The Art of Catching Pigs and Agents

I’ve been MIA for a few reasons. Funk still hanging on, but it is finally on its way. Doctor’s appointments every morning except today for the last two weeks. Finally, most of the gnomies entered the critique workshop. One page overview and first ten pages were all that was required. Who thought it would be that hard.

We decided to post them and try to critique each other in an effort to improve them as much as possible. Most of ours needed a lot more work than we thought. Overviews are hard. Beth added a new opening to her story. I added some new things to mine. Others changed or added things. It was a flurry of writing activity, but I think we did all right.

At the end of the day, it’s a workshop, not a query session. Hopefully, we have some good foundations to work with.

Now, it’s back to work on Paladin.

Beth said in her critique, “Voice, voice, voice. When it’s on, it’s magic.”

The problem is, the story didn’t work. I had condensed a story that was even longer than 165,000 words and tried to keep all the threads that start at the beginning. That meant many of them simply chopped off with no resolution. I had to go back and completely hack plot lines, characters, scenes, and threads. I’ve got it down to a much more focused line now and that’ a good thing.

Now, I have to pull a Sherlock and search for the voice and weave it back in. Then I have to bring the rest of it up to the same standard. It ain’t easy being a writer. Luckily, I have good friends. Excellent writers who aren’t afraid to tell you the hard truths and I am very bullheaded so I keep working.

I admit, it’s hard to let go of scenes you worked so hard to get. It’s dang hard.

It reminds me of a story my step-dad told once.

He and his little brother Willie decided to catch a piglet. Let’s face it, baby pigs are cute and cuddly. The problem with baby pigs is they usually come with mama pigs and mama pigs tend to be fairly protective. Baby pigs know all they have to do to bring Mama running is squeal at the top of their lungs.

I can attest to this. We had a sow named Sally who had her litter, but kept lying on them and killing them. Bud, my step-dad told my brother Gary and I to get get the last three surviving babies and we would bottle raise them.

I’m not really sure there is a good strategy for stealing pigs from a sow. I know we didn’t have one. Sally was in a stall in the barn. The stall was built of heavy cedar posts with 2×12 planks nailed to the posts. In other words, it was built to withstand just about anything. We didn’t want to open the gate and take a chance of letting Sally out and then having to put that mean sow back up. Sally, by the way, weighed 900 pounds when we butchered her.

Since I was older Gary sometimes listened to me. Since I had been born without a proper sense of fear and self-preservation, he was usually happy to listen to me. I did the stupid stuff and he just did the clean up.

“All right. Get up on the wall and try to distract her. I’ll grab a pig and get it out of the stall. After I get it out, you hurry and put it in the gunny sack.”

It worked for him.

Gary’s idea of distracting the sow was screaming bloody murder when the sow made a move toward him. I grabbed a pig and ran like the wind and bailed over the top rail of the stall which was taller than I was. God help me if I got a foot caught between the rails as I was scrambling out. Pigs have some pretty wicked tusks and they can do serious damage.

We had one out, but there were two left and Sally was on the hook.

I poured some oats into her trough to settle her down. If there’s one thing Sally loved more than being mean, it was eating. When we had her out with the other pigs, after she got her fill, she turned around and peed on the remaining oats. No one really liked her in the piggy community except the boar and that proves males will overlook just about anything to respond to the mating call. I don’t think he ever called her the next morning, though.

The oats distracted Sally long enough for me to grab another pig. I told Gary to come get it so I could get the last one. He, by this time, was standing on top of the top rail clinging to the post for dear life and refused to enter the pen.

The squealing piglet squirmed away from me and I had to make another escape run.

This wasn’t working so well, but me, being hard-headed and not giving up easily, came up with a new plan. I stuffed my vest into my pants and cinched my belt up as tight as I could get it.

“Gary, try to rope her.”

