My friend Cletus suggested I write a column about a talking pig he owned during childhood. I told him I was a tad skeptical, that I had never heard a pig talk except for Arnold on Green Acres. Even with Arnold there were times it looked to me he may have been pantomiming the lines. There were a few episodes where his lips didn’t seem quite in synch with the words.
Cletus had noticed the same thing about Arnold, but he assured me he had a pig named Tubby who could talk. He said the two of them thought Tubby the Talking Pig would be a good stage name for a celebrity pig. They first considered traveling with Barnum & Bailey, but Tubby liked the idea of living at home and hosting a radio talk show they planned to call Swine Time.
Knowing that Cletus is prone to exaggeration, I suggested we watch some of the home movies I felt sure he had made. Cletus told me he will always regret not filming Tubby, but the only camera his family had was a Polaroid Instamatic.
“Y’all probably had a tape recorder,” I said to Cletus. “Maybe we could listen to the tapes y’all made?” Cletus said they had a recorder, but he didn’t make any tapes of Tubby. He said that without the video he couldn’t prove it was Tubby doing the talking. He was concerned that people might have accused him of lying, an assumption I found too reasonable to question.
I asked Cletus about family and friends who had heard Tubby talk, and I suggested we get a few of them together to reminisce. Cletus said he never told anyone that Tubby could talk, that I was the first person he had shared this with.
It was flattering to be the first person to hear about Cletus’ talking pig, but I was a little curious as to why he had not mentioned it to others. Cletus explained that he and Tubby had kept quiet because they knew the farm might get overrun with visitors. And Cletus was afraid that Tubby might get stolen. The only security system they had was an ancient and highly unreliable hound dog. Cletus planned to build a secure climate-controlled pen, then make a big public announcement, but it didn’t work out.
“What happened?” I asked.
Cletus said that he got in a little trouble at school one day and the principal gave him a paddling. He said, “I told Tubby about it when I got home that afternoon, and I made certain he understood it was confidential. Next thing you know Tubby was complaining about his food. He said he was tired of being treated like a common hog and fed nothing but ground corn. Tubby wanted a big bowl of fresh fruit at least once a day. When I told him there was no way I could do that, he just laughed. He said, ‘Cletus, if you can’t give me a fruit bowl every day, then I don’t think I can keep your little secret.’”
“So, what did you do?” I asked Cletus.
He said, “I did the only sensible thing I could. I loaded Tubby in the back of Daddy’s truck and drove him straight to the processor.”
“You took a talking pig to the processor?” I asked in disbelief.
“Yep,” said Cletus. “That’s where we went.”
“Cletus,” I said, “that’s a horribly tragic ending to what could have been a beautiful story.”
“It was a sad day for sure,” said Cletus with a painful look of remorse. “But on the bright side, I’ve never tasted a better pork chop.”
I said, “Cletus, a talking pig could have made you rich. It seems like you could have negotiated a deal with Tubby to keep one little secret.”
Cletus shook his head. “It wouldn’t have worked,” he said with a somber yet confident tone. “You can’t trust a pig to keep a secret.”
I knew better than to ask why, but I couldn’t resist. That’s when Cletus finally said something close enough to the truth it almost made sense. He said, “You can’t trust a pig to keep a secret, because sooner or later a pig is going to squeal.”