Marlin Deitrich (1908-1987) was my great uncle. During our many visits, he would tell stories of his childhood in the Lykens Valley and of growing up on the Deitrich Farm in Lykens Township, Dauphin County, Pennsylvania. The following is one of those stories:
The Pig Sty and the Wandering Pigs
Do you know what a sty is? Let me describe to you what a sty looked like on like on the Deitrich farm. It was a condominium for pigs. Each section had a rear exit to a fenced-in yard area that was near a cornfield. In that fenced in area, the pigs would move around doing their business.
In a corner of the yard, there was a wallow [water hole]. When it rained they would lay there and plan what devilment they could get into. They’d walk along the fence and look for a hole, and if they found one, they would get together and grunt. With their noses, they pushed the hole shut so we would not see it. They’d wait for the perfect opportunity to break out and make a dash for the corn field.
Pappy always sat at the head of the kitchen table where he had a full view of the farm buildings and where he could notice if something unusual was happening. One year, at the time of the Gratz Fair, our family got up early and did the chores and planned an early dinner so we could spend the day at the fair. On that day Pappy looked out the window and sounded the alarm. Two large pigs were outside the fence.
We all had jobs to do get the pigs back inside the fence. My job was to keep the pigs away from the corn field. I had a broom which the pigs were afraid of, and when they got too close to the corn field, I would smack them and they would move in the other direction. My brother Harry’s job was to hold a fishing pole with ears of corn dangling from the fish line to lure the pigs to the corn. My brother Lauren’s job was to hold open the gate to the sty. Harry cast the corn close to the pigs and moved it slowly toward the sty gate. As the pigs noticed, they moved toward the gate and the corn. When Harry saw that they were close to the gate, he dropped the corn inside the fence. The pigs scurried toward the corn and as they got inside the fence, Lauren slammed the gate shut.
While this was going on, our neighbor Mr. Shade was watching all this from near their farm house. I also noticed that the two pigs who we just got inside the fence were standing alone and not joining the other pigs inside the fence and the other pigs were staying away from them. When I waved to Mr. Shade, he didn’t wave back. My brothers and I then went inside the house to finish our dinner so that we could be off to the fair.
Then there was a rap at the door. It was Mr. Shade with two of his sons and they did not look too pleasant. In Dutch, Mr. Shade told Pappy that his boys had penned up two of his pigs in our yard. When Pappy said he didn’t think so and that he had seven pigs, but he would check, and he went outside with Mr. Shade to count the pigs. Sure enough, there were two extra pigs in the pen. Mr. Shade and his sons took their pigs home.
After that useless work, we finished our dinner and went off for a good time at the fair.