War Stories and Legends

The Photographer and The Porker

by Jack Kurtz

    When people ask me why I became a photojournalist, I will tell them this true story.

I has just arrived home after another grueling day at the El Paso Times, when the Photo Editor called me about a late-breaking spot news story.  The initial call was that a pig had fallen into a ditch and the fire department was trying valiantly to save its life. I hopped into the car and headed out to see what was happening with the porker.

I was about halfway there when the boss called again on my cellphone with an update: The pig was in a swimming pool, not a ditch, and it (the pig) was someone's 600 pound pet. (I'm not making this up.)

I arrived on the scene and you could cut the tension with a knife. Neighbors were huddled along the fence in front of the house, praying for the pigs safe recovery. People peered from behind curtains as firefighters hurried from their trucks to the pool, their arms laden with heavy equipment. For a brief second, thoughts of a Pulitzer danced in my mind. Reality Check. It's just a pig.

I hurried into the backyard where a small cadre of firefighters were comforting a giant pig that didn't really seem that upset. The pig's owner, a woman in her late 30's, stood nearby watching the scene unfold.

Now being a journalist that I am, I asked the despondent owner how her pig came to be in her (mostly) empty swimming pool. She told me the pig (she calls him Hamilton, "Hammy" for short) walked into the pool on Friday night (three days before) to wallow in the brackish water in the deep end. Apparently, Hammy liked wallowing in the deep end, and chose not to return to the terra firma. So, the owner (who shall remain nameless) got into the pool and slept with Hammy for two nights. She said she didn't want hime to get lonely. By Monday morning, she decided it was time for him to get out of the pool, so she tried to entice him out of the pool with bacon sandwiches (again, I'm not making this up.)  Hammy stayed in the pool, so the owner tried to bribe him out with pizza. Again, Hammy stayed in the pool.

So what do you do when you have a 600 pound pig in a pool and he won't come out? Quick, call 911!  That's how the firefighters got involved.

While we watched the firefighters wrestle with a 600 pound Vietnamese pot-bellied pig, who was quite happy where he was, thank you, I asked the owner if Hammy could swim. She said he loved to swim and was a natural in the water.  So that begged the question, which I asked, "Did you think about flooding the pool and letting Hammy float (or swim) out?"  The silence was deafening. The firefighters stopped what they were doing and looked at the owner, who in turn looked at me. You could see the wheels turning in everyone's mind. The fire chief finally broke the silence, "That's our next step."

But before moving onto the "next step," the firefighters tied a harness around Hammy's midsection and eight of El Paso's toughest heaved. That pig came flying out of the pool like a cork from a very flat bottle of champagne. Hammy's owner grabbed him around the neck, and with tears streaming down her face, gave the giant porker a strangling hug. For his part, Hammy oinked and headed back to the pool, only to be turned back by a phalanx of firefighters who herded the pig into the woman's kitchen. And that ended my day.

And oh, the two-column photo of the firefighters wrestling with the pig made page one.

Jack Kurtz is a photographer for the El Paso Times in El Paso, Texas.