LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — Pigs

“The other morning, when the scorching sun had shot the mercury up to the hundred mark, we got to reminiscing with one of Minot’s real old-timers, and gleaned some interesting old-time stories that we will now pass on to our readers. We got to talking about ‘pigs’. Thirty or 40 years ago, Minot had a lot of pigs, but many of them were ‘blind pigs.’ Why they ever called them ‘blind pigs’ we never could tell for from time immemorial one could buy enough liquor in North Dakota to swim a horse if he had the price. North Dakota has always prided herself on having been a prohibition state ever since she was admitted to the Union in 1889, but it seems that enough of our electors ‘drink wet and vote dry’ to head off every effort to legalize the sale of hard liquor.

“But we are getting just a bit off the subject. In the early days, they had pigs here (Minot) that were pigs. Old-timers will recall the ‘hole in the ground,’ a dugout run by the late Al Campbell down near the G.N. racks. Al believed in advertising, for a big sign on the roof read, ‘Drink while you live, for you’ll be long time dead.’

“Well here is a real pig story: Attorney Carl Aurlund was a young man when he came to Minot, and he engaged in the mercantile business. In those days, merchants traded groceries to farmers for most any products they had on the farm. One day a farmer traded Mr. Aurland a litter of young pigs for some groceries and the merchants having no suitable place to keep them made arrangements with Jack Powers to keep them in his barn, until he could otherwise dispose of them. Mr. Aurlund’s friends saved him the trouble. One night every last one of the pigs disappeared and as was the custom in those days, they undoubtedly graced the table of some of the ‘boys’ who were in the habit of nabbing up every pig they could find and preparing a feast of roast pig.”

Ward County Independent, July 16, 1936

Reading this has me in mind of two things. In reverse chronological order:

First, the Beatles song Piggies,” written in 1968. If you listen to the song, YouTube might lead you to Rocky Raccoon (which mentions North Dakota). But that is entirely up to you. I do recall later reading about what happened in California in that time period when Charles Manson’s madness swept over the news. (He who claimed that the Beatles songs were a part of his evil and incomprehensible plans.) My parents talked about this and tolerated that their children were listening to the Beatles. I do also recall with complete clarity the moment I heard Beatles’ hits when we were living in Texas in the late 1960s. My parents were more inclined to listen to Bing Crosby and the Sons of the Pioneers and Elivs, but, of course, their children were going to listen to Three Dog Night and the Beatles.

Second, a story from when I was a little girl, about 3 or 4. This would have been when my father had gone before us for his deployment in Okinawa and we (my mother and her then four children) lived on the farm. My uncle drove into our Slope County farmyard with his pickup. My mother greeted him and someone lifted me and my younger brother into the back of the pickup, onto a burlap bag. The bag wriggled and the squeals of the piglets on their way to market made us scream out with laughter and fear. I remember my Grandma Lilly and my mother and my uncle laughing at the prank.

Eventually, my knowledge of pigs was informed by my teacher in El Paso reading to her class the classic E.B. White book, “Charlotte’s Web.” Each day she would read a chapter and I tell you what, I could not wait for that time each day. Later I read “Charlotte’s Web” to my children. Some pig!

Things my Mother used to say: When asked “how are you feeling, Mom?” Her reply, with an impish grin, “With my fingers.”

One thought on “LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — Pigs”

  • Rick Watson November 12, 2022 at 10:57 am

    all you hAD TO DO was ask me and I could have shown you the streets, buildings and pointed out the bodies–nice essay–if I had not used this in a long poem no one reads about 20 years ago I would have stolen all you have written here–I want a copy for my Bone Town Files–My friend Ron Fischer and I wrote a musical (I just did music) called “The Last Of The Minot Flappers” and it played two years running to sold out crowds–you just pointed out Minotians odd love of our tacky and violent past–by the way when my Mum was a little girl she lived on 3rd street next to a house of “ladies” and a few speak easy–I feel your essay–with my soul


Leave a Reply