As the Chinese have the Year of the Horse, the Year of the Dragon, and other interesting-sounding years, I have Days. Day of the Puppy, Day of the Cat, and recently I had Day of the Pig to remember.
A couple of months ago I received a phone call from someone I didn't know. She who spoke softly told me that she was writing a book about authors and their animal friends, and that she wanted to come out to interview me and take some pictures.
At first I was inclined to back off. For all I knew this person might be a would-be author who would ask - ''How do you write a book?'' and expect a helpful answer at once. During our brief telephone conversation I learned something about her. Her name was Gale and she had great powers of determination.
Before she arrived late one afternoon, I became more and more curious. Judging from her voice she could be of high school or college age, or she could be a sweet elderly lady intent on becoming an author. She spoke with a New York accent. It was fun to speculate. It was a shock to meet her.
Her suntanned face and her features made me think of an exotic Egyptian princess. But she was much more than that. Her personality was such that I felt well liked at first sight. I discovered that she had a number of books to her credit, that she became a professional photographer in a hurry. When applying for a job she was asked if she could do photography. She knew that she could, though she had never tried it. After buying the equipment that would be needed and reading books on the subject, Gale was ready and enthusiastic.
This day her friendliness and her sense of humor did not keep her from business. ''Let's get to work, the sun is just right for backlighting.''
She liked my pig, Little Brother, and he liked her. He made loving crooning conversation as she petted him. Domingo the burro waved his long ears and walked up to her to examine all that strange stuff she was carrying. The big white steer, Calfalier, was in a reclining position, so she got a picture of me sitting on him, and after he recovered from his siesta and stood up she caught the beauty of him with sunlight outlining his great spread of horns.
As she left she said, ''I have to go back east and then up to Alaska to interview more people and animals. Then I'll be back. I have to get some shots of Little Brother looking out your kitchen door. That can be arranged, can't it?''
It was some weeks later before we had our afternoon with the pig. Though Little Brother was fond of her and the apples she brought him, he simply declined to move from where he was sprawled in the wallow from the overflow of a watering trough.
Gale said, ''I can get a good shot of him there. Take off your shoes and socks, lie down right next to the water, put one leg over him so the bare foot will show, put your arm around his neck, look up at me, and laugh. That's good, now let's try another one. . . .''
After that, we decided to give Little Brother another chance at the back porch. It took a deal of coaxing and a number of apples to make him try two steps. But he didn't like it, started to back down, lost his balance, and rolled the rest of the way. After that he saw no reason to cooperate - in spite of all our efforts. He is an enormous pig, old and opinionated, and being pushed and pulled around was entirely against his wishes. Finally Gale said, ''There's got to be another back entrance to this house.''
Why hadn't I thought of this? Of course, the screen porch, no step to go up. I said, ''I took a cold old cow inside one winter day. She could have gone to the barn but she didn't want to walk across the snowy field.''
It wasn't much work to get the pig into the screen porch, through another door into the living room, where he had his picture taken beside our grandfather clock. By now there was a similarity between my appearance and that of the pig. We were both plastered with mud. When it was time for the shot of the pig and me looking out the kitchen door I realized I was almost as ready to quit as Little Brother. But his methods were more direct. In his haste to leave the scene he banged against the half-opened door, removed it from its hinges, and headed briskly for the barn. Since then he hasn't been seen anywhere near the kitchen.
I remained to make it up with Gale, but to her it was all a part of the day's work.