Once upon a time, the large riding lawn mowers’ engines growled to life. Wide grins spread across the faces of the two towheaded boys. They clenched the steering wheels and pushed the mowers in to gear, darting out across their Grandpa’s huge yard.
Grasshoppers, cicadas, bees, and beetles flew before them. The chickens squawked, offended by the noise. The ducks hurried to the pond to with loud quacks, making it out of reach of the boys on their mowers just in time.
Up and down the yard, Bruce and Jude raced. The giant blades beneath them sheered off the grass and sprayed the cut greens up into the air.
Bruce whooped, fist in the sky.
Jude laