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When it came to poise, manners, and etiquette, no porker outperformed Mademoiselle Pokechop.

Peggy Pokechop


By --August 30, 2017

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My boyhood best friend and mentor Jaybird always kept a housecat or two, especially master mousers, and was never without a pack of hunting hounds, but above all he preferred the company of an animal that is ranked just below humans in intelligence: the pig.

Over the years Jaybird befriended a slew of swine, including such notables as Hortense Hamhocks, Clarabelle Chitlins, Teresa Tenderloin, and Ophelia Oink, but the pig he loved above all others was Peggy Pokechop.

When it came to poise, manners, and etiquette, no porker outperformed Mademoiselle Pokechop

Often, when we finished a day’s work on my father’s Mississippi Delta farm, Jaybird and I relaxed on his front porch and watched the sun go down over the endless flatness of one of the world’s most fecund alluvial planes. It was Jaybird’s favorite time of day. He would light a cigarette, fill a glass with corn whiskey, and invite Peggy to join us.

Grunting happily, the sow would arise from her favorite lounging spot beneath a shade tree, trot up the steps, nuzzle Jaybird’s hand, and, with all the decorum and grace of a queen, take a seat beside him.

When it came to poise, manners, and etiquette, no porker outperformed Mademoiselle Pokechop. Even though her great beauty caused Jaybird’s boars to engage incessantly in tusk tussles, she ignored the jealous jousts. Reigning as the sty’s most stylish sow, she remained demure, coy, and modestly self-effacing about her drop-dead good looks.

Long, curly lashes swept down over her hazel eyes, the corners of her mouth turned upward in a perpetual grin, her flat pink nose twitched inquisitively, sharp incisors poked downward over her jowls, and when she was in Jaybird’s company, her ears, festooned with bristly hair, rotated, indicating that she was keenly interested in good conversation.

She was also keenly interested in Jaybird’s corn whiskey, and he obliged by sharing a dram or two with her. Over time, he taught her to hold a bowl with her front feet and raise it to her mouth, although he later regretted teaching her this skill because, as evenings progressed and the liquor’s potent punch impaired the pig, she left off sipping and slurped sloppily in a most un-ladylike way.

And, bless her heart, she seemed to possess an infallible ability to understand the English-obliterating vernacular in which Delta folk communicate, a jumbled jargon incomprehensible to non-flatlanders.

Once when Peggy was rooting too close to Jaybird’s beloved rose bushes, I witnessed an amazing example of this ability. He let fly a string of prepositions: “Peggy, you better come on away from up in around behind my bushes.”

Amazingly, the pig stopped rooting immediately, grunted apologetically, and trotted shamefully away.

Although Jaybird loved cracklings, chitterlings, hams, and other porcine products, he never met a live pig he didn’t like.

In my mind’s eye, I can still see the three of us on his front porch — a wise old black man, a white boy he helped to raise and loved like his own son, and a pampered pig that was his favorite pet: Peggy Pokechop.



Jimmy Reed -- Bio and Archives | Comments

Jimmy Reed is an Oxford, Mississippi resident, Ole Miss alumnus, Army veteran, former Mississippi Delta cotton farmer, and retired college teacher. His collection of short stories is available via Squarebooks.com, telephone 662-236-2262.

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