Written by Arthur Scott Bailey
He was the smallest of seven children. At first his mother thought she would call him “Runty.” But she soon changed her mind about that; for she discovered that even if he was the runt of the family, he had the loudest grunt of all. So the good lady quickly slipped a G in front of the name “Runty.”
“There!” she exclaimed. “‘Grunty’ is a name that you ought to be proud of. It calls attention to your best point. And if you keep on making as much noise in the world as you do now, maybe people won’t notice that you’re a bit undersized. You certainly sound as big as any little piglet I ever saw or heard.”
So that was settled—though Grunty Pig didn’t care one way or another. He seemed to be interested in nothing but food. There is no doubt that he would have been willing to change his name a dozen times a day for the slight bribe of a drink of warm milk.
His mother sometimes said that he had the biggest appetite—as well as the loudest grunt—of all her seven children. And she was glad that he ate well, because food was the very thing that would make him grow.
“You won’t always be runty, Grunty, if you eat plenty,” Mrs. Pig often told him. And then he would grunt, as if to say, “You don’t need to urge me. Just give me a chance!”
Grunty Pig soon learned that being the smallest of the family had one sad drawback. His brothers and sisters (all bigger than him) could crowd him away from the feeding trough. And they not only could; but they often did. Unless Grunty reached the trough among the first, there was never a place left where he could squirm in. If he tried to eat at one end of the trough he was sure to be shouldered away and go hungry.
So whenever he did succeed in getting the first taste of a meal he took pains to plant himself in the exact middle of the trough. Then there would be three other youngsters on each side of him, all crowding towards him. And though he found it a bit hard to breathe under such a squeezing, at least he got his share of the food.
Poor Mrs. Pig! Her children had frightful manners. Though she talked and talked to them about not crowding, and about eating slowly, and about eating noiselessly, the moment their food was poured into their trough they forgot everything their mother had said.
That is, all but Grunty Pig! If he happened to be left out in the cold, so to speak, and had to stand and look on while his brothers and sister stuffed themselves, he couldn’t help remembering his mother’s remarks about manners.
“It’s awful to watch them!” he would gurgle. “I don’t see how they can be so rude.” He thought there was no sadder sight than his six brothers and sisters jostling one another over their food, while he couldn’t find a place to push in among them.
One thing, especially, distressed Mrs. Pig. Her children would put their front feet right into the trough when they ate their meals out of it. Nothing she said to them made the slightest difference. Even when she told them that they were little pigs they didn’t seem to care.
“We’re all bigger than Grunty is,” said one of her sons—a bouncing black youngster who was the most unruly of the litter.
“You’re all greedy,” Mrs. Pig replied. “Do try to restrain yourselves when you eat. Remember—there’s plenty of time.”
“But there’s not always plenty of food,” Grunty Pig told his mother. “Sometimes there isn’t any left over for me.”
“I know,” said Mrs. Pig. “I know that your brothers and sisters eat your share whenever they can. Farmer Green gives enough food for all of you. And if you children didn’t forget your manners everybody would get his share—no more and no less.”
Now, Mrs. Pig was not the only one that noticed how piggish her youngsters were at the trough. One day Farmer Green himself remarked to his son Johnnie, as they leaned over the pen, that that litter of pigs did beat all he had ever seen.
“They come a-running at meal time as if they were half starved. It’s a wonder they don’t get in the trough all over.”
Johnnie Green liked to watch the pigs.
“That black fellow’s the greediest of the lot,” he declared. “He’s getting to be the biggest. He’s almost twice the size of the little runt.”
“The runt doesn’t get his share,” said Farmer Green. “We’ll have to do something to help him, or he’ll never survive.”
Grunty Pig looked up at Farmer Green and gave a plaintive squeal, as if to say, “Hurry, please! Because I’m always hungry.”
And Blackie, his greedy brother, looked up at Farmer Green too. He said nothing. But his little eyes twinkled slyly. And afterward he told his brothers and sisters that Farmer Green needn’t think he could keep him from drinking all the milk he pleased.
“If Mother can’t make me behave, surely Farmer Green won’t be able to,” he boasted.
Of course Blackie Pig was very young. Otherwise he would never have made such a silly remark. And he soon learned that Farmer Green was more than a match for him.
The next day Farmer Green made a long lid that dropped over the feeding trough and covered it completely. And in the lid he cut seven holes—one for each of Mrs. Pig’s children.
There was no more jostling at meal time. There was a place for everybody. And Mrs. Pig was delighted with the improvement. When Farmer Green filled the trough, each of the children stuck his head through a hole and ate in the most orderly fashion. To be sure, there was some squealing and grunting, and some snuffling and blowing. But it seemed to Mrs. Pig that no youngsters could have behaved more beautifully.
And Grunty liked the new way of eating, too. But Blackie made a great fuss. He complained because he couldn’t stick his nose through two holes at the same time!
