"Oh, the old swimmin' hole!
When I last saw the place, the scenes was all changed like the change in my face."
(James Whitcomb Riley)
I rounded up my nephews, told Janet we were on our way to the pig pens, to which she wrinkled up her nose in disgust, and made no further comments. By the look on her face, I knew she was repulsed by the pungent smell when she and I had to feed and water the critters. She just couldn't have been as maligned as I thought I was at having to clean the chicken house each spring. If she thought pig shit stunk, I thought chicken shit was much worse.
Nephews trooping behind me, we arrived at the hog yard (pig pen). I pointed out to the boys I bought mixed breeds of, forty pound or so, feeder pigs. Since the breeds were mixed and I wasn't picky except for price, they were relatively cheap. We had a dozen this year.
I explained we fed them commercial hog feed and dated (not saleable) produce from the gardens at the farm and left over from the vegetable and fruit stands, except for that we donated to the various soup kitchens and food pantry's. The hogs were sold whenever they reached around two hundred pounds in the fall or if not, before winter set in. I didn't carry any over from year to year. We'd also turn them loose in the sweet corn and field corn fields after harvest if we hadn't sold them yet. They'd share the picked fields with the beef cattle we had.
Pointing out the automatic waters and feeders, I explained we had to check them each day to make certain the waterers were working properly and the feeders filled with commercial feed. The one-sided feeders were located along the fence line on one side of the pen, unlike when I was younger. Then, the feeders were located in the hog yard and I had to go into the yard to fill them. The pigs would jostle you and root at you while you tried to fill the feeders.
I made the change to filling the feeders from the outside by locating feeders along the fence after I read of some farmer in Iowa falling down in his hog yard and the pigs proceeded to chew him up, leaving bones and pieces of him laying about or human DNA in pig shit all over the hog yard.
The bags of feed for the hogs were in the small livestock barn along with commercial feed for the cattle. We also kept all of our supplies and equipment there as well. Once the boys were more familiar with the farm and our operations, I told them I'd show them how to operate the ATV's and one of the small tractors to use in hauling feed or other items in the wagons and trailers we had. In the meantime, we'd use five gallon buckets, filled to appropriate levels for each boy to carry, to transport feed to the feeders.
Eddie was the first to notice the three foot by four foot plywood panels hanging on hook on the side of the storage room.
"What are those pieces of wood with the hole in them used for?"
"If," I explained, "you have to go into the hog pen for any reason, you use one of those to keep the pigs from getting at you." Taking one down, I demonstrated, holding the panel using my hand in the hole, how it could be used to keep a pig from getting close to you by using the panel as a barrier. By keeping it between you and the pigs you would be safer than not having it.
"Why?" James asked.
So, I told them the story of the Iowa farmer.
"No shit!" David gasped.
"Yep! Right down to the scraps!"
I could see the wheels turning in each of my six nephews. Finally, Robbie declared in his authoritative older brother voice, "Nobody goes to the hog pen alone to feed the pigs! Understand?"
His brothers all nodded, eyes wide as we walked backed, carrying buckets of feed, to the hog pen. The boys were really cautious filling the feeders, keeping their eyes on the hogs as they did so. Didn't hurt them one bit to be over cautious. A dozen pigs could make short work of a small boy.
Scottie, looking the pigs over carefully, asked, "Are they boy or girl pigs, cause some look like they have a dick?"
He frowned in thought before, humping his hips back and forth in an obvious gesture, "Don't they ever try to ….you know?"
"If they do, it won't do any good. The males are castrated, you know have their balls cut off when younger, and are called barrows. The females are called gilts."
As I spoke, six pairs of hands automatically reached for their crotches, evidently trying to reassure themselves they were still intact or in chagrin thinking of losing the family jewels.
"They stink!" declared James and smelling his shirt, "We do too!"
Chores done, we trooped back to the house. Janet was sitting on the porch enjoying the late afternoon sun when we arrived. Her greeting to her sons was simply, "You stink! Go clean up!"
"Pig shit sure do stink, Mam," declared Jamie, imitating Mr. Sickles, "but Uncle Jacob declared, breathe deep and enjoy, that's money you smell!"
Where the hell he heard that, I have no idea!
The boys just started to obey their mother, when I announced, "We're going to the lake to swim. That'll take some of the stink off."
"We don't have suits!" David responded.
"Don't need them; we'll skinny-dip."
"Do that mean what I think it do?" Jamie asked in his Sickles accent.
"It do; bare-assed naked."
"With our peckers flopping around like popcorn in a pan?"
"Maybe me," interjected Davey, "but you," pointing at Jamie, "will just sort of wriggle like a worm. Now, Mattie, that baby will just swing like a pendulum."
"Enough!" I said, "Get ready."
A shout of from the rest of them signified their excitement, but was halted when their mother ordered, "Put on shorts and tennis shoes to wear going to and from the lake. I'll not have you running down the lane advertising your better parts or stepping on a nail or something soft and squishy."
