Everyone’s been late to school, right? Especially when you are 17 and have your own car and are supposedly mature enough to wake yourself up on time and get yourself to school before 8:20am?
Well, that is not why I was late when I was 17.
I was, in fact, up early.
There is nothing that can rocket you out of bed faster at 5:30AM than your mother shrieking: “OHHEAVENLYGODMINDY’SPIGSAREOUT!”
Let me explain. I was born and raised farm kid. I have 3 generations of farming in my blood.
I started raising pigs for 4-H when I was 10 years old. Only about 6 or 7. Not many. I showed them at the fair just like 100 other kids in my hometown. At 15, I joined the FFA and upped the ante. I bought a larger pig barn and started my own operation raising 60 pigs each year. I did the feed. I did the water. I did the upkeep. I did the care. This show was aaallll me. And the money went into my college fund.
So, my mom’s dulcet tones at C above the staff that spring morning made me immediately aware that I was solely responsible for the 60 pigs weighing 60 pounds each running around the yard.
I pulled on athletic shorts over my pajama bottoms and shoved my feet into the first shoes I found which happened to be my favorite reddish leather flats. In case you were wondering, leather flats are not what I would call ideal farming shoes.
I went out our front door and wasn’t far into the backyard when I saw them. Waves of pigs were running through the grove of fruit trees. It was like a scene out of Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom when the wildebeest herds are racing through the savanna. Only Marlin Perkins was missing.
The first thing I did was search the barn for the escape hatch. Right in the back I found a loose board that swung open just wide enough for every, single pig to escape. I was able to fix it pretty quickly. After all, I was alone. All my pigs were roaming the countryside.
So, now that things were secure I set off capturing those 60 little pigs.
I picked out my first escapee. A little white pig that was rooting around hopefully under an apple tree. I carefully crept around behind him, trying to be as quiet as possible and before he knew it I was grabbing his leg and WHAM! He tucked his rump down and scooted to the side and I ended up smacking my head into the apple tree.
Serves me right, I suppose.
I tried again with another pig and managed to snag one. I picked him up and carried him like a baby back to the barn and tipped him over the door.
One down. 59 to go.
I spent hours chasing down pigs. I dodged around trees. I dove into the grass. And I got mud and pig manure all over my legs, arms, and torso. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen a greased pig contest or not, but this was more than a little similar to that. By the end I had carried a total of 3600 pounds of wriggling pork back to that barn from every corner of our 6 acre farmstead.
It was 8:15am by the time I came back into the house – stinking and filthy. My favorite leather flats? Totally ruined.
And I was going to be late for school.
Not just for school. Today was also the day of my choir concert.
My choir director was Mr. M. He was a fun guy who liked a good joke, but he was absolutely 100% serious about choir. Missing the before-school choir rehearsal the day of the spring concert was about as serious a crime as you could commit in Mr. M’s class. Anyone who missed it was banned from performing that night and probably had a month of detentions lined up for themselves. Not to mention the dressing down you were going to get in front of the entire choir.
That rehearsal had started at 7:30am. Given that it was 8:15am when I came inside, I knew that I had missed the rehearsal entirely. My future was bleak.
I passed Dad on my way into the shower, where I anticipated spending the next 45 minutes trying to remove the pig stink from my skin cells. It dawned on me that (A) I was going to need an excuse note and that (B) he was “a parent” and an official excuse note writer in the eyes of the school. So, I asked him to write me an excuse note. “Sure!” he said, more than happy to help.
When I was ready to go I found his note neatly folded up into an envelope. I picked it up and hauled ass to school. Normally it took me 15-20 minutes to get to school. Today it took 10.
Being the good, law-abiding girl that I was, I stopped in the office first to check in. The secretary took my note out of the envelope and started to sign me in. She stopped writing mid-word, put the note back into the envelope, and handed it to me saying, “I think you’re going to need to show this to your teacher.” She handed me my green “she’s not really tardy” slip and sent me on my way.
I walked with immense dread into the choir room. The entire choir – about 115 students – were up on the risers and Mr. M was standing by the piano in front of the Altos, one hand striking out pitches and the other up in the air. He saw me and froze. The Altos sucked in air. I wished for the earth to swallow me up.
I fearfully walked towards him. His face was going from its normal color into alarming variations of red and purple. I was just within an arms length of him when he exploded. “Where the hell have you been?!?! You’ve missed the entire before-school rehearsal and now you’re late to this one!!! WHAT DO YOU HAVE TO SAY FOR YOURSELF?!?!??!?!”
In a soft and shame-filled voice I said, “My pigs got out,” and I handed him the note.
Whatever he had expected it wasn’t that. He exploded into laughter. He completely lost it. He wasn’t the only one either. The Altos had heard everything and they started laughing, too. They told the Tenors and Basses who then told the Sopranos. Soon everyone was dying with laughter while I stood, red faced, by the piano. I think I eventually kind of giggled. Mr. M went into his office, read the note, called the main office, and then put his head on his desk and laughed until he wept.
When he finally recovered and came out of his office he told me all was forgiven. I was going to be performing that night with no problem. He lost it again when he asked me how many there had been and I had replied “60.”
Later I got to read the note. Dad had written:
Please excuse Malinda for being late.
Her pigs got out and she had to catch them.
It was the first and last excuse note Dad ever wrote for me.