Humid summer mornings
were the worst,
especially when a slight southwesterly breeze,
carried the stench of hundreds of hogs
over the mile of fields to our yard
from the landlord’s farm.
It was a stifling, oppressive, nauseating smell,
odiferous fingers clutching our throats
and putrid fists pummeling our nostrils.
I always wondered how the landlord’s kids
even survived on that farm—
if it smelled so from a mile away,
surely they had to wear gas masks
at ground zero.
I hiked through the corn field one day,
to the woods a half mile away
between our small plot and the landlord’s house
(he owned all this property),
and found there during my walk
at one edge of the woods
a pile of complete pig skeletons,
some large, some small,
maybe ten or twenty total,
all jumbled together
no doubt dumped from a
front end loader,
not even buried,
just plopped there
to rot and decay
and be eaten by buzzards and bugs.
These would be the sick ones,
the injured ones,
culled from the herd
and disposed of unceremoniously,
and certainly with little concern
for hygiene or the environment
or the assault of the offal
on the sensitive nostrils of rural kids.
And I wondered,
do hogs go to heaven?
And, if so, do they stink there, too,
or does God have a way
to keep heaven spotless and
to stop pigs from stinking?
It was a gruesome scene,
but I was used to seeing dead animals
in the wild
(though not usually piles of them),
so it wasn’t particularly upsetting,
and it certainly didn’t stop me
from savoring mom’s
fried pork chops and pan gravy for dinner.