"Like what soft and squishy?" quizzed Scottie.
"Like bear shit!" she laughed.
"Bear?" he squeaked.
"Around here?" asked Jamie, eyes wide.
"Janet," cautioned, "we haven't seen a bear around here in years. Don't worry about it boys, just get something to cover up with and a towel to dry your butts with."
Feet pounded into the house and up the stairs, all except Robbie.
"Uncle Jacob," he asked, "Can Paul Boyer come with us? He has to wait for his grandmother to come and pick him up and he's waiting down at the office."
I nodded my approval and Robbie raced off to the office to inform his new friend. It wouldn't be the last time Paul would join us, especially now since his grandmother would be starting work on the next Monday.
As the boys were getting naked and dressed in shorts, Janet and I waited on the porch.
"Jake," she asked, "would it be okay if I came along? I'd like to enjoy the lake while I can. I'll wear a shirt and shorts. I don't really want the boys to see how thin I've gotten."
"The water is pretty cold, Sis, so I wouldn't advise going for a swim."
"I know, I remember only too well. I just really want to sit on the beach, soak in the sun, maybe get my feet wet, and enjoy the view. You know how pretty the lake is, so relaxing and so comforting."
She was so right! There's something about the water, the expanse of the lake, the gentle lapping of waves against the shore, and today for her, her sons enjoying the water as we did when we were kids.
Janet headed toward her bedroom to change. Feet thumping down the stairs, giggles and shouts, announced the arrival of my nephews, sans Robbie, excited to doing something "naughty" so they thought. Skinny-dipping wasn't all that unusual at Wescott Farms, but it was new to them.
Robbie and Paul Boyer arrived about the same time and I detoured them from accompanying the rest of us, asking them to help Janet to the beach.
"It'll give you the opportunity to introduce Paul to your Mother," I advised Robbie.
Robbie smiled at my suggestion and nodded his approval. The way he looked at Paul, there was no doubt in my mind, my oldest nephew was smitten with Paul Boyer. Paul didn't appear to be backing away from it either.
We were just off of the porch on our way to the lake, when Janet stepped out onto the porch and I overheard her ask, "Robbie, who is this handsome young man in your company?"
Mattie had my hand in his, swinging our arms as he sort of skipped as we walked. Eddie and Jamie were on my other side chatting like a couple of excited chipmunks spotting a bowl of peanuts.
Lakeside, I stopped my crew before they entered the water.
"There's a few rules we follow around here. No one swims alone! If there's lightning, leave the lake and head for the house. No diving from the dock; jumping feet first is okay. If you're under twelve, whether you can swim or not, an adult or one of the college workers must be with you. Enjoy yourselves, respect the water, and watch out for each other."
I knew the younger ones would wait for either Andy or me to take them, but knowing boys will be boys, I needed to caution them. I didn't think Robbie or Davey would take unnecessary chances, but I'd only known them for a couple of days. Only time would tell.
There was some hesitation by the boys in dropping their drawers, but when I kicked off my shoes and stripped myself to my natural state and started for the water, my nephews followed suit. As a group, their forward motion into the lake water stopped at varying depths, regulated by their height, when the cold water reached their balls!
Jamie and Eddie, since they were the youngest and shortest, suffered the impact first. Their mouths opened, their eyebrows shot up in surprise, tummies sucked up as tight as they could, and yelps of "It's cold" and "freezin' my balls off!" cascaded from their mouths and out into the lake air.
Mattie, on the other hand, was a quick study, stopping knee deep in the water, watching his brother's reaction, and waited for me to come along side of him. He started to shiver, not so much from the cool water, but anticipation what he thought it might feel like given his brother's rather descriptive and expletive remarks.
I took his hand and slowly walked with him into the water. When the water just started to tickle the end of his cock and he could no longer stand on his tip-toes without full contact, he reached up, clasped me around the neck, and pulled himself up to my waist, where he promptly wrapped his leg around me, securing himself, he thought, to safety. He was wrong!
I continued walking, carrying him with me. Even when I waded to belly deep on me and his precious jewels were fully submerged, he made not a sound, except for taking a real deep breath!
"Cold isn't it, Mattie?"
He nodded and gave me a questioning look.
"No, Mattie, it's not like this all summer, but it'll be cooler than a public pool or lakes you may have experienced down south."
Slowly, slowly, he slipped down my side, releasing first his legs, then his hands, until his feet were securely on the lake's sandy bottom. He stood for just a minute or so before joining his brothers.
The four of them stood, hesitating, trying to decide what to do in such a large body of cool water. The slapping of bare feet on the dock and a shout by a voice, not Robbie's, declared, "The last one in the water is a Fat Republican" and a naked body catapulted off of the end of the dock in a cannonball, swooshing water in all directions. He was followed by a second naked body, this time Robbie, screeching, "AM NOT!" launching himself into the water in a similar manner, again geysering water around and all over.
I turned quickly to check if Robbie delivered his mother and saw her sitting on one of the park benches we had near the beach, smile on her face.
