Pete Ross was driving through the countryside from Austin to Marble Falls. The well-worn two-lane farm roads with their cracks and chuckholes patched and re-patched with streaks and globs of thick black tar reflected memories of his youth. It was quiet, peaceful and smelled like weeds, flowers, wet ground and cow flop. But this serene setting skidded to an abrupt halt when a back tire on Pete's pick-up blew out and he was forced to pull off the road. Pete coasted over to a clump of oak trees shading a redwood picnic table and a rusty litter barrel plastered with bumper stickers warning: Don’t mess with Texas.
A master procrastinator, Pete had put off buying new tires for obviously too long. Three of the tires still had the faint remnants of a tread-like pattern but the fourth was bald as an egg and almost as thin. After a loud pop and a short wheezing death rattle, the tire had disintegrated. But being a man who routinely pushed his luck too far, Pete wasn’t that upset about a flat tire. He was in no hurry. It was Sunday afternoon and Pete was on his way to Marble Falls to check out his brother Ray’s new Bar-B-Q joint, “Fat Melba’s Smokehouse & Pie Shop.” The place was named after their late, great, enormous aunt Melba Hausteader from New Dime Box. But Pete and Ray both knew that if their dear aunt hadn’t been deceased for a couple of years now, Ray would never have gotten away with calling the place “Fat Melba’s”. Their aunt had always been sensitive about her girth.
The day was cool, the sky bright with puffs of cotton ball clouds, the rolling green hills scattered with tall oak trees. Behind rusty barbed-wire fences a veritable petting zoo of domesticated farm animals roamed the fields. This blissful serenity lasted just long enough for Pete to discover there was no jack and no spare tire in the truck.
“Son of a bitch! .... Stuck out here in the middle of Bum-Fuck-Nowhere for Crissake!” Pete reasoned that sooner or later someone was bound to come along. But then what? He would spend the rest of the day hitching rides, finding a tire then hitting his brother up for a ride back. It was either that or spend a lot of money on a tow truck. Pete started walking, heading out in the direction of Marble Falls when he heard a car coming up behind him.
Mr. Frank Seaford beeped the horn as he pulled his car off the road and stopped under the trees next to Pete’s defunct truck. This guy just came out of nowhere, Pete thought. He watched Mr. Seaford climb out of his immaculate white 1980 Oldsmobile four-door sedan with wire wheels and Playboy Bunny mud flaps.
“Man, am I glad to see you!” Pete gushed.
“How-ya-do’n?” Said Frank. Frank Seaford was a short, portly gentleman in his late 40’s or so with a round pink face and a sunburnt bald-head. A strip of short orange hair still managed to grow just above his ears and around the back of his neck. He reached back in the car and grabbed a worn, sweat stained straw hat off the dashboard and plopped it on his head. Standing there in his work boots and faded overalls, the straw hat shading his unguarded face, you just couldn’t picture a friendlier soul than Mr. Frank Seaford. “What’s the problem, son?” Frank truly wanted to know. Right away, after a quick introduction and a firm handshake, Pete got down to humbly relating to Frank his sad and pathetic predicament as they walked over to examine Pete’s truck.
Pete was coming to his favorite part of the story where he explained about having every intention of buying a new set of tires just as soon as he could get around to it, when he happened to look over at Frank’s car. The door on the driver’s side was open and Pete's first impression was how the interior of this 1980 Olds was just as clean and in mint condition as the rest of the car. And except for the clear plastic seat covers over the luxurious leather upholstery and the two-hundred-pound pig sitting in the front seat on the passenger side, that car could easily have just rolled off the factory showroom floor.
“Excuse me, Mr. Seaford.” Pete said with the sincerest respect, interrupting his own story.
"Call me Frank."
“Excuse me, Frank … but there's a pig in your car.” Mr. Seaford stiffened, holding Pete’s eyes in a cold stare.
