Book In Common: Old Woman gets her piggy over the stile, but learns a few things about interpersonal relationships on the way

Putting aside Fruhlingputz for a minute, I’m sitting down for a cup of java and a quick read.  My Philip K. Dick reader is making me too paranoid, so I picked up my Better Homes and Gardens Story Book. 

I love “The Old Woman and her Pig” because it’s so funny to imagine this old lady trying to muscle home a pig she’s picked up at market. Pigs are so agile and quick, and I can’t imagine it would just follow obediently. Today you can buy some 4-H kid’s pig, and you get it all wrapped and ready to go in the freezer. But things were different in the old days. A little old lady had to keep her wits about her.  

Ever seen a stile?  Apparently there’s all kinds. 






From  and


Good luck getting your pig over that last one, Gramma!

So, you can imagine this old lady’s predicament – here she’s got herself this incredible animal – like Homer Simpson pointed out – pork chops, bacon, and ham, all in one package – and she can’t get the dang thing home! 

Today we get so used to “entitlements.” Everybody feels entitled to everything. It’s another word for “spoiled.” This old lady had to do for herself, so it’s not surprising that she has absolutely no patience with the pig. She immediately flags down a passing dog and orders him to bite the pig. “But the dog would not.”  No reasons, just “would not.” So, the old lady has to deal with the dog on top of the pig, and, here’s where it gets weird – she meets a talking stick. Things were different in the old days. But, there’s no reasoning with a talking stick, apparently, and she rambles on down the road looking for help. No idea where pig has gone at this time, but assuming he is still dead-set against going over the stile.

Next she meets a fire. I’m just reporting this, I didn’t make up the details. This fire is just sitting there, burning happily, and she walks up and asks if it will burn the upstart stick for refusing to beat the dog, who has refused to bite the pig who has refused to go over the stile. This poor woman gets no respect, the water immediately thumbs it’s nose and off she goes to figure out a way to punish the water. 

So – are you still with me? – she finds and ox, and you got it – ever seen an ox drink water? My lord, they drink all at one time, it’s like, alright already! If I were a little pool of water, I’d be worried. I’d be worried about where this ox is going to pee, as well.

But ox refuses? He must have just filled up. Off to find a butcher to make ox steak! But the butcher is also unreasonable, refusing to kill the ox.  The old lady becomes testy at this point, opting for a necktie party, she tries to enlist a rope that just happens by. Rope says NO! What!?! She asks a rat nearby to chew the rope, NO! Can’t an old woman get a break?!

Yes.  From the Old Lady’s Friend, the cat. Cat tells the old woman, “If you go to the cow and get me a saucer of milk, I’ll kill the rat.” You know how cats won’t be bossed, but they like humans. So, the old lady goes to the barn, here she meets another old lady, somebody more her equal – Cow. Cow kindly but firmly  informs the old woman that she will need some feed to make the milk, so the old woman hustles along to get some hay from a farmer down the road. Now that’s she’s not bossing and hollering, things are starting to work for her. 

Farmer is mowing his hay, tired and hot, so he asks the old woman to get him some water from the creek. When she gets to the creek, she finds the bucket has holes in the bottom. At this point, I might have sent that bucket flying over the haymow, but she thinks quick and covers the bottom with some nice pond rocks, and takes it back to the farmer. As soon as the farmer drinks the water, the curious things begin to happen.

As soon as the cow gets her hay, the cats gets her milk, and…

The cat began to kill the rat, the rat began to gnaw the rope, the rope began to hang the  butcher, the butcher began to kill the ox...” But, none of these horrific crimes go through because each player springs into action to avoid their awful punishment and “The little pig in a fright jumped over the stile, and the old woman got home that night!

A kid’s story? There are so many lessons in this story. The first, of course, being persistence – there’s a no-brainer. This woman, a pork roast dinner in her mind, would not give up, even when the bucket had holes. 

But, here’s the lesson I learned, unfortunately, late in life. My mom used to say to me, just suggesting, as though, she didn’t want to tell me how to run my life, “Hon, you know, you get more flies with honey than you do with vinegar…” My parents talked funny, back woodsy, old-fashioned. I felt like saying to my mother, “why would I want flies?” But, I loved my mama so I shut up. I never really got what she was trying to say – that I had a bad temper and a sharp tongue, like my gramma, who would come over the top of a table after a waitress who added up a bill wrong. My mom had a pretty mean tongue too, but it took a lot more to get her going. Like don’t even go into her house when she’s had a couple of shots of brandy, got that? 

But she was right, I used to enjoy taking the top off somebody’s head when they were wrong. I’d wait until I  got them dead wrong, but I’d give it to them with both  barrels. I was demanding, sure, when I thought somebody was trying to jack me around, I’d get a little high-handed. A lot of times, I did what I had to do. People will take advantage of a sweet little blonde, that’s for sure. People have got in my face, from the seat of their car, to the seat of my bike. And I’ve come back at them like Jaws. People have tried to cheat me, and I’ve had to warm the seat of their pants with a lawyer. And liked it.

But, it’s true. You get a lot more “flies” with “honey“.  I will try to remember to be nice, at least at first. I will not look at it like “sucking up,” I will try to look at it like a symbiotic relationship. 


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