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Cage McNatt's Prize Sow from "Tales of a Texas Boy"

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I've heard of men gettin’ all fired up about their horses. I’d even heard of a man who had a steer he took with him duck huntin’. But, I still can’t understand how Cage McNatt was so taken with a pig. After all, a pig generally ends up bein’ ham and pork chops, but Cage McNatt was mighty fond of his sow. He even named her, which is unusual right there. He called her Petunia, which I thought was a darned silly name for anything, even a pig.

I suppose there was some sense as to why he was so taken with her. He did win every year at the county fair. She was a beauty, no doubt about that. I just thought Mr. McNatt went a little far, especially the time Fred Luck entered his sow, too.

As was usual durin’ the Deaf Smith County Fair, my Pa’s friend Dad Boles showed up to sell bobcat skins and to pit his tame bear Sophie against the local dogs. This is also when the carnival comes to town, so it was just about the high point of my year.

Now, when I said Dad Boles bear was put up against the dogs, it weren’t done mean-like. It weren’t no bear baitin’. He’d just tie up Sophie to a post and the dogs were let loose to come at her. She’d usually just give ‘em a good slap on the muzzle and they’d give up real quick.

But, this story is about Cage McNatt’s pig. Both the McNatt and the Luck pigs were entered in the fair and it was pretty clear to everybody these were the only contenders for the blue ribbon. The rest of the sows were fine, but didn’t come up to these two. They weighed close to the same. I heard three hundred fifty pounds or thereabouts. Petunia was all black and the Luck sow, which was named Whitey, was white. I thought Petunia looked smaller, but I suppose that might’ve been her color.

Pa let me camp with Dad Boles for a day or two as it was fifteen miles from our farm to Hereford and I liked to go to the fair on more than one day. Dad Boles didn’t seem to mind my company. He told me a few stories about his trapping business and about his time in France with Pa during the World War.

Each evening, when the fair was over, Dad would untie Sophie from her post and let her sit closer to the fire. One night, after things calmed down, Dad Boles and I were sittin’ by the fire with Sophie right next to us. Dad Boles was in the middle of a story about trappin’ when we heard something crashin’ around inside the fairgrounds. Dad decided to go check what was goin’ on, and I followed along since he didn’t say to stay put. We went into the fairgrounds to see what was up. The moon was full so we could see well enough.

A man was goin’ toward the fairgrounds’ front gate and it looked like he was pullin’ a big dog along behind him. When I heard the squeal, though, I realized it wasn’t a dog, but a pig. I could also see the pig was white, so I knew right off it was the Luck’s sow. The trouble was that the man was Cage McNatt and not one of the Luck brothers.

Well, you might already have guessed what was goin’ on. Cage McNatt was stealin’ Whitey, or at least he was tryin’ to. The problem was Whitey was bigger than Mr. McNatt and she wasn’t of a mind to go along quiet. She was doin’ her best to pull away from the rope. She was shakin’ her head back and forth and kept up squealin’ the whole time. That was about the unhappiest pig I ever saw.

Then, she spotted the open gate. She quit squealin’, snorted a couple of times, and all of a sudden she was doin’ the pullin’ and Cage McNatt was runnin’ behind her tryin’ to keep up. She was makin’ a beeline for the gate where we just happened to be standin’. I figured we’d better just step out of the way. Bein’ run down by three hundred fifty pounds of hog flesh was not an idea I cottoned to.

What I didn’t realize, and Whitey didn’t either, was Sophie followed us through the gate. She, meanin’ Whitey, got about twenty feet from us when she looked up and saw a bear standin’ in the way of her freedom. She stopped short and Cage McNatt ran right by her as he had such a head of steam goin’. When he reached the end of the rope, it came right out of his hand. I could see her sittin’ down on her haunches and starin’ at Sophie like she was wonderin’ exactly what it was she was seein’. All she knew is it was a big, hairy critter and probably smelled pretty bad, too.

The sow made up her mind. She whipped around like she was a cuttin’ horse and headed in the opposite direction. I think Sophie was gettin’ curious about this activity, so she went along after the pig. We took out runnin’ as well. Dad Boles didn’t want to risk Sophie harmin’ any livestock, so he was in a big hurry to catch up with her.

I was runnin’ right behind Dad Boles and I heard Cage McNatt’s footsteps right behind me.

The sow headed straight for the Ferris Wheel. I could see one of the cars was at the bottom and it was open. I think you’ve guessed what came next. The pig jumped up into the car and it shuddered like it was hit by a tornado. The gate on the car slammed shut and the pig was jumpin’ around and the car was rockin’ somethin’ furious.

Sophie followed on up the ramp to get to the pig. I don’t think she meant any harm, but was just curious. Sophie went to one side of the ramp then to the other lookin’ for an opening to the car. As she stepped to the right, she pushed up against the lever that ran the wheel. The Ferris Wheel started up and the pig was bein’ hoisted up along with it. That seemed to baffle Sophie, so she just stepped off the ramp and walked calm as you please back to Dad Boles.

All three of us stood and watched the car go up with the pig in it squealin’ like she was bein’ introduced to the slaughterhouse.

Dad came to his senses first and ran up the ramp. He hit the lever and the wheel stopped with the pig’s car about halfway up. Now, he wasn’t sure what to do as it seemed the only way to get the pig back down would be to start the wheel back up. I think he felt sorry for the pig as it was cryin’ like a baby and was clearly real scared to be up so high.

By this time, the carnival folks had come out of their trailers to see what was goin’ on. The head man ran over to the wheel and started it back up again. He’d already seen the only way to get the pig down was to run her clear round the circle ‘til the car come to earth again. Unlike Dad Boles, he didn’t mind givin’ the pig the rest of the ride.

The sow made the trip safe enough. When the car reached the bottom, the carnival man opened the gate and she took off like a streak of lightnin’. Dad Boles started laughin’ so hard he could hardly stand up. In between his guffawin’, Dad Boles couldn’t help but say, “Well, I never figured I’d ever really see a pig fly.”

Well, the end of the story was the judges made Cage McNatt take Petunia out of the competition. The Luck brother’s sow, Whitey, won the blue ribbon and a few lesser sows took the other ribbons. It did make for one of the most interestin’ fairs and every year after somebody always told the story of the time Cage McNatt made a pig fly.


his story and many others are from "Tales of a Texas Boy." The stories range from downright true to almost-true tall tales. All are from my father's experiences growing up in West Texas in the Depression Era. The book is available free in the Kindle Unlimited program at https://www.amazon.com/dp/B001E3A0RU. Every story is photo-illustrated. Many of the photos are from my family album. Others I got on-line from Texas historical sources. If you want another format, I'm happy to provide any ebook type free through Smashwords


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