Hilltown Postcards

The Great Pig Feud

When Hank and I lived in the Ringville section of Worthington, we lucked out with great neighbors. Good neighbors leave each other alone. Great ones become your friends. The Lipperts, Stroms, Charlie Baker and his son Chuck, and Marian Sanderson come to mind. Certainly, nothing happened to disturb the peace in Ringville. 

But that wasn’t true for everyone in Worthington and the hilltowns around it. There have been neighborhood feuds, often ignited by something personal. I will leave those alone for this story.

Instead, I will stick to the feuds about animals, typically over barking dogs, or worse, biting dogs, although I recall one notable dispute over pigs.

As the hilltown reporter for the Daily Hampshire Gazette, I covered hearings for all of them. The dog owners were passionately loyal to their pets and blind to their faults. I’ve seen neighbors who are generally reasonable people come close to losing it.

As for the pigs, it was a case of newcomer against native, and it was pretty easy to figure out who complained about the pigsty and who owned it. The Worthington Board of Health’s hearing drew a sizable crowd. 

The couple, yes, newcomers, who brought the complaint to the board didn’t like the smell of their neighbors’ pigs and worried their well could be contaminated by runoff from their pigsty. They had put money into their landscaping.

The owner of the pigs, who raised the animals for eating, had responded in good neighborly fashion by moving the pigsty closer to the property line after they complained.

I, of course, knew both parties, nice people, all of them, but they had a problem they couldn’t resolve on their own. One of the locals at the meeting told me, “Make it real funny when you write it,” but I wouldn’t do that. This was serious stuff to these folks.

Tony Lake, a Worthington resident who would later be Bill Clinton’s National Security Adviser, spoke in favor of the pigs at the hearing. He was raising cattle then and was concerned this could be the start of an anti-farm animal trend. Besides, he said, everyone knew that cattle manure smelled worse than pigs’.

The Board of Health vote unanimously in favor of the pig owner.

But that wasn’t the end of it. The situation was resolved a few years later in the couple’s favor when the neighbor who raised pigs got divorced and moved away.

Many of my books are set in the fictional hilltowns of Western Mass. because I was inspired living and reporting on the real ones. Here’s link to my books on Amazon.