Now That’s What I Call Free Range

I nudge Jeff and utter a question to him that I would like him to translate into Spanish and ask his host family. He looks at me like I’m mental, asks if I’m serious, and then does as I request when he realizes that I really want to know.

“Um, how can you tell whose pig is whose?” Jeff asks.

His host family looks confused for a moment, but their expressions turn to understanding as I gesture out the open front door at a huge pig waddling down the street, sniffing and snuffling around. It’s not the first I’ve seen. In fact, I’ve seen more pigs—big mama pigs, whopper hogs, and tiny piglets—than I can keep track of, and for the most part they’ve all been wandering freely—not penned into a field or yard, not tied to a post, not watched over by anyone. And it’s not just pigs I’ve seen in such a state; it’s also cows, bulls, chickens, and a few horses. They graze on the side of the road, and share the street with motorbikes, bicycles, pedestrians, buses, and private autos. You’d be wise to watch where you step since they don’t just graze, but also do their other business wherever they feel like it.

This ultimate in free ranging is a testament to the sense of community here in Nicaragua. Nobody is worried that their neighbor is going to steal their livestock or do it any harm. It’s also about the power of home. Apparently no matter where the pigs, cows, and chickens roam during they day, they all come home to sleep. And that, my friends, is how you know whose pig is whose. It’s the one that sleeps in your backyard when the sun goes down.

11 Replies to “Now That’s What I Call Free Range”

  1. I found myself cracking up laughing as I read this post. You gave quite a vivid description of your current surroundings. I can just see the expression on Jeff’s face when you asked him to find out the answer to your question. Of course he should not be surprised by this after 3 years of marriage. I think it was a great question and I was very curious as to what the answer would be. They must have some really smart animals in Nicaragua.

  2. Theresa, have I told you lately that I think you’re a great writer? Although I know you dislike him, you have that Garrison Keillor ability to invoke big truths with clear writing and simple stories. And I like that kind of writing best. Hope you and Jeff are well! Adios, amiga!

  3. Now that’s what I call a great, funny post — thanks for the laughs, Theresa. As for where the pigs sleep, I remember at least one student from Bainbridge talking about the family’s pig sleeping under his bed at night.

  4. LOL…..

    I have a bunch of Mexican relatives and once had to ask the same question about all the children….who also roamed freely and appeared to belong to no one. LOL.

    Glad you asked the question : )

  5. You’ll end up noticing this all around the world. When Jack and I were in Cambodia, we saw a man biking down the street with a pig strapped down on the back in a loosely woven straw basket. We knew where it was going as it squealed away. And in Tonga, the pigs actually go out fishing every morning and eat the fish and shrimp in the ocean. We also learned they know their owners and can be called by name. I guess lots of people are “hog callers” and there really is reason for the competitions at state fairs. Smart, terribly smart.

  6. Great post. Pigs are strange animals. I use to have one that would let itself out of its pen, and knock on my cabin door with its snout when hungry.

    The village you’re visiting sound like a really neat place.

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