“Here piggy, piggy, piggy. Come here you little sucker,” I mumbled as I sloshed through the muddy pigsty in the dark, trying to catch one of the little bastards. I had to be quiet. Johnny Reb was less than a half-mile away from the deserted farm, unaware that our troops were trailing close behind. I was there on orders. My lieutenant had yelled out, “Durant, go get some of those piglets we saw at that old farmhouse. I have a hankerin’ for some roasted pork. And, if you happen on one of those big fat turkeys we saw, that will well please the boys.”

Orders are orders, and I set off at a trot, as the lieutenant barked out, “And don’t get your ass shot.” At that, the whole platoon let out a howl.

That night I did catch one little skinny thing of a pig. It wouldn’t make much of a feast I told the men, and I promised to go back the next day and get four or five more if there was enough swine. The words had barely left my mouth, when I saw the lieutenant cock his head and give me a look. “What did you say? What do you mean if?” he said, clearly disappointed that I had caught only one of the many pigs I had told the troops I had tried to chase down. “No sir, sorry sir. What I said was ‘if only there was enough time.’”

There wasn’t.

Back at the farmhouse and scrambling around the pigsty the next morning, I stopped still at the sound of gunshots, a lot of them, and then bolted into a stand of trees near the farmhouse. With the exchanges of gunfire came screams of panic and pain. Moving as quickly as I could, I made my way back to camp, where I found six of my fellow soldiers alive and three dead. The lieutenant’s body I found next to those of two rebels. Blooded and curled into a fetal position, the lieutenant had the body of the piglet I had caught the night before clutched to his chest. It appeared as if he had been protecting the little guy.

Our dead buried, we built a fire that night and shared a few morsels of roasted pork.

Thanks, lieutenant.

About Mike Durant

Mike served in Vietnam with the 1st. Signal Brigade. After his service, he graduated from Cal State University Sacramento. He went on to receive a Masters of Journalism degree from UCLA. In a career of journalism he worked for a number of small California newspapers, and - from 1991 to 1997 - he served in Tokyo, Japan as the Pacific Editor for Stars and Stripes.