"Schlaraffenland", the German Arcadia.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Oatmeal and Shantalope

Two winters ago we rented a house with friends on the tiny Caribbean island of Cayman Brac. Choosing a rental house always involves weighing a number of factors including price, location and amenities. But for us there is also a fourth factor: livestock. Not every house we have rented has had livestock and in fact some of the very nicest ones have not, but we still gravitate to the listings that include barnyard animals.

We all agreed that the house on Cayman Brac scored very high on price, location and amenities and, moreover, it had chickens and a pig - a pig named “Oatmeal” - so it was perfect. The house was booked and we began counting the days.

Renting a house with a pig was exciting enough, but renting one with a pig that had a sweet, cuddly name like Oatmeal made the kids delirious with anticipation. We had no sooner pulled up to the house in our rented van when the kids went tearing around the paths in the large garden looking for Oatmeal. We sauntered along behind, taking in the perfumed air and the marvelous tropical colours when we heard a loud crashing sound, like a car hitting a tree, immediately followed by the kids shrieking. 

Oatmeal was in a pen with a high solid fence. Oatmeal was about 300 lbs and was flinging herself against the fence in a kind of blind rage. The fence was festooned with signs indicating that Oatmeal was not to be touched, fed or otherwise interacted with. She stared at us with evident loathing, flecks of foam dripping from her lips. 

We avoided Oatmeal after that and contented ourselves with the far more agreeable chickens until one day an elderly local man showed up on the property.

"Hallo!” he greeted loudly, flashing a gap-toothed smile.


“I am here to see de pig.”

“Uh... Ok...”

“My name is Shantalope.”

I blinked, unable to formulate a quick response to that.

“An' I sold Joanne dat pig when it was jes a wee one. I jes want to see how de pig is gettin' along.”

I stood up, introduced myself and led Shantalope through the garden to Oatmeal's pen. Oatmeal went beserk again, charging the fence head down like a demented cartoon rhinoceros. For her size she was lightning quick. Shantalope took a step back, scratched his chin and chuckled.

“Dat Joanne, she was treatin' de little pig like a baby. Walkin' it on a leash an' kissin' it an' spoilin' it! Now look at it!”
Oatmeal charged the fence again, making an appreciable dent in it.
“Oh dat pig be cross! Dat pig be very cross!”
Shantalope laughed and shook his head.

“I tole Joanne I buy de pig back. I tole her I give her a new little one, but she still want dis one. She still love dis one.”
I nodded and looked at Oatmeal, doing my best however to avoid eye contact as that seemed to enrage her the most. Oatmeal took a break from trying to kill us and turned around. Shantalope cocked his head and looked at her hindquarters in an appraising sort of way.

“Oh mon, look at dem hams!”

He made a universally understood cupping motion with his hands, narrowing his eyes with anticipated pleasure.

“Oh dem hams, just tink of de good eatin' from dis pig!”

We began walking away as Shantalope switched to regaling me with tales of all the very fine girls he knew in Montreal when he was a sailor. I could hear Oatmeal raising a ruckus behind us again, but I didn't look. I was thinking, I was in a much better position to empathize with Joanne's dilemma than Shantalope was, but he was right, those were some splendid hams.

No comments: