross on the day Jake took them to the slaughterhouse.

Oliver didn’t like Jake. In fact, hate was the verb he preferred, but mama forbade him to use such language in reference to another God-fearing soul. And so he didn’t—at least that she’d hear.

Jake would show up every few months in a loud, smoky, and obnoxious semi-tractor-trailer done over with too much chrome and a cheap, flashy flaming paint job, with a pair of fuzzy dice pinned to the ceiling.

This morning, Oliver happened to see the dust trail rising up from Jake’s truck barreling down the long, winding gravel road to their farm. Old man Hawkenmiejer was furious. He had told Jake—he didn’t know how many times!—not to show up until the school bus left, and here he was.

Oliver ran out to his daddy, “Daddy, don’t let that man on our farm. Don’t let him take any pigs.” Oliver and the pigs had no illusions to a hog’s fate and purpose in life and Oliver was damn determined to do what he could to stop it.

“You best go inside and get ready for school. The bus will be here shortly.”

“Daddy, I’m not going to school today,” Oliver said, resolutely. “And, I’m not letting him take our pigs.”

“Son, what would you have me do? Raising and selling these dumb hogs for the slaughter is how we make a living.”

“Daddy…sending pigs off to die is not what you should call, make a living.”

“Silly talk. Now get in the house and get ready for school. Get!”

Angry and flustered Oliver walked back to the house, keeping watch over his shoulder as the trail of dust closed in.

Jake backed the trailer into the chute with deft precision. If there was one thing Jake could do, and there probably was only one thing, it was to handle a truck. He let the engine idle with the radio playing some rather distressing hillbilly music loud enough to hear a mile away. Then climbed down, tore open a fresh pack of chewing tobacco and stuffed a quarter of it in his mouth. Looking down at his ostrich-skin cowboy boots, he snorted a disapproval and propped one foot at a time on the fender and buffed the silver toe-tips with the red bandanna he kept in his back pocket for just such a purpose. Admiring his reflection in the chrome door handle, he bobbed his head back and forth slicking back his greasy jet-black hair. He strutted over to the holding pen and sat atop the fence. With a good healthy spit worked up, he spat the juice at the pigs who squealed their protestations. There wasn’t any question about it; pigs had a natural hatred for Jake, and they didn’t care if mama heard them say so.

Jake thinks of himself as some sort of connoisseur, a chef extraordinaire of fried bacon, honey-baked and country ham, and pickled pigs feet, and he’ll proudly tell you as much. But he has a deep-seated contempt for pigs and takes a sadistic pleasure in tormenting the poor things. He’d make sure that their ride to the slaughterhouse was as miserable a trip as he could muster.

Back at his desk in front of the window, Oliver had his journal open and a sharpened number 2 in hand ready for the unpleasant task of drawing little crosses beside the name of each pig as it was loaded onto the hauler. A few teardrops he couldn’t hold back fell to the page. The summer breeze blew open the lace curtains and brought the stench of diesel fumes into his room. Jake looked up and seen Oliver at the window. With a haughty contempt, gave him a wink and a nod then turned to spit on the pigs again. Oliver wished to be a superhero like those in his comic books. He’d fly down there, grab Jake by his greasy hair and hurl him off toward the sun. He imagined Jake tumbling end over end, arms and legs splayed, flying through the darkened cold vacuum towards the blazing inferno, his greasy hair bursting into a ball of flames the closer he got.

But he was not a superhero; he was just a skinny little boy who had fallen in love with every animal on the farm, and could do nothing about Jake.

The school bus stopped at the turnaround and honked twice before driving off without Oliver.

As Jake’s tractor-trailer pulled away, Oliver closed his journal, climbed up onto his bunk and laid in a melancholy contemplation until he drifted off into a fitful sleep.

Chapter 3 – Pigskins and Jackasses

The years passed.

Oliver became captain of the Strutenville Hogs’ varsity football team.

Old man Hawkenmiejer gained weight, a whole lot of weight.

Elisabeth died.

Jake had a new truck, louder and better painted than the first. His hair was now blacker than normal, but just as greasy. His teeth were yellow and brown as an overripe banana but his silver toe boot tips shined nicely.

