SQUARE MAYS
AND THE SOW THAT MADE MISCHIEF

by C.F. Eckhardt

They tell this story up around Wimberly. I’m not sure what Squire Mays’ real name was, but his wife’s name was Aunt Polly. He come to be called ‘Square’ Mays when, after he was elected Justice of the Peace, he commenced to put on airs. He put up a sign that had his name on it, suffixed by ‘Esq.’ ‘Esq.’ is short for Esquire, which is usually abbreviated to ‘Squire’. However, up around Wimberly they decided to pronounce it ‘Square’ and Judge Mays became known as Square Mays forever more.

Square Mays was apparently not an industrious man, and his wife, Aunt Polly, had to nag him considerable to get him to chink the chimney. The mortar was falling out and she was sure something bad was going to happen—either the chimney would fall, or it wouldn’t draw, or sparks would come out of it and set the house afire, or something. She pestered Square for weeks to chink that chimney.

Finally, one afternoon, he decided he’d been pestered enough. He got out his wheelbarrow and got a sack of cement and mixed up some mud. He laid the ladder up next to the chimney, filled his hod with mud, got his pointing trowel, and climbed the ladder. Carefully—for Square Mays was a careful man—he began to chink the gaps between the stones in the chimney.

This took a while, but Square Mays wasn’t in a hurry. he had all afternoon, and a whole wheelbarrow full of mud to work with. He used up a hod, maybe two, and wasn’t finished.

Just below the house, resting in the shade of a fig tree, was an old sow. She was known as a cantankerous ol’ gal, and Square Mays saw her eyeing him. The more he worked, the more that sow eyed him. Square was absolutely certain that sow was up to no good at all.

"Aunt Polly!" He called.

"What do you want?"

"You see that ol’ sow down there? I want you to get the boys to run her off into the pasture."

There is very little more fun than chasing a hog, and on the average a feller doesn’t get to chase a hog just for the fun of it. It runs the fat off the hog. When their mother showed up actually wanting her sons to chase a hog, they were delighted. The boys and Towser, the family dog, went out to chase the mischief-studying sow into the pasture.

The sow, who’d been minding her own business in the leafy shade of the fig tree, suddenly found herself beset by two large, yelling boys and a barking dog. She took to her heels.

Hogs can run amazingly fast, and—if animal behaviorists are to be believed—they’re among the smartest of four-footed animals. Whether they're smart or not remains to be proven to me—anything that smart out to be smarter than to taste as good as ham, bacon, sausage, and pork chops taste. I will, however, concede the speed and a certain low cunning to the species.

The sow really didn’t want to leave her leafy, shady bower. She took a wide detour—a circle around the house—and tried to get back to it. In the meantime, Square was even higher up the ladder, a hod of mud on his shoulder, trowel in hand, chinking the chimney.

The sow’s fourth and fifth circles around the house were tighter than the previous ones. One the fifth one she passed between the wheelbarrow full of mud and Square’s ladder. Square went on chinking the chimney.

On the sixth circle around the house, she cut even tighter. She wasn’t a small sow—she probably weighed three hundred pounds—and she smashed into the foot of Square Mays ladder.

The result was predictable. When a missile weighing upwards of three hundred pounds encounters, at a speed of ten or twelve miles per hours, a flimsy ladder, the ladder is going to come down. It did—and so did Square Mays.

The sow, of course, was immediately forgotten. The boys went to see if daddy’d gotten himself kilt fallin’ down might near plumb from the top of the chimney like that. While one got the old man out from under the hod of mud—it fell, naturally, mud-side down square on top of his head—the other went to get mamma.

Square looked bad. He had chinking mud—cement mortar—in his hair, all over his clothes, in his eyes, in his ears, and in his mouth. He sputtered and spat, coughed and wiped. Aunt Polly got an old towel and tried to wipe some of the mud off, mostly the stuff out of his eyes, ears and mouth.

It took Square a while to get his breath back—it had been a long fall. One of the boys brought him a dipperful of water and then something a mite stronger—for medicinal purposes, of course. At last he could quit panting and say something.

"You see, Aunt Polly. You see." He sputtered. "I tol’ you that dern ol’ sow was a-studyin’ on makin’ mischief."

 

The story of Square Mays and his mischievous sow has become a storyteller classic around Wimberly, Texas.

 

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