YOU don't encounter pigs at any casual turn in a dirt road nowadays, and that has its disadvantages. Certainly with neighborhoods crowding each other and sanitary laws being what they are, the disappearance of the small farm pigsty may be unlamented. But those of us who have fairly long memories suspect that today's youngsters are being somewhat cheated. A full childhood ought to include at least nodding acquaintance with some domestic animals, such as goats and pigs. Imagine a boy heading toward kindergarten who has never yet seen a real live pig.
At this stage of development stood my young friend, Victor. He could recognize a pig readily enough in a picture book. He could even oink like one, and stay inside the lines while crayoning one pink - from turned-up snout to beribboned, corkscrew tail. But the flesh and blood dimensions of a pig had been denied him. I, who still frequently look after this representative of the Sesame Street generation, decided to properly introduce a pig to Victor.
Almost a quarter of a century back his mother (also a day-visitor) and I had discovered Mrs. Samoska's pig. There was sufficient land surrounding her farmhouse at the end of our unpaved road, and plenty of space to afford a pig without offending.
``Pigs is pigs,'' of course, and swine have seldom been considered lovable - but they do have character. This ``Whitey'' was an enormous, dirty, loutish, disagreeable old thing, whose every non-virtue made him only more interesting. Especially to Toni, who became Victor's mother.
The pig was decidedly unfriendly, turning his back on us and wallowing deeper in the malodorous mud bath of the sty while grunting delightfully. ``He's talking'' Toni said. ``He's saying `I like you.''' (Victor was all ears while I recounted the tale.)
Whitey, I went on, was unimpressed with our visit. When he did eventually stir and rise amid more weird noises, Toni could barely contain her excitement. But she held her ground outside the rails, only reaching for my hand as he approached, sure that I would defend her against the fiercest Fee-fi-fo-fum ogre in the universe. Her eyes widened but did not blink as the muddy creature lumbered toward us....
Victor was respectfully silent while I reminisced, trying to imagine his mother as a small, pigtailed girl preceding us along the same route we were presently following.
We went back down the dirt road (still there under new paving), continuing our discussion about Mrs. Samoska's pig. I wondered if she still kept one in her back lot. Zoning hadn't touched her farm - something about a ``grandfather clause.'' If things hadn't changed too much we might just be in for another taste of ``total involvement.''
We found the farm. The old remembered path that skirted the house along the east side still beckoned, narrower than I'd thought it, but still recognizable. And yes, at the far end of the lot, sure enough, there was the weathered sty and - could it be possible? - a white pig tenant. We scrunched under the last fence and closed in.
History repeated itself surely as I recalled witnessing Toni's pleasure in that bygone adventure. Victor's warm hand in mine was a present blessing. He studied the pig, then declared: ``He's dirty, Gocky, just like the one Mama saw. And he smells - awesome.''
``He does smell a bit, when the wind blows our way,'' I agreed. ``But that's how it is. Pigs enjoy wallowing in cool mud as much as we do bubble baths. And maybe they don't care for our fragrance, either.''
He laughed, standing foursquare as the animal creaked upright, lurching toward us for the handout-apple I'd picked up along the way. ``You're right,'' Victor soberly acknowledged, as the latter-day Whitey grunted satisfaction. ``He's saying `I like you' just like that pig did to my mother.'' Then he walked all around the pen, studying the subject from every angle.
But the pig per se was no longer a cute, pink nursery toy depicting Porky - or the pig ``Tom, Tom the baker's son'' ran off with. Nor the ``pig with a ring in his nose.'' (Dear Pig, are you willing, to sell for a shilling?) And not a ceramic bank with a slotted back to accept coins. Victor's pig had coarse bristles, squinty eyes, and floppy or pointed ears, depending on his mood. His tail was as dirty as his feet, and he drooled disgustingly. The contrast was pronounced.
``He's a very intrus-ing animal, just the same. Don't you think, Gocky?'' he ventured.
``Decidedly,'' I agreed. The wind sharpened. Victor walked backwards away from the pig, still holding fast to my hand. ``Winter's coming, but next year we'll be back again,'' I promised, aware of Mrs. Samoska's smokehouse in the distance. ``Another year, another porker. That's how it is.''