Rouster was old, tired, and his cock-a-doodle-doo wasn’t as enthusiastic as it once was. But still, he came alive and quite spirited when it came to lending himself to egg fertilization.

Hundreds of pigs were born on the Hawkenmiejer farm, raised, and taken off to slaughter.

Oliver’s journal was ragged, torn, with only a few blank pages remaining.

It was late October.

Students and parents and fans crowded the entrance gates to the Strutenville Hogs’ football field for the 1939 State Final versus the Boonesboro Burros; or rather, as most other students and their overzealous parents throughout Indiana was fond of deriding them as, the Boonesboro Jackasses.

It was a big day.

Oliver and the team were in the locker room where Coach Filbernight gave his last minute pep talk and a final prayer to the Almighty before they ran out on the field for the opening celebration.

Old man Hawkenmiejer paid the entrance fee at the gate with a silver quarter and told them to keep the change. But his buttocks wouldn’t fit through the turnstile, so they had to unlock the two adjacent gates to let him pass through.

He stopped at the concession stand, bought a soda pop to drink there and another to go, ordered three hot dogs, a cotton candy, and two chocolate bars that he put into his leg pocket for later. He stopped twice on his way to the top of the bleachers to catch his breath.

The announcer announced each starting player for the Burros among a mixture of cheers and hisses.

Then, he announced each starter for the Hogs. When he called out the name of Oliver Hawkenmiejer, the crowd erupted with cheers heard all the way to Boone County.

Oliver was a star.

He held every linebacker record in the state’s history and even created some new ones. There’s something to training with slippery piglets after all.

Oliver had secured a full college scholarship.

His future looked bright.

His daddy was proud.

The band played, and the Homecoming Queen sang the national anthem while everyone stood at attention with their hand over their heart and their hat in hand.

When she had sung the last note, she said, “God bless America,” and everybody cheered and waved their hats in the air.

Captains from both teams met the referee in the center of the field for the coin toss.

Oliver called heads, and heads it was.

The Strutenville Hogs elected to receive the pigskin.

The players took to the field as everyone cheered.

Throughout the evening, it was a close and exciting game.

But then with only seventeen seconds left and the Strutenville Hogs down by five and out of timeouts, the Boonesboro Burros were set to put it away.

The Hogs were defending at their eight-yard line.

It was first and goal for the Jackasses…

Chapter 4 – A Box Turtle

I’ve gone and got ahead of myself.

I owe it to Oliver to say more about his deceased mama, and so I will.

But before I do, you need to know why I interrupted the game at this point, even though you think you might know the outcome. You see, at this critical juncture, when in the next few seconds the Hogs may either win or lose, Oliver recalled what his mama always told him before a game, “Ain’t important who wins the game, dear, but who wins themselves.” He never quite understood it, but he figured there was womanly wisdom in it somewhere. And right now, as he watched the center snap the pigskin, and although her little proverb weighed heavy on his mind, he’d like nothing better than to sack the jackass, pick up the fumble, and run it into the end zone, handing the Burros a humiliating defeat.

But now back to Elisabeth.

Despite being an obedient God-fearing woman, an unquestioning wife with an acute awareness and respect for her place in the patriarchy, spoke when spoken to, modest, humble, and submissive, she was still a good woman. And seven shades of pretty. Possessed with a dignity that set every man on fire. These finer qualities of good looks she passed on to Oliver, who would no doubt have no trouble finding a wife to raise a family.

Elisabeth was a dedicated mother to Oliver, her only child, with a resolve to raise him in accord with an infallible tradition: Beginning with the painful and unnecessary circumcision, the Baptism in the Holy Spirit, the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. And with a thorough indoctrination of God’s Holy Word, she would ensure his position in Heaven beside Jesus and herself. But despite her fixed determinations, Oliver grew to be a good man who thoroughly thought for himself.

Now too is a good time to mention how Oliver brought his mama into the light. How she finally came to know sympathy and compassion for animals. Childish and feminine traits old man Hawkenmiejer called them. She promised Oliver to be a vegetarian, to save the pigs any unnecessary misery. However, she could carry that only so far. Hawkenmiejer was still a staunch meat eater. Seemingly, the more so since she became vegetarian, and she was his obedient wife.

