Mud Angel or worse

I come from a long line of smart-asses which sometimes is a less-than-handy trait.

That year we couldn’t catch a break in the late fall weather. On a rotating basis, we’d had freezing fog, snow and rain for a couple of weeks straight. Our hog pens were a mess; there was nothing we could do about it.

We were trying to move a pregnant sow out of the main herd to her own private birthing quarters in a straw-filled hut. Better weather wasn’t happening. Finally, with the hog’s biological clock approaching the ‘get it done’ day, we made the move.

There was a foot of mud in the hog pens. Any afternoon stroll by a pig resulted in deep, vulgar sucking sounds made by her hooves. For us, any quick movement was out of the question; we wouldn’t find our mud boots until spring.

It took some work to open the half-buried gate between pens. To our vast relief, the groaning and ‘ready-to-get-it-over-with’ sow understood we were helping and hurried into her new home.

I was busy keeping the other curious sows occupied while my wife was closing the gate between pens. Making my way in a slow-motion ballet through the chilled mud and out of the pen, I heard my wife holler.

“%$#@&*%$#!!” she said, in tones that blistered the backside of our barn cats.

I’ve learned over the years that anyone who cusses with vigor probably isn’t seriously injured. So, I slogged across the pen to assess my wife’s damage.

When I arrived, my wife explained that she’d had her feet firmly planted in the stiffening mud and was removing a temporary metal fence post by rocking her upper body back and forth.

However, neither of us knew the post had been partially broken.

It snapped off in her hand just as she leaned backwards. With nothing to grab, she flailed at the stubby metal post frantically to regain her balance and keep from landing flat on her back in the gooey hog mud.

Adrenaline still coursing through her system, I waded around the corner into view and found her slinging the broken metal T-post around like an orchestra conductor’s baton.

I made sure that I stayed out of her reach, but I couldn’t keep my smart aleck mouth under control: “If you’d have fallen on your back, would you have made a mud angel like kids do in the snow?”

That may not have been my most shining moment in marital relationships. Then, I compounded my error:

“If you’d fallen on your back in this muck,” I observed cleverly, “when you rolled onto your hands and knees to get up, you’d have looked like a hog-mud corn dog.”

Then I dug myself deeper—I chuckled.

To my wife’s credit, she helped me make sure the hogs stayed in their proper spot that night before she explained, at high volume, that my smart-ass genetics aren’t my best feature.

It turns out that I didn’t need the assistance of a doctor to help me remove my foot from my mouth. I was able to make the extraction myself with the visual aid of a broken metal fence post pointed in my direction.

We had a quiet dinner that night.

Bing Bingham is a writer, rancher and storyteller. He went out the next morning and found a brand-new healthy litter of piglets in the barnyard. If you’d like to read further tales of the rural American West, visit

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