Paul and Robbie's antics were all it took to start the fun and all hesitancy on the part of the rest of the boys vanished. Climbing up on the dock and jumping in, the shorter, younger ones nearer to the shore than Robbie, Paul, and Davey, the laughter, shouts of joy, and actions of the boys brought smiles and laughs to my face and to their mother's.
Wrapping a towel around my waist, I joined my sister on the bench.
"Fun to watch, aren't they?" she remarked as her sons romped in the water. "I've enjoyed them so much over their short lives, from the time they were born until now and every day I have left."
Her remarks and the look on her face bespoke of the intense love she felt for her sons.
"I'm so happy I came home, Jacob, and thankful you took us in. My sons will have a good home!"
Choked up, I could do little else by nod and give her a reassuring hug. We sat quietly enjoying each other's company, and watching the boys. Janet finally asked, "Jacob, would you take me for a walk to the beach so I can wade in the lake?"
Securing her arm in mine, I assisted her when she rose from the bench and held it while we walked to the lake and stepped in. From the corner of my eye, I noticed Robbie give a tilt of his head and a flick of his finger to Davey, who immediately left the play and slowly moved toward where we'd stepped into the water. He stayed in the lake, but also stayed behind us, ready to help if necessary.
"You know, Jacob," Janet said reflectively, water to mid-calf, "I made one hell of a lot of bad choices in my life, but I don't regret making the choice to come home or in keeping each of my beautiful boys. They've brought so much pleasure and comfort to me over the years. No matter how tired I was or sore from too many tricks or if one was particularly rough, I could always count on the boys to pick me up with hugs, kisses, and listening to their happy chatter having me home."
What could I say other than swallow back tears and nod my understanding.
"I've been so fortunate," she continued, "and gratified you and Andy will raise my sons as your own."
We walked together, each of us deep in our own thoughts, unspoken words of sorrow and of joy, of being reunited. Janet was my twin, shared the womb with each other, lived our early years together, and now, being together at her life's end! It was hard to take, but she helped me accept the inevitable. I didn't like the outcome of this particular act in the play of life, but I had no choice. The lines were written and now we must see it to the end.
"I'd hoped," she expressed with regret, "to be able to see the boys off to their first day of school here at home, walk with them to the end of the lane to put them on the school bus, and to be there when they came home."
"Remember," she reminisced, "when Mom met us with a hug and a small treat bag for each of us? Usually cookies."
I laughed aloud since I remembered it well! "Yeah, you'd always eat all of yours before we walked half-way up the lane and then want one of mine."
"You always shared it with me too. Never complained, just gave it to me. I thought, at the time, you always saved one back for me."
"I have to confess," I responded, "Mom always put an extra one in my bag since she knew you'd ask."
"I'll be damned!" she laughed.
"You might make it to school starting in the fall, Janet."
"I don't think so, Jake, if the doctors are right. I'll be lucky to make to the first of August."
Again, silence settled over our conversation, as we turned to walk back to the bench. Davey made a not too subtle abrupt turn as well.
"Shadow?" Janet asked.
No sooner had I settled her back on the bench to rest before I asked someone to take her back to the house, when Mattie came scrambling out of the water heading toward me. The way he walked, legs spread as wide as he could and still walk, and the desperate, anxious expression on his face, alerted me something was amiss!
He stopped n front of me, spread his legs wider, and slowly, hesitantly pointed down to his crotch, specifically to a place on the inside of his right thigh, about three inches below the juncture, and an inch or two from his balls and cock, depending on how he stood, where a small, black, wiggly, aquatic worm-like creature was attached.
Mattie looked absolutely horrified! His hasty and abrupt departure from the water and play with his brothers, attracted an audience, all eager to see what type of creature was secured to his inner thigh. The only one not particularly fascinated was Paul who declared, "It's just a leech," and reaching over between Mattie's legs, plucked the creature off. Fortunately, the leech was not well attached, so only a small red spot remained. As surprised as Mattie was by Paul's action, it didn't stop him from grabbing Paul's arm before the leech was discarded so he could inspect it.
"Lesson time," I thought and proceeded to tell them what it was, how it lived, what it fed on, and how to remove them, after reassuring the group there was no danger from them.
"Fish love them," proclaimed Paul. "Especially walleye!"
That may be, but there was no love for leeches as far as Mattie was concerned. He decided to sit on the bench with his mother and me.
"Your Uncle Jacob had one stuck to him when he was about your age," Janet commented, attempting to relieve any anxiety on Mattie's part. "Stuck tight, right at the base of his dick. He was so petrified and afraid of it, he made me pull it off. Squealed like a castrated pig when I did. So loud, it brought your Grandmother Walcott to the porch. I suppose she thought I was in the process of butchering my twin brother."
Mattie laughed aloud, looking at me questioningly.
"Yep, Mattie. It really happened," I said, adding, "we'll put some first aid cream on the spot when we get back to the house."
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