Big Boy died in the mud, where he was always happiest. And he died at home, Meadow Green Farm down Slate Mills Road, where the Yorkshire boar spent his life foraging, mudding and fathering upward of 250 piglets.
Living up to his name, Big Boy tipped the scales at nearly 900 pounds, and stretched nine feet “from nuts to nose,” as John Kiser, the pig’s owner, put it.
Big Boy only left Meadow Green once in his life, as a piglet, and that was because he was dying.
“When he was born, Big Boy was a runt getting the hind tit and he wasn’t getting much milk, so he wasn’t making it in the competition,” Kiser said on July 15, Big Boy’s last day. “And the mother had sort of lost interest in him. So I thought, well he’s still alive, let’s see if we can resuscitate him.”
The runt was part of a litter of 10 born in 2002, shortly after John married his wife Pam, and just after their son, Pierce, was born.
“When Big Boy was a piglet, he was just infested with pig lice,” Pam Kiser said. “He was really weak and we thought he was going to die. So John brought him in the bathroom off of the kitchen, kept him in a box. Anyway I was furious. I mean, we had this lice-infested piglet living in our kitchen, and we had this baby.”
The couple took Big Boy to Rose Hill Veterinary Practice in Washington, where he was rehydrated and given a second chance at life. From there on, the Kisers paid extra attention to the rehabilitated runt.
“When Big Boy survived, we decided to keep him,” Kiser said, adding that most of the piglets are sent to slaughter and processed for pork. “He had charisma, and so I said, ‘You can stay.’ I figured I’d have a boar around.”
Fast-forward 11 years, to the 900-pound head boar, flopped on his side in the mud and immobile from a bad hind leg. He sniffed and snorted with anticipation as Kiser approached with a bucket full of scones, croissants and loafs of bread from the Inn at Little Washington, which he tossed under Big Boy’s softball-sized snout; it was Big Boy’s last meal.
“He’s been in the mud about five days,” Kiser said, scratching Big Boy’s belly while he chomped down the muddy pieces of bread.
Kiser, a writer and former technology search consultant turned pig farmer, expressed his sadness at having to put down his favorite pig and dear friend.
“An animal like that, where they’re around for that long, you get used to each other; so it’s kind of like losing a member of the family when they die,” Kiser said. “But sometimes you’ve got to do things you don’t want to.”
Three days before Big Boy’s death, Rev. Jenks Hobson, of Trinity Episcopal Church in Washington, came to Meadow Green to say goodbye to Big Boy, and to give his blessing.
“I was fascinated seeing the bond that can form between a man and his animal,” Hobson said the following evening. “John went right on up to Big Boy, who was laying on his side in the mud, and scratched him behind the ears, rubbed his belly, and you could almost hear him purr. Then when I came close, Big Boy was not amused: grunting and growling and throwing his head around. He must have known me being here didn’t bode well. And this thing’s almost a thousand pounds, so it’s a little unsettling standing in the mud with a big ol’ boy who doesn’t want you there.”
Rose Hill vet Tom Massie — assigned the ominous task of giving Big Boy a euthanizing injection — also recalls encounters with Bog Boy over the years. He remembers, years ago, being knee-deep in the same Meadow Green mud, rubbing the cranky boar’s belly with one hand and trying to clip his feet with the other. He also recalls “a little, starved, rat lousy pig” of over a decade ago, that he never figured would sprout the way Big Boy did.
As Massie readied the needle, Kiser reflected on the finer points in the life of his buddy and boar.
“He was an unloadable pig,” Kiser said, chuckling, adding that he once starved Big Boy for three days to bait him onto a trailer, and the pig wouldn’t budge. “He knows boxes on wheels are bad places. I mean, we tried to send him out on a date a few times, but he wasn’t buying the date game.
“There was a period of a couple years where I was pimping him to some of the girls around here [sows from other county farms], so not just breeding our sows,” Kiser said, noting that most of Big Boy’s couple-hundred offspring share his unique black marking on the snout. “But bringing the sows over here complicates things, because then the other girls on the lot get upset.”
Finally the time had come to say goodbye to Big Boy. Kiser lingered over his prized hog, scratching his belly and speaking softly about Big Boy’s future up in pig heaven. Pam Kiser removed her sunhat and knelt on the board laid across the mud so that the vet could access him, and gave Big Boy two final pats on his mud-caked belly.
Pam and John Kiser held each other for 10 minutes as Big Boy’s familiar snores faded to echoes, the summer sun setting over Meadow Green Farm.
“Goodbye, Big Boy,” Pam said quietly. “We love ya.”