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The Prince and the Porker - cover
The Prince and the Porker

by Phil Stong

 

Chapter 1
The Lonesome Horse

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The Prince stood in his big stall and chewed lackadaisically at the finest hay that money could buy; a special blend of timothy and clover with a little alsike. Occasionally, he nuzzled into the grain box where there were some scattered grains of corn and a few oats, but he did this dutifully, as if the grain were not what a horse should consider fine, fresh-roasted peanuts.

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"I don't know what's got into him," said the big, pink-cheeked, reddishhaired man they called Mac. He was the head trainer for The Lady's stables. He was also very Scotch through his father and mother, not to mention all of his ancestors since Scotland was discovered.

"I don't know, either."

The Prince liked The Lady. Her hair was almost as bay as Mac's and her voice as gentle and soothing, in a different way. She also had a good hand for patting and a very good muzzle for a person, smiling most of the time.

The Prince didn't know what was the matter with him, himself. He didn't have colic or anything he could exactly put his hoof on. Maybe he'd been overworking at his education but that was almost over now, except for refreshers. He had had assorted courses -- Trotting, which meant using the legs on his opposite corners alternately; Pacing, at a signal -- using the legs on the same sides; Keeping Knees High; Arching Neck; Holding Chin In; Answering Reins, both for speed and turns -- and he had had the "High School" courses on Kneeling, Lying Down, Standing On Two Legs (the back ones), and a dozen small tricks.

Maybe being too highly educated made people melancholy. It is a terrible thing to feel that you know everything in the world. At any rate, The Prince often wished he were a small colt again, running around with the other colts, pretending to bite and kick at his friends. It was true that he got two or three carrots and several lumps of sugar ever day, but being rich isn't everything.

"That horse is lonesome, all right," said The Lady, "but -- "

"That's right," said Mac. "I'd say he needs a stablemate, but -- "

"He had his choice of five pug pups and two collies."

"Most lonesome horses, especially race horses, take to puppies."

"Harness horses seem to be different. Maybe we shouldn't have taught him those High School tricks. Maybe they made him temperamental like a race horse."

"He seemed to kind of enjoy them. He's got a head on his shoulders, that horse. I mean, in front of his shoulders."

"If he doesn't get it a little bit higher than his shoulders in time for the American Royal Livestock Show in Kansas City next week, he'll place seventeenth -- unless we enter him among the yearling calves."

"Maybe it's just one of those passing phases they talk about. Maybe he's not getting enough exercise -- he's a pretty strong little horse."

"Don't think me up 'maybe's'. You know what's wrong with him as well as I do. Do you think a chicken would be any use? It seems to me I read somewhere about some big race horse that had a pet chicken."

"That wouldn't do for The Prince," Mac said, almost indignantly. "The brain of a chicken's not as big as a peanut. That wouldn't be any intellectual society. Hopping around and picking and clucking all day. It'd drive him crazy."

"Well, we can't escort him through the Zoo and let him take his pick -- "

There was a voice from far down the rows of stalls, toward the door.

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"Dad! Tam O'Shanter has gained a pound! On Mrs. Cook's bathroom scale."

There was a sound of someone galloping, which is the only running gait two-legged animals have. Shortly, a fellow of about twelve appeared at a high rate of speed. He stopped abruptly.

"Oh, Mrs. Reider -- I didn't know you were here!"

He was almost exactly like his father but twenty-eight years younger and his freckles were considerably more conspicuous. He was not so tall, of course, but it seemed probable that he would be a little later.

"What do you have there?" The Lady asked. "Oh, of course, I forget!"

"And you shouldn't have given him that runt," Mac said. "All I hear ever since is pig -- pig -- pig. What have pigs to do with horses? If that runt lives, Robert Bruce Wallace MacAndrews might grow up raising pigs instead of horses."

"They're both very useful in their places," Mrs. Reider said. "Let me see him, Bob -- my Goodness! He's getting a little bit of fat on his ribs. If we'd left him with his mother and those nine others, he'd be in pig Heaven by now."

"No ma'am, that pig's never going to pig Heaven -- "

"Of that I have no doubt whatever," Mac said. "What with his scandalous jumping out of his bed and scuttering around the kitchen, squealing for meals at all hours of the day and night -- "

"I feed him, Dad."

At this moment, Tam O'Shanter uttered a long, mildly Lily Pons "Squeeee!"

The Lady uttered one nearly as loud and almost dropped the pig.

Tam was wriggly and Bob took him from Mrs. Reider.

"He's kind of used to me," he said apologetically. "I feed him."

"Uff," said Tam, in a high-pitched "uff".

"I forgot," Bob said humbly. "I shouldn't have said 'feed'."

"Uff!" said O'Shanter.

"Said it again! Keep quiet, Tam!"

"But he must be a very bright little pig if he already knows a word!"

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Bob looked at the five pounds of pig which had now settled down and, in five seconds, gone to sleep.

"Oh, he's very bright. He already knows Mrs. Cook -- that's Mrs. Dineen, the cook. He starts squealing as soon as he sees her."

"So," said Mac. "Making a nuisance of himself up at the big house."

"But Mrs. Cook -- Dineen likes him. This morning, she gave him the skimmed milk from the cream and what was left in the oatmeal bowls and a teaspoonful of that cereal that's supposed to make a baseball player out of you -- not that he'd ever be a baseball player -- "

"He doesn't seem to have the hands for catching flies," The Lady said. "How in the world do you keep him quiet long enough to weigh him on bath scales?"

"That's my own invention," Bob said proudly. "First I get on the scales and we weigh me; then Mrs. Cook -- Dineen -- hands him to me and we subtract me."

"And all the trouble we have weighing the pups!" said The Lady. "Now why didn't I ever think of that? You let me know how he comes along, Bob. And Mac, we'll see how The Prince looks tomorrow and try to plan something, please."

They turned to look at The Prince and both their eyes, or rather, all four of their eyes, opened wide. When Bob glanced up, it made six. When Tam O'Shanter opened his eyes, it made eight.

"Look at that horse," said Mac. "What's got into him?"

The Prince had turned half way around in his stall and bent his neck as only horses and giraffes can, and was looking at Tam with great limpid eyes.

"You don't suppose -- " ventured Mrs. Reider.

"I do suppose," Mac said. "Hold him up, Bob."

Bob held up the small pig, who immediately showed an interest in the long face that stretched toward him and sniffed at it.

"A pig!" exclaimed Mrs. Reider. "Who in the world would have thought of that?"

 

The Prince and the Porker by Phil Stong
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