It’s just after 6am and the sound of hundreds of pot bellied pigs clamoring for breakfast is rolling across the saguaros and Palo Verde Trees of the Sonoran Desert. Tim Mcavoy is going about the morning pig feeding at Ironwood Pig Sanctuary in Marana, Arizona.
The shelter is home to nearly 600 pot-bellied pigs that have been rescued from owners who can no longer afford to care for them. While they might look like an endless sea of wrinkled tails and bristly snouts to the casual bystander, Mcavoy says he knows each pig by name, calling out to them as he gives them their morning package of Fig Newtons.
“We all get to name them here, so there’s a pig out here named after each of our grandmothers, and then we start taking turns,” he says.
Mcavoy adds that the foreclosure crisis, combined with the fact that many families severely underestimate the amount of care a pot bellied pig needs, has resulted in a spike in the number of pigs taken in by the sanctuary. Ironwood, which was founded by Mary Schanz and Ben Watkins, now fosters abused and neglected pigs across the desert from Tucson to Phoenix and is supported through the donations of animal lovers across the country.
For more information about the organization, go to http://www.ironwoodpigsanctuary.org.
Claudio Badilla is pissed. I met him at the Tanque Verde Swap Meet in Tucson, where he was tracking down the man who sold him a busted up horn for his truck.
At the height of the summer, the swap meet is something between Chucky Cheese and a ghost town. It’s over 100 degrees, and the heat has scrambled everyone’s brains all over the sidewalk like the mango pits stuck to the pavement. The few vendors that haven’t packed up for the afternoon sit in the shade and beckon to you from behind towers of used tires, stacks of Lucha Libre masks, and tables scattered exotic houseplants and plastic AK-47’s. Across the alley a man sits in the shadows of thousands of pounds of military surplus and sucks on an oxygen machine, which rattles away like a Buddhist chant in a dusty monastery.
The watermelon vendor wants to know if I have any pictures of naked women in my camera. I tell him to let me know if he sees any walk by. As I start to leave a little girl is taking a lap on an entirely empty carousel while the attendant swats flies under an umbrella. A few pickups and an escaped tumbleweed stagger out of the exit.
I put my camera away and sit under the ironwood tree that provides absolutely no shade, eating my melted Cliff Bar and thinking about how this is probably the best way to spend a Sunday.
On the drive between Kansas City and Albuquerque there is nothing but miles and miles of grassland that swallow up the horizon as far as you can see. After driving eight hours or so I pulled over in a field to sleep. Once you turn off the car the silence is so profound that the bees stop buzzing, the cattle stop chewing their cud, and everyone just turns and watches you. Mighty pretty country out there.
Apparently this is the Rita Blanca National Grassland, although you wouldn’t know because there are no signs anywhere telling you where you are. I guess you’re supposed to read the patterns in the barbed wire…