Patience Pellerin came to Oddsborough Farm in the early fall from a farm down in Louisiana. She shivered a little on her first morning there, which proved to be much colder than she was used to. Some of the other animals nodded their heads: they had some from Florida, California… even the desert in Arizona, so they understood how chilly a New York October could be.
Especially because, as many of them noticed, Patience was a very skinny pig.
She was just as tall as the other gilts on the farm, and just as long, but she was so much thinner that some of the other lady pigs started to worry. Nearly every morning after breakfast, a particularly gossipy group of sows would get together and talk around the water trough.
“Do you think she’s all right?” asked a large Chester White.
“What do you think could be the matter?” wondered a Berkshire.
“You don’t suppose she just doesn’t like eating?!” gasped a Red Wattle.
“If you ask me,” said a cranky old Duroc, “it’s all because of the way pigs look on television!”
And so, Mary Mu-Kau woke up one morning to see a small army of gilts, sows, and even a few piglets outside her door. Mary rolled her eyes and tried her best to get the her messy morning hair out of her eyes
“What is it this time?”
Some of these lady pigs were very well known for their gossip, almost as much as the hen house: Pigs spend so much time in the mud, it only seems natural that they’d always be digging into things. Whether it was the news of a new delivery of apples or a rumor that someone had been sneaking into the cornfields for a midnight snack, Mary knew that a group of pigs outside her room was never a good thing.
“It’s that new one,” the Berkshire said, “the one from last week?”
“Do you mean Patience?” Mary asked.
“Yes, that’s the one!” the Red Wattle chimed in, “we’re very worried about her!”
“Not worried enough to find out her name, I suppose?” Mary asked. Several piggy heads sunk in shame.
“Be that as it may,” the Chester White continued, “We couldn’t help but notice that the new pig… Patience… she looks like she might be having some trouble.”
“She does?” Mary’s ears perked up a little, “I haven’t noticed that. We’ve been having lunch together as I welcome her in, she seems to be very happy here.”
“Are you sure?” asked the Chester White.
“Yes,” said Mary.
“You’ve had lunch with her?” asked the Red Wattle.
“Yes,” said Mary again.
“And she was eating?” asked the Berkshire.
“Of course she was!” Mary said with a snort. “What an odd question to ask! What kind of pig doesn’t like to eat?”
“Well, that’s what we’re here to find out!” shouted the old, red Duroc.
Mary hung her head and wondered exactly why she found herself in the position of conflict-resolution-cow.
“Look, I think you’re all making too much of a deal out of this,” she said after a sigh, “go off to breakfast and be sure to be ready to work: we’ve got a big shipment of apples coming in this afternoon.”
“I knew it!” shouted a pig in the back. Mary groaned a little and went back into the farmhouse. Later that morning, Mary was pleased to see Patience sitting contentedly at breakfast, munching on a cob of corn.
“Thank goodness,” Mary muttered to herself, “I’m sure glad that’s over. Anyone can see that Patience is doing just…”
But before Mary could finish that sentence, the Berkshire walked over and gave Patience some of her own breakfast. Patience looked confused, but said “thank you” all the same. Right behind the Berkshire came the Chester White, who plopped a big, shiny, red apple right on top of Patience’s breakfast, and after that the Red Wattle dropped what seemed like her entire breakfast portion onto Patience’s breakfast, covering it entirely.
Mary put a cloven hoof to her forehead and groaned again. Patience, now looking horribly embarrassed, sat there and ate every last bit, all while that old Duroc looked on, smiling through a pair of dentures that didn’t quite fit right.
Patience ended up being the last animal at breakfast, eating for what seemed like forever. Finally, at the bottom of the pile, Patience found her poor little cob of corn and forced it down, looking a little sick. Mary was shocked to still see her there.
“Patience! Oh my goodness, you don’t look so good.”
“No, no, Mary… it’s all right. I guess I just…”
She hiccuped so hard Mary was afraid she might explode.
“made a pig out of myself, ha ha…”
Patience looked so woozy Mary was afraid she might fall over. She helped the little pig back to her sty and Patience rolled over onto her side, groaning.
“Why on earth did you eat all of that, Patience?”
“I… I didn’t want to be rude…
“And don’t you think it was rude when those sows dumped all that food on you?”
“No, it’s all right. I understand what they mean. Pigs are supposed to be fat, I really should… I should eat more…”
“You eat just fine, Patience.”
“No, I had the same problem at my old farm. I just wasn’t… big enough. All of those other pigs… they were winning blue ribbons, state fair, magazine covers… try as I might, I just couldn’t get as big as them. I bet… I bet they all just want me to be happy, right?”
And for the next few days, the sows kept piling their food onto Patience’s trough, and Patience kept trying to eat it. By the end of the week, she could barely walk, and she sure couldn’t help with any of the work on the farm. Then, on Saturday, Mary woke up to a group of pigs outside her door again.
“Ugh!” she grunted, “Now what?”
“Patience is sick,” one of the young piglets said.
“Well of course she is!” Mary said with a snort, “You’ve been feeding her enough for an elephant all week!”
“We were only trying to help,” the Chester White said, her face in a piggy pout.
“What on Earth made you think THAT was helping?”
The Berkshire shuffled her trotters and looked ashamed.
“Well, it’s just that…well…”
All of the pigs replied at once: “Pigs are supposed to be fat.”
“Oh, for crying out…” Mary stamped her hoof, “Haven’t you ever noticed that I’m not as big as the other cows here at the farm?”
“Oh, I guess she is…” some of the pigs muttered amongst themselves.
“I’m a different kind of cow, that’s all. This is just how I was made. Patience may be thin, but it’s not like she doesn’t eat enough. I know you all meant well, but you were trying to make her look like something she isn’t.”
“Well, now what do we do?” asked the old, red Duroc.
“I think we’ll all walk over there and apologize to Patience… and maybe bring her a bicarbonate of soda.”
Patience looked a little green around the jowls, but the bicarbonate helped her feel much better… after a few big burps.
“We’re sorry, Patience,” the Berkshire shuffled on her trotters again, “we all had our heads clear in the mud.”
“No, it’s all right… I just wanted to be a big, fat, famous pig, but I suppose my mother was right.”
“What do you mean?” asked the Red Wattle.
“My mother always said my great-great-great-grandsow was a Choctaw hog, and that because of that we would always look different.”
“I knew it!” shouted a pig in the back.
“That’s part of the reason why she named me Patience. She’d always tell me to have patience: patience for where I am, and patience for where I was going to be. I’m always wanting to do things right away, just like when you gave me all that food. I didn’t have the patience to say ‘not now,’ because I thought if I ate it all I might get fat and famous. But I know, even after all I’ve eaten this week, I’ll be skinny again on Monday.”
“You will?” asked the Chester White.
“Yes. You see, I’ve got a very strong metabolism.”
“I knew it!” shouted a pig in the back.
“So I guess I’ll just have to be patient, and maybe someday I can be the pig I always wanted to be… until then, I’ll have to ask that you be patient with me.”
“What would we need to be patient with you for, dearie?” asked the old Duroc.
“Patient with me on these cold northern mornings! I need a blanket!”
The pigs all oinked and squealed with laughter, as Mary looked on, smiling her little cow smile.