“Nothing is wasted on a pig,” said Mr. Lemmons, a pig farmer by trade and a rural philosopher by calling. “If they were in our place, they’d return the favor.”
He didn’t explain exactly what that meant, but I took it to mean they would enjoy eating us as much as we enjoy eating them. Mr. Lemmons thinks in circles like that.
“We should recycle everything but our stupidity,” he once told a crowd outside the state capitol. The crowd was gathering to hear a local politician, but ended up listening to the overall-clad Mr. Lemmons spin yarns about the deeper meaning of why we should be kind to one another whether we go to church or not.
For a man with a 6th grade education who raises animals to get slaughtered and eaten, Mr. Lemmons is sort of a barnyard Yoda. He sees both sides of the fence and treats his pigs better than many people treat their children.
“I got a big screen TV out there in my barn,” he said when I saw him last fall. “Sometimes me and the pigs just watch football. I don’t reckon the pigskin part bothers them too much since they don’t know the ugly details, but they do love to watch Tennessee win, which has been a little while, sadly. I feed them butterbeans, peanuts, pecans and turnips too when they’re in season. I love turnips myself, so I figured they would too. I eat what they eat. We share.”
Last week when I dropped by, his wife Carmella said he was in the barn with his pigs.
“Probably playing poker with ‘em,” she laughed.
She wasn’t kidding. I found him sitting in his nasty recliner with a deck of cards spread out on a folding table with earpods listening to his iPod.
“You like Bruce Springsteen?” he said before singing in a mournful voice that had a little Ralph Stanley in it. “Mr. State Trooper, please don’t stop me. Please don’t stop me. Please don’t stop me.”
“You and your employees here playing poker?” I asked, waving my hand towards the smelly pigs.
“They don’t exactly play poker with me in the traditional sense, but they send me moves through ESP. We communicate. You know what I mean? Telepathically.”
He looked into my eyes, his own eyes wide and marveling at the possibility of my gullibility.
“I got you some MoonPies if you want them,” I told him, changing the subject.
“Bring ‘em on in and let’s see how the pigs like ‘em,” he said. “I know I could go for a couple.”
I brought in 6 boxes and he took one out, ate it and said, “Toss a few over here to my best friends. They’re special. They’re my bacon hogs.”
Above them on the wall was a risqué calendar featuring Miss Piggy in what appeared to be a bikini.
As the big pigs chomped down on banana MoonPies, Mr. Lemons pointed at the grunting and oinking and slurping. Then he started to stomp his old dirty boots and yodel loudly, the sound echoing against the galvanized walls. Within seconds, a really large hog began to make a disturbing sound that gave me the willies.
“Hog yodeling,” he said. “Bet you didn’t know hogs could yodel, did you, Mike?”
“No sir, I did not,” I said. I didn’t know what to say after that either.
That’s the biggest hog I got. I call him Jubal Early, you know, after the Civil War general. I’ve studied a right bit about the Civil War, and I think he kind of looks like Jubal Early. Don’t you think so?”
I examined the big hog. As I recall, Jubal Early looked a lot different, but Mr. Lemmons has his opinions and he’s entitled to them. It’s his hog anyway. He can think what he wants to about that subject.
“Mike, are the people you work with back in Chattanooga interested in innovation?” he said thoughtfully.
“I guess they are,” I said.
“Then hear me out,” he said. “Bacon flavored MoonPies.”
He paused. If I had a nickel for every time somebody suggested a flavor for MoonPie to try, I’d be the Warren Buffet of Rednecks.
“Think about it. Everybody loves bacon. Bacon is mighty tasty. You ever met anybody who doesn’t like bacon?”
I thought for a minute and looked over at old Jubal Early finishing off the last MoonPie. He wouldn’t look at me.