This gritty tragicomic memoir is set in one memorable year—1976, the Bicentennial, when Jimmy Carter ran for president and seven-year-old Doug Crandell lost two fingers in a farming accident. More than anything, Doug wants to shed his nickname, Pig Boy, and grow up to be a hog man like his father. His older brother Derrick reads pulp novels to him each night as he soaks his remaining fingers in Epsom salts. His brothers urge him to flip the Wicked Bird" any time another child makes fun of his lobster-red hand." Doug shares his summer of healing in Wabash, Indiana, with humans and animals who've suffered life-changing traumas: a brutal grandfather gentled by stroke, a deaf dog with a deadly taste for pig's ears, a tough-love mother coping with depression, a bevy of runt piglets saved from extermination. This is a story of love, loss, healing, and a family's relation with the land they love and know that they will lose.
Pig Boy's Wicked Bird Author: Doug Crandell Table of Contents PART I 1 Who Is the Real Pig Boy? 3 2 When Grandfathers Steal Pigs 5 3 Our Lady of Electrical Light 13 4 Chores and Sex Ed 19 5 Wicked Birds 29 6 Pillow Therapy, Rocks Too 37 7 First Soaks During Hee-Haw 45 8 A Glimpse of Jimmy 51 9 And Then There Were Two 57 10 Break-Fist at Noon 71 11 It’s Home and It’s Weird 75 12 Devil Worshippers 81 13 Third-Person Mother Cometh 93 PART I I 14 Peanut and the Other Runts 99 15 Your Mother’s in the Bicentennial Bathroom 109 16 Dot Matrix Bills and the Fourth of July 119 17 He’s Saying His Runty Good-Byes 129 18 Winesburg, Ohio and Homemade Shirts 135 19 Run, Joe, Run 143 20 Fear Far from I– 465 147 21 If Thy Hand Offends Thee, Cut It Off 163 22 Taking the Meringue Ridge Back Home 173 PART I I I 23 Colored Glass 187 24 Buy These 193 25 The Uncle Sam Outfit 201 26 Pig Boy on the Lam 211 27 Don’t Go Parading My Heart Around 217 28 Poisoned Heart 225 29 Ear Envy 231 30 Watching Roots in an Inaugural Blizzard 241 Epilogue 251 Acknowledgments 262 Description This gritty tragicomic memoir is set in one memorable year—1976, the Bicentennial, when Jimmy Carter ran for president and seven-year-old Doug Crandell lost two fingers in a farming accident. More than anything, Doug wants to shed his nickname, Pig Boy, and grow up to be a hog man like his father. His older brother Derrick reads pulp novels to him each night as he soaks his remaining fingers in Epsom salts. His brothers urge him to “flip the Wicked Bird” any time another child makes fun of his “lobster-red hand.” Doug shares his summer of healing in Wabash, Indiana, with humans and animals who’ve suffered life-changing traumas: a brutal grandfather gentled by stroke, a deaf dog with a deadly taste for pig’s ears, a tough-love mother coping with depression, a bevy of runt piglets saved from extermination. This is a story of love, loss, healing, and a family’s relation with the land they love and know that they will lose. Excerpt When I mentioned the Pig Boy story to my father, he seemed puzzled at first. “No,” he said blandly, “I don’t remember anyone telling that.”I pushed him a little further. “You know, the adults didn’t understand how the little kid was getting fatter but not eating?” He became animated, moved his hands like he was taking a livestock bid; an auctioneer, he’s never lost the showmanship of the ring. “I believe I do remember that. Yes. But I am not sure who that was.” He hanged his head a little. Was it something to be ashamed of? I know I’ve certainly not told many people the story. Did he know something I didn’t? “Was it you?” I asked, half joking, but wanting it to be him, to get off the hook myself. “No,” he quickly responded. He peered past me, over my shoulder, to a movie of memory that apparently was playing on the wall behind me. He stopped staring and turned to me. “Maybe it was you,” he said, smiling, the look in his tired eyes saying he knew the whole truth and nothing but the truth. I dropped the subject and asked how his knees were doing, thoughts of Pig Boy running rampant in my head as spooked livestock. I do hope so very badly that it wasn’t me. But the thing is, I was chunky too, and picky about food. If that was it, I might not even wonder if I could have been the pig boy, but another distinct memory of my maternal grandparents and their house in Terre Haute, Indiana, haunts me. In their living room was a Bible that stood a half-foot thick when closed. It was white with gold lettering on the cover, silver filigreed on every page, and color pictures of the Crucifixion, and I coveted the thing, wanted to steal it, but knew that would mean my untimely damnation to Hell. On that same table was a pewter statue of Romulus and Remus nursing at the drooping breasts of a strong she-wolf. The brothers were knelt down on either side of their wild mother. I’d stare at that statue for what seemed like days, taking it all in, trying to understand what the boys were doing to the animal, how it was that she could mother something that was not like her. I’d trail my fingers along the tarnished metal and put them to my nose to smell. Somehow, I’d gotten the idea that the statue was part of the same biblical motif that my grandparents adorned their home with, sacred and holy. When I recall the table with the Bible and statue, I close my eyes and try hard to think if I could’ve gotten back to Wabash from Terre Haute, having been moved spiritually by my grandparents, and went about trying to re-create the scene for myself on a sow. I don’t think I did, I’ll tell myself, but there’s always that doubt. Somewhere, down deep inside, I do remember losing my hunger and finding it again, and it’s that memory, so firm and completely distinct, that makes me think I am the original, unimitated, wholly found Pig Boy. It’s as close to a confession as I can muster, at least for now. Author Bio Doug Crandell Doug Crandell is a widely published writer whose stories have appeared in the Evansville Literary Review, the Sherwood Anderson Review, and forthcoming in Smithsonian Magazine. He is the recipient of a Sherwood Anderson Writers Grant and a winner of the Night Train Firebox, Pig Iron Malt, River City, and other fiction contests. He is the author of Man Vs. Nature. He lives in Smyrna, Georgia. Reviews "A memoir so endearing that one hates to see it end." "Richly anecdotal, the work leaves no detail unexamined, whether physical or ethereal . . . Crandell addresses everything . . . with poetry and imagination." "Alternately funny and tender...Crandell writes with a novelist's flair." "Crandell is a genuine talent, and [this] is a magical book. Don't miss this one."
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