Anyone who has been around pigs knows they are not easy to rope and Gary wasn’t a good roper anyway, but I figured just having a rope hitting her would distract her. It did briefly cross my mind that with our luck he might rope Sally and she would jerk him into the pen. Of course, if that happened, I could probably grab the pigs fairly easily while she was camping on my brother.

Sounds like a plan to me.

Gary half-heartedly tossed the catch rope at her. No chance of Sally getting roped, but it did distract her. I grabbed one pig and crammed it in my vest and then got the other one and crammed him in the vest, too. Sally was distracted enough by Gary’s screaming as she tried to crawl the fence to get to him that I made a clean getaway.

I stuffed the other two in the gunny sack and ran to the house.

Mission accomplished.

Gary and Sally were still in the barn screaming and squealing, but I figured Gary had enough sense to jump off the stall and run.

“Where’s your brother?”

I looked at Mom. I’m supposed to be my brother’s keeper, too? You sent me to get the pigs. I got the pigs. Where’s my “good job?”

I trudged back out to the barn to tell Gary to come in out of the rain. Hmmm. What’s that I hear. Board’s cracking? Gary is hitting poor Sally with boards? They were both still screaming and squealing so that was a good sign.

Chunks of wood were flying when I opened the barn door. Gary was still standing on the top rail, clinging to the cedar post for dear life. Sally had given up trying to crawl up after him and was now eating her way out of the stall. You know, the one built to withstand anything, including mad bulls.

She had eaten through the bottom one enough and pushed against it until it broke. Being rather large, she still couldn’t get out, so she started on the second board. It was like a scene from LOST WORLD where the raptors were trying to dig into the building.

I peeled Gary off the post, shoved him out of the barn and closed the door.

Needless to say, the barn was pretty much a shambles when we turned Sally out. Not only did we have fencing duties, we now had stall-building duties. The joys of ranch life. Luckily, she couldn’t reach the saddles to eat them or I would still be grounded.

So, what does this have to do with Bud and Willie? Now that you know how sows can be, you can appreciate this story.

Bud and Willie managed to catch a little porker and he was, as little porker are wont to do, squealing his head off. They ran to the old horse-drawn hay wagon that was in the yard and jumped up in it to get away from the sow.

Grandma Robinson was a short chunky lady who always wore a house dress, apron and sensible shoes. She came outside the house to see what was happening and got too close to the wagon. The irate sow started chasing her. So here goes Grandma racing around the wagon flapping her apron and yelling, “shoo” at the sow who probably couldn’t see her flapping apron and shoo wasn’t registering about the squealing piglet. Somehow or another, Grandma managed to make several laps around the wagon without getting caught.

She changed her “shoo” shouts to, “Put that pig down!”

The boys refused since it was a lot of hard work to catch the pig and they weren’t about to let go.

“No, you crawl up in the wagon with us.”

The cavalry rescued poor Grandma when Grandpa rode up from checking cows and did rope the sow. He was a pretty fair cowboy. He made the boys let the piglet go, much to their dismay. They later got a whipping for not minding their mother, much to their greater dismay.

Now, obviously, if you haven’t caught piglets the old-fashioned way, you don’t know what a thrill this can be. It takes a certain amount of courage, some skill and a great deal of luck. When you catch that pig, you really don’t want to let him go. You worked danged hard for that squealing bundle of joy.

It’s kind of like writing. You finish your squealing masterpiece and Grandma Agent comes out and tells you to let it go. There are parts of the masterpiece you can keep, but those squealing pieces with too many words, adjectives, adverbs, thats and wases need to go.

But you love the squeal. That’s what makes it so much fun and you worked so hard to get it.

So, while Grandma Agent is running around the wagon with demanding publisher on her heels, you continue to hang on to the squealer. If Grandma Agent would just get up on the wagon with you, she would agree the squeal is nice.

It’s time to face the hard, cold truth. Grandma Agent isn’t getting up on the wagon with you and demanding publisher isn’t going to quit until you let the squeal go.


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