Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Mr Thoreau tracks a pig

Today's post from The Blog of Henry David Thoreau (Thoreau's Journal: 08-Aug-1856) is rather amusing. Henry had planned to go "a-meditating along the river", but his father's pig escaped from a pen and it was Thoreau the Younger's duty to catch it:
I proposed to father to sell the pig as he was running (somewhere) to a neighbor who had talked of buying him, making a considerable reduction. But my suggestion was not acted on, and the responsibilities of the case all devolved on me, for I could run faster than Father. Father looked to me, and I ceased to look at the river.
I've never tried to catch a pig (it sounds like a joke, doesn't it?) but if they're anything like cattle, the key might be in not meeting their eyes. Seriously. Cattle seem to be scared or challenged by eye contact and will then thwart you at every turn, if they're inclined to. But if you avoid looking at them directly (look to either side with your hat pulled low, say) and direct them using body movements, keeping everything calm and slow, then they'll usually do what you ask. I'm basing this rule on very limited experience, though. And it doesn't hold true for young calves (who are too silly), or the mothers of said calves (who are too fierce), or bulls (who will do anything they damn well please). And maybe it doesn't hold true for pigs either.

But anyway. Mr Thoreau tracks a pig, and though I felt a bit sorry for both of them at one time or another, for most of the story I was barracking for the pig. He was very cool.