Monday, October 16, 2006

How to Catch a Pig

Henry David Thoreau had lots of experience tracking down and capturing his father's pig, as it periodically escaped from home. In his Journal for August 8, 1856, Thoreau recalled that he
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 the suggestion was not acted on, and the responsibilities of the case all devolved on me, for I could run faster than father.
After a long day of "doubtful progress" pursuing the pig, Thoreau finally cornered it in a barn. Ultimately man and beast returned home "at dark, wet through and supperless, covered with mud and wheel-grease." Reflecting upon his lost afternoon, he wrote of the pig:
I cannot but respect his tactics and his independence. He will be he, and I may be I. He is not unreasonable because he thwarts me, but only the more reasonable. He has a strong will. He stands upon his idea. Is he not superior to man therein?
After having to retrieve the pig again in February 1857, Thoreau jotted down this (still useful) advice on "How to Catch a Pig":
If it is a wild shoat, do not let him get scared; shut up the dogs and keep mischievous boys and men out of the way. Think of some suitable inclosure in the neighborhood, no matter if it be a pretty large field, if it chances to be tightly fenced; and with the aid of another prudent person give the pig all possible opportunities to enter it. Do not go very near him nor appear to be driving him, only let him avoid you, persuade him to prefer that inclosure. If the case is desperate and it is necessary, you may make him think that you wish him to [go] anywhere else but into that field, and he will be pretty sure to go there. Having got him into that inclosure and put up the fence, you can contract it at your leisure. When you have him in your hands, if he is obstinate, do not try to drive him with a rope round one leg. Spare the neighbors' ears and your pig's feelings, and put him into a cart or wheelbarrow. [Journal, February 15, 1857]


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