It tormented the old man that she joined forces with Oliver in his quest to save the pigs and chickens. He thought it ungodly hypocritical and mighty embarrassing, and pointed out to them at every opportunity, that if everyone were a vegetarian, they’d be broke and homeless.

“But, the pigs would still be alive,” Oliver would tell his daddy each time he’d bring up the matter.

You have to admire Oliver’s simplicity.

Oliver loved his mama dearly. And now, five years later, he still wells up when he thinks of her, and he thinks of her daily, several times a day. Just now, he licked off a few salty tears that had rolled to his upper lip.

A freak accident sent her to meet her maker. At least that was the sheriff’s determination that everyone felt obliged to accept. Two people alone know what triggered the freakish incident. And one of them wasn’t about to talk, and the other knew it was no use.

It was August 7, of 1934, a Tuesday, around ten in the morning. A hot day, a soft breeze, a clear sky, and the sweet fragrance of Magnolia blossoms set the stage for her demise. It was a beautiful day to die, someone afterward said meaning no disrespect.

Elisabeth was outside hanging laundry on the line.

Old man Hawkenmiejer was over by the fence trying his best to count the remaining scampering hogs, making sure Jake hadn’t made off with more than he should. He never trusted Jake.

Oliver sat at his desk beside the window, his journal open; his pencil tip broke as he marked the last tiny cross. He watched the frightened pigs peek out between the slats of the livestock trailer for a breath of fresh air.

Down the driveway just a bit, a box turtle crawled along the edge of the drive.

Jake, in the cab of his truck, revved up the engine merely for the frightening effect it had on the pigs.

He released the parking brake and popped the clutch in and out several times to set about a series of jerks and pulls that sent the pigs bouncing off the trailer walls and falling over each other. Finally, he eased the truck out the chute. He saw the turtle on the right side of the road, almost to the safety of the grass. He let the truck drift ever so slightly to the right.

Old man Hawkenmiejer watched as the trailer pulled away, satisfied with his tally.

Elisabeth bent over and reached into the clothes basket for another pair of bib overalls.

Oliver watched with fearful anticipation as the tractor-trailer drift further and further in line with the turtle.

Jake eased the wheel ever slightly to ensure a direct but imperceptible intent for the turtle.

Then suddenly…POW!

He got him.

But not quite squarely, as only the tire’s outside edge barely squeezed down on the backside of his shell, pinching off his tail as the force shot him through the air with a lethal velocity of a cannon ball.

Elisabeth raised up from the clothes basket at the wrong time.

She never knew what hit her.

Nor did the turtle know what he hit.

Chapter 5 – Hogs and Jackasses

The Jackass took the snap.

Oliver’s eyes followed the pigskin unfailingly as the quarterback faked a handoff to the fullback, fooling everyone in the stands and every Hog on the sideline and on the field except Oliver, who read the short pass play as easy as reading child’s storybook.

He moved in for the interception. Then, with the pigskin tucked tightly under his arm, he headed downfield with a full head of steam, busting through two tackles that barely broke his stride.

Oliver was lightning quick, but not as fast as a Jackass turned defender who locked on to target and zeroed in for the strike.

Oliver was at their 45 with the Jackass closing in fast.

At the 30…

The 25…

At the 15, there was little hope among the Hogs’ fans that Oliver would make the end zone. The Jackass was about a yard behind him and ready to dive in for the takedown.

Oliver sensed the attack right at the time the defender took flight, then, sidestepped to the right and into the end zone as the Jackass plowed an empty field.

The crowd went crazy wild.

Oliver jumped up and down and high-fived his teammates as he chanced to see his daddy at the top of the bleachers fall backward over the rail.

“Daddy!” he shouted and ran off the field with most of the team in tow, but not knowing why. They ran between the cheering cheerleaders, past the concession stand, and into the crowd that began to form around his daddy.

Only five confused Hogs stayed on the field with the Jackasses.