“Son, I’m gonna have to ask you not to speak that way about my wife.” He said solemnly then burst out laughing while he hopped around, doing a little jig....The Frank Seaford Pig Jig. Pete chuckled and smiled and nodded his head, figuring Frank probably pulled that same joke every time he got the chance. Frank’s laughter soon turned into a violent coughing fit and it took him a couple of minutes to calm down and get his breath. Still giggling to himself, Frank reached into a deep pocket in his overalls, pulled out a handful of dried corn and threw it down on the ground.
“Come on out here, Lard Ass.” He said and the pig slowly climbed down out of the car and began snorting and rooting around, eating the corn. The pig was named Lard Ass and Lard Ass had a wooden leg. Its right hind leg was gone and in its place was a thick piece of wood carved from a tree limb and attached to a leather cup. The cup was attached to the pig by a series of leather straps and buckles. “His full name’s Long John Lard Ass but we just call him Lard Ass for short.” Frank added affectionately.
Pete Ross forgot all about his truck and his tires and his own personal tale of woe. He forgot about his brother Ray and his fat aunt Melba's smoked pies or whatever.... And instead, focused on hearing the full story of Frank Seaford’s peg-legged pig. Frank pulled out a fresh half pint of whiskey from another pocket in his overalls, broke the seal and the two men sat at the picnic table under the trees and had themselves a drink.
“Well, that is no ordinary pig, Mr. Ross.” Frank began after a couple of pulls on the bottle.
"Call me Pete."
“Nossir, Pete. That pig is a genius. Or about as close as a pig can get, I guess. Found that out the night my house caught fire.” Frank lived just a few miles away on a small farm, in a house that he and his father had built out of scrap lumber. About six months ago, on the night of the fire, Frank and his wife Pauline were in bed asleep. Their little granddaughter, Donna Pearl, was sleeping in the next room and Lard Ass was downstairs on the sofa, watching some deranged Pentecostal preacher on TV demonstrating how to beg for money and work those abdominal muscles all at the same time. Frank and Pauline knew that the pig liked to watch television, especially late at night. They were never sure whether he fully understood what he was watching. “But hey, how smart do you have to be to watch TV?” Frank always said. The pig liked to watch it, so they let him ... as long as he kept the sound down. “The next thing I know, that pig wakes me up gruntin' and snortin'. He's got hold of my pajamas with his teeth, pullin' me out-a my bed. The whole damn house is full up with smoke!”
According to Frank, the pig then ran into the next room and woke up little Donna Pearl, guided all three of them through the thick smoke, down the stairs, through the flaming living room and out into the front yard to safety. “Then he runs back in the house, gets my wife’s purse and brings it out so she can call the fire department on her phone. Hell, I'm surprised he didn't dial the number!” Frank Seaford sucked in a deep breath, filled his cheeks with air then let it all out in one long, dramatic sigh. He took another sip of whiskey and passed the bottle. Telling this story was exhausting and it seemed to get longer and more exiting each time. Pete Ross just sat there stupefied....What a story.
“The pig went back for the cell phone.” Pete said blankly. “Absolutely!” Frank said, slapping his palms down on the table, jolting Pete out of his stupor. “You don’t believe me?”
“No, it’s not that.” Pete explained. “I mean, yeah, I believe you. It’s just so …”
Pete took another drink. He now looked at this remarkable spotted, peg-legged pig with a newfound sense of awe and admiration as it waddled over to Frank, nuzzled up against him and gave out a little snort. Frank reached down and patted the plucky swine on what was left of its rump. The two men sat there in silence until Pete started to wonder if possibly he’d missed something. This can’t be the end of the story, he thought. He’d waited patiently for Frank to eventually get around to answering the most obvious question of all.
“So, what happened to his leg, Frank?” Pete asked.
“Huh?” Frank was getting a little drunk.
“The leg! What happened to the pig's leg?” Pete was getting a little impatient.
“Oh, that.” Frank said, smiling with a warm whiskey glow as he scratched the pig behind the ears. “Well, when you got a pig that smart, you don’t wanna eat him all at once. Ain’t that right, Lard Ass?”
George Rains © 2017
George Rains, has has played drums with Willie Nelson, Jimmy Vaughan, Doug Sahm, Boz Scaggs and many others. He's famous for his Texas Shuffle.