Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Dining Spectacular at The Tusk and Bristle

So, little did I realize while Carol Eiswald, owners of The Tusk and Bristle Pig Sanctuary, was showing us their animals last Sunday that her husband had another treat awaiting us.
Up to this point I thought our visit couldn’t possibly get any more entertaining, what with Suzy the warthog nuzzling me with her soft nose and with the beardies snouting in on everything. Just when I thought I had experienced the best of the best, the Eiswalds put a bigger, grander maneuver into action.
I must say: both Edgar and I were stricken still as moss by the sight.
Before even Edgar or I could hear the droning of an ATV hauling a mini-manure spreader-like contraption behind it, the pigs heard it and recognized it immediately as their ticket to food heaven. That’s right. Though the Eiswalds have a couple of ATV’s, the pigs know the sound of the particular one that delivers their afternoon produce from the local grocery stores.

Four days a week Jim makes produce runs to four different large chain grocery stores. Sometimes he’s driving in two-foot drifts; other times he’s racing to pick up the next load of donated produce before it wilts and begins rotting in the summer’s heat. Either way, the round trip turns out to be 75 miles. But when he rolls into the driveway, most of the pigs sense he is carrying a load of goodies. After the Eiswalds go through the produce to make sure no plastic or other inedible material is amongst the food, they load it into buckets, taking a couple of bucketsful and dumping the produce into the ATV’s spreader. Then, Jim climbs into the ATV and enters the pens.
And the pigs begin to assemble like church-goers on their way to communion.

Edgar and I stood transfixed as Jim shouted from his ATV, “Here we go! Watch them come and get it!”
It was a show unmatched by any in Las Vegas. Before Jim came with the produce wagon, we had been standing in the middle of a several-acre pen. Suzy and the beardies were snuffling the ground, and a few pot-bellies were hanging around the area. But when Jim shouted for us to watch, it was only a few seconds before we witnessed the showstopper.
One by one a pig came into view: one from behind a tree stump, another from behind a bush, a few stepping from a Quonset hut. Taking it all in, my head was spinning like Linda Blair’s from The Exorcist. To my right marched Miranda, a huge white Yorkshire pig, and at her side high-stepped a medium-sized pot-belly pig. Farther in the distance I could make out other pigs, some with long snouts, other bristly, red-haired things, strolling toward us. To the left came another group of pot-bellies, and among them a spotted, long-haired, wattle-throated Kune-Kune, said to be the kindest miniature pig alive. I whipped around, hearing footsteps behind me, and a large black farm pig named Bohdan trotted past, eager to claim his head of lettuce or, better yet, a banana.
As nearly a hundred pigs gathered, they all headed, noses pointed into the wind, toward the ATV and its wagon spewing goodies. No fighting over competition for food ensued. There was no squabbling, bickering in pig language something like, “Get away! The apples are mine. YOU EAT THE CAULIFLOWER!” These pigs had table manners far nicer and cleaner than many humans I’ve seen eating, including myself.
For the umpteenth time that day, my hands flew to my mouth. “Look at them all!” I gasped.
“Holy cow!” Edgar said, his mouth gaping. “I never saw anything like it!”
I couldn’t help thinking about how different this pig feeding was from people feeding, say, at the local restaurant. Sometimes, when we eat out, I can hardly hear myself think, let alone carry on a decent conversation with my company. People are laughing, talking loud to each other; they’re yelling into their cell phones; kids are screaming, demanding attention; music is competing in the background; and plates and dishes are clanking; all is noise and chaos when humans gather to eat.
Not so with these pigs. I was amazed at how orderly they lined up across from each other at the line of food dropped onto the ground. I was awe-stricken at the quiet, except for the contented grunting from the farm pigs as they chose which of the produce to taste. Ordinarily, I would have expected complete confusion and battling among creatures usually thought inferior to us humans. But these pigs exhibited manners only taught by the likes of Henry Higgins. Miss Vanderbilt, herself, couldn’t have done a better job though, I must admit, the pigs had no tables upon which to put their elbows.
Time after time Jim hurried back to the barn to load up another batch of goodies, and time after time we watched in awe.
Such a complete mix of animals eating alongside each other was enough to make me think about how careful most humans are about the company they choose. But the pigs knew no discrimination. Queuing up to the “plates” were pigs huge, and alongside them were mini pot-bellies. The Russian wild boars and Eurasian boars and red boars gathered amongst the farm pigs and the Kune-Kunes. What a delight to witness.
It just wasn’t fair, I reasoned, after the pigs had eaten the last of the bananas. Some were even walking away with sweet red peppers in their mouths. It just wasn’t fair that I could only witness this once in my life, yet the Eiswalds could enjoy the spectacle every day of the week.
No—it just wasn’t fair, I decided as a pig walked past me with half a cantaloupe in his mouth. I smiled and gave Carol thumbs up--in stereo.


  1. What a beautiful bunch of pigs! and some of them are so tall!

  2. I can tell by your words that you have been changed for life too, by this remarkable pig-event. If you consider yourself one of the few and privileged, you know well what I have for many years. ;8)

  3. What a beautiful story you have written. Yes, they are magnificent children. Such wonderful animals great and small. This is truely hogg heaven. Yes, "All Pigs Have Wings"

  4. I too have witnessed this magical spectacle at The Tusk and Bristle! It truly was one of the best weekends of my life.
    Sherry Forthepigs