Only those five realized or cared that the game had two seconds left to play.

Not realizing the seriousness of the moment, the referees commenced the game without the full complement of Hogs.

Five Hogs alone unsuccessfully tried the extra point.

Five Hogs alone kicked the ball off to the Jackasses who quickly ran over the Hog resistance and into the end zone to win the game.

The day went down in infamy for the Hogs.

And one that forever changed Oliver’s fate.

Chapter 6 – Oliver and Jake

Weeks passed.

Oliver suffered from a profound depression. He never went back to school to graduate, never went to college.

He sat alone in the kitchen, as he had for a time. Unwashed dishes piled up in the sink next to him. Rouster pecked stale crumbs off the floor around him. Oliver was deeply troubled and worried about what he had to do with all the pigs when he heard Jake’s truck come down the drive.

Well, a Hawkenmiejer had to do what a Hawkenmiejer had to do, no matter how unscrupulous the task. He put the thought aside and went outside to deal with Jake.

He watched him back the trailer into the chute with the same deft precision he always possessed. He watched the silver toe-tipped ostrich skin cowboy boots step out of the cab onto the running board.

Oliver returned the nod as Jake stepped to the ground.

“Howdy Oliver,” said Jake, “Sorry I couldn’t be at your daddy’s funeral, had me a prior engagement. But it’s good to see you boy. Are you making it okay by yourself? Listen, anything old Jake can do for you, you just let me know.”

He offered his hand to Oliver and said, “We’ll just let any hard feelings be bygones, eh?”

Oliver shook his hand with a squeeze that caused Jake no insignificant grimace.

“Woah, that’s some grip you got, son,” he said, massaging his sore hand as he spat a trail of tobacco juice into the hog pen. “Well now, what about those pigs your Daddy arranged for me?”

Although he turned to look Oliver dead in the eye for his reply, Jake never saw it coming.

Oliver’s powerful left jab caught Jake hard, square in the nose, broke it and set a torrent of blood gushing, knocking him hard up against the truck. His legs turned to rubber, and he fell to the ground but retained consciousness.

You see, training with muddy piglets is good for more than just football tough.

“Goddamn! What the hell, boy?” Jake shouted, stunned and rattled. He wobbled terribly as his legs tried to find their feet.

“That was for mama. Now get the hell out of here and don’t ever come back.”

“You’re making a big mistake boy,” warned Jake, stemming the flow of blood with his red bandanna. “Daddy’s insurance ain’t going to last you forever, you sonofabitch. Sooner than later, you’re going to have to sell them hogs. And I’m going to see to it that no one ever buys a Hawkenmiejer hog again.”

“Get,” said Oliver, feigning another punch that had Jake flinch, raising his arms in defense.

“I’ll get, alright. I’ll be stopping by the sheriff’s office to press charges; you can bet your ass.”

With Jake safely in the cab of his truck and the door locked, he raised his middle finger to Oliver as he gunned the truck and let out of the chute throwing a mess of gravel.

Oliver’s depression eased up a bit at that moment.

Fearing any reprisal or revelations forthcoming by Oliver to the sheriff about one particular turtle, Jake never stopped by the authorities, satisfied to leave well enough alone. However, he did go to the hospital to have his nose set. He told the doctor he busted it against the steering wheel when he had to brake hard to avoid running over an opossum. But we all know Jake would never stop for any critter in the way, Doc knew it too.

Jake was right about one thing, probably one thing only. Daddy’s insurance wasn’t going to last forever once he paid off the farm, and Oliver had to do something with the pigs.

One night as he secured their pen, a young sow, Mable came over to him and stood by the gate he had just locked. She had a sparkle in her eyes from the setting sun that somehow reminded him of his mama’s kind and gentle glances.

Mable snorted softly and lightly nudged at the gate with her snout as though she wanted out.

Oliver unlocked and opened the gate.

Mable followed him to the house and on into the kitchen.

A few months passed and not unlike the loyalty of a good-tempered hound, Mable, the pig, was always at Oliver’s side as he went about his daily chores.

Oliver had finally come to terms with his loss and had accepted the reality of what he had to do with the pigs and his life. He had finally “won himself,” as Mama said.