After Farmer Green put the lid with the holes in it over the top of the feeding trough, Grunty Pig began to grow. At last he was getting as much to eat as his brothers and sisters. And the bigger he grew, the more food he wanted. He was always on the watch for some extra tidbit—always rooting about to find some scrap that others had overlooked. Many a delicious piece of carrot, or turnip, or potato-peeling rewarded him for his eager searching.
Still, Grunty Pig was far from satisfied. He had a great longing to get outside the pen where he lived with the rest of Mrs. Pig’s seven children.
“Out in the wide world there must be many good things to eat,” he thought. “I’d like to find the place where the potato-peelings grow.”
But of all this, Grunty Pig said nothing to anyone. If the chance ever came to slip out of the pen, he intended to take nobody with him. He had not yet caught up with his brothers and sisters in size, even if he had outgrown them in the matter of brains. And he feared that any one of them would crowd him away from the good things that he meant to find beyond the walls of the pigsty.
Little did Mrs. Pig know what plans filled the head of her son Grunty. When she saw him sniffeling around the walls of the pen she never once guessed that he could be looking for anything except something to eat. How could she know that Grunty—the littlest of the family—was searching for a place to escape?
Now, it happened that there was one loose board in a corner of the pigpen. The nails that once held it had rusted away. Nobody but Grunty Pig had discovered that by pressing against an end of this board one could bend it outwards.
It was too bad—for him—that he had grown so rapidly. Had he been just a bit smaller he could have squeezed through the opening.
Here Grunty met the first real problem of his life. For some days he puzzled over it. One thing was certain: he couldn’t make himself smaller, unless he stopped eating. And that was out of the question. In the end he made up his mind that there was only one thing to do: he must make the opening bigger.
Day after day Grunty Pig crowded against the loose board. And at last came his reward. Two more rusty nails gave way all at once. Under Grunty’s weight the board opened wide. And as he slipped through the space, to freedom, the board snapped back into place again.
There he was, with the wide world before him. And there was the pen, with no opening anywhere to be seen.
With a grunt of delight Grunty Pig trotted out of the low building and found himself on the edge of Farmer Green’s orchard.
He noticed that there was a fragrant smell of apples in the air.
It was the first time Grunty Pig had ever been outside his pen. And since he didn’t know how long it would be before Farmer Green found him and took him back home, he decided that he had better make the most of his outing while it lasted.
Hurrying into the orchard, Grunty ate heartily of the fruit that lay upon the ground. After he had eaten a few dozen apples he began to lose his appetite for that sort of food. So he started to root beneath the trees. It was fun to dig. Besides, he found a good many tender roots that tickled his taste. They were different from anything he had ever eaten before.
After a while Grunty Pig learned something. He had always supposed that he could go on eating forever, if he were only lucky enough to have the chance. But to his surprise he found that there was a limit to the amount he could eat. He began to have a tight feeling about his waistband. At first he dared hope it would go away. But the more he ate, the worse he felt. And at last he gave a grunt of disappointment.
“I can’t eat any more,” he whined. “Here’s a whole world full of food just going to waste. And I can’t even hold one half of it!”
Still, there were other pleasures to be had besides eating. Grunty crawled through the fence into the lane. And near the barn, where the cows had trampled, he saw such beautiful, sticky, deep mud as he had never dreamed could be found anywhere.
Grunty Pig gave a deep sigh of happiness as he wallowed in the mud. He lay on his stomach, he turned upon each side. He even squirmed through a puddle and rolled over in it, so that there wasn’t a clean patch on him, anywhere. Little did he care that his silvery bristles were smeared with black. The mud felt delightfully cool upon his piggy, pinkish skin.
“This is almost better than eating,” Grunty squealed.
At last his gurgles and grunts attracted the notice of a proud creature known as Henrietta Hen. She had been scratching for worms in the farmyard. And now she came running around a corner of the barn and peered through the fence at Grunty.
“You careless child!” she squawked. “Stop playing in that mud! Don’t you know that it’s very dangerous to get your feet wet?”
Grunty Pig stood up and looked at her.
“Goodness! You’re a sight!” Henrietta Hen exclaimed. “Does your mother know you’re here?”
Now, Grunty Pig didn’t answer a single one of Henrietta’s questions. He merely stared at her and said nothing. So it was no wonder that she thought he was not very smart.
“Poor Mrs. Pig!” thought Henrietta Hen. “It’s bad enough to have a child so untidy as this youngster. But it’s far worse to have a dull-witted one.”
Then to Grunty she said sharply, “You’d better get out of that mudhole and go dry yourself in the sun.”
He actually obeyed her. And as soon as Henrietta Hen saw that he was sunning himself she walked out of sight around the barn, stopping now and then to pick up some tidbit or other.
“Good!” Grunty Pig grunted. “She’s gone. This was the easiest way to get rid of her.”
“Now let’s see what else I can find.”