The Hog Pen: 1840s?

s at a trough Rowlandson 1790

Pigs at a Trough, Thomas Rowlandson, c. 1790 http://collections.britishart.yale.edu/vufind/Record/16686781887 sewing machine lady

Talk about Hog Pens.

The dirty, disgusting things! but they must have some place in this world that God made so beautiful, so there is no use grumbling about it.

When I was a girl we used to have a model pen of great model hogs right before our door, and when the neighbors all wondered how farmer E. happened to raise such big hogs, my Pa would tell them with an air of satisfaction, it was because they were so near the house that they got a taste of most everything to eat. When we began to grow civilized, the hog pen didn’t look pretty to us, for the trees in the yard grew large and drooping, and their brown and yellow leaves could not fall upon the green grass and wither and rustle as the great spirit of Poesy designed, but they could shower down in eddies into the dirty pen, and the old hog “Savage,” would nose them into a heap and nestle her plump, bristled sides down among them and grunt like the gladdest hog in the world. Sister loved her vines and posies and neat yard, and I loved poetry and pretty things, and we used to get our girl-heads together and grieve, and guess how it would look all grassy and green where the hoggery was. Then we set our little woman’s wits to work, and coax, and plead, and said our yard might be fixed nicer than Uncle Timothy’s because it was gently sloping, and our kind Pa consented at last, though he said, after that he could not hope to excel his neighbors in any thing except poor hogs, but he was willing if we would let him leave the great big swill trough (hollowed out of a giant chesnut) right under the twin peach trees. I looked at sister, and she looked at me I read hope in her eyes, but in mine she did not see its reflection. I said w-e-l-l, but my lips lingered over the little word like a tardy spinner’s lingers over a knot of soft flax. Sister, hopeful girl, said we could put a wide cover on the trough and hide it all over, and then some of our pots and boxes of plants that were sitting around in the yard could be placed on it, and she thought it would be making something rather pretty out of an old, unsightly swill trough.

“Like putting a gossamer robe on a dirty plow boy,” said I, pouting; but she said we must be thankful for small favors and bide our time.

Pa grew dearer and better every day, and often after a hard day’s work he would put his big arm chair under some of the shady trees on the site of the banished hoggery and read, and look very happy. At last he said he thought some day he would move that stinking trough clear away, and then we waited the next morning until he was plowing on the other side of the hill, and we hurried and opened the big gate and laid rollers all the way from the trough across the street, and then ladled out the contents, and after a little rest we worked with hand spikes until we trundled the old nuisance off on the mission it was meant for. Our Pa laughed heartily because he had two such able girls who could help to make their humble home prettier and pleasanter.

Rosella.

Daily Ohio State Journal [Columbus OH] 20 December 1854

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Yesterday was International Pig Day, hence to-day’s focus on the porcine. Mrs Daffodil really does not care how “dear,” “hard-working,” or “better” Pa was; he should have moved the pen, trough and all, at the first hint from his daughters. Girls before swine….

Mrs Daffodil understands that “Pa” was fond of his hogs, but that did not require that the family should cast table scraps before them just outside the back door. Most unhygienic.

In 1818 an English traveller and agricultural reformer, William Cobbett, observed of American farmhouses there was “a sort of out-of-door slovenliness…You see bits of wood, timber, boards, chips, lying about, here and there, and pigs tramping about in a sort of confusion.” It was not until the 1840s that the tidy farmhouse with white picket fence and “dooryard” to keep domestic animals at bay became the standard.  It obviously took “Pa” a bit longer to thoroughly grasp the idea.

 

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.

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