Chapter 7 – Hawkenmiejer Hogs

74 years later, Riser’s piercing cock-a-doodle-doo called Oliver from the bed, and he rose up before the reveille was over. Riser, you may have guessed, is a descendant of Rouster, who by the way lived 21 years, a fair amount of time for any chicken. He died peacefully in his sleep on his roost outside on a warm spring night with a full moon shining overhead. Oliver overslept on that morning, delighted by the extra sleep, but later heartbroken by the knowledge of Rouster’s demise.

He buried him next to the lean-to with full honors and a marker.

This morning, as usual, Oliver was cheerful. He changed from pajamas to bib overalls and walked barefoot to the bathroom to relieve himself. He took a fond liking to indoor plumbing. Nonetheless, you could still find him on warm summer evenings bathing in the pond.

Today, as every day had come to be in Oliver’s simple life, he went about the care of pigs.

Oliver and his business partners were the most successful of any enterprise in the state having to do with hogs, perhaps even the nation. It was a proprietorship established many years ago, jointly owned with his wife, his two sons, three daughters, and their children. All of who lived on or around the original Hawkenmiejer farm.

What started as his daddy’s modest Indiana hog farm was now a sprawling complex that crossed over into the next county, a charitable affair known as Hawkenmiejer Hog & Animal Rescue & Sanctuary.

Today, they’re open for business.

It was 10:00 am and Oliver unlocked the doors.

His granddaughter, Mable, stood by and greeted the many visitors, the children from the orphanage, and those from foster homes who came to heal and spend a pleasant day connecting with the animals, “Good morning beautiful people. Welcome to Hawkenmiejer’s.”


Riser’s piercing cock-a-doodle-doo failed to wake Oliver one early autumn morning.

He was ninety-three.


    1. Wow!! I saw the length of this and thought I’d have to come back later, when I had more time, but I just got sucked in!! Had to read it all. It was very atmospheric and quite engrossing; very moving and thought provoking, very funny in parts too…I liked it. It’s always interesting to craft thoughts and feelings into a fictional form and it can be difficult, I know, I try and fail and try…this works and I liked how you encompassed a whole life in a short piece, connected them,beginning and ending with death and of course the ever present death of the animals throughout, but it didn’t feel rushed or too spare, I got a real feel of the place, the people, the animals. Gave me much to think about, both in terms of form and content.Clever.

      Liked by 2 people

  1. Peter, I’ve taken the liberty of copying all 5,257 words to an MS Word file for later reading, which I shall then delete – is that okay? I simply don’t have time to read this at the PC and tend to avoid viewing lengthy pieces on a screen anyway. It’s good to see you stretching your writing legs though, my friend!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. This is so good I could see the farm, and more, feel the warmth of the sun and smell all the usual smells associated with farms like that. I know nothing of football, but I saw it all regardless and the constant connection back to the pigskin he carried held some strong poignancy throughout. Your characterisation is exceptional Peter. This is without doubt one of the best pieces you have ever written, and the points you were getting across hit the bullseye (so to speak), by being woven so careful into the tale. What a lovely woman Elisabeth was smiles. Good on Oliver too. And to have your reader dislike some characters just as much as you like others is a fine skill. You have that skill. I really enjoyed this immensely. Two excerpts –

    “But these other creatures hold no relevance to this tale so I’ll just let them go their way while we go ours.” – I always like asides like these in stories, they make them so much more personable; a private moment between reader and the author.

    “Despite being an obedient God-fearing woman, an unquestioning wife with an acute awareness and respect for her place in the patriarchy, spoke when spoken to, modest, humble, and submissive, she was still a good woman. ” – nicely done nods smiling

    Congratulations Peter. Look at him run folks! smiles broadly

    esme blown away upon the Cloud

    Liked by 2 people

    1. A thousand and one thanks, esme. Your splendidly encouraging comment here gives strength to an already strong desire to write, to continue with a couple of more stories I’ve started. I’m very pleased you’ve enjoyed it, though I know it quite lengthy for a blog post. I appreciate your endurance.

      Liked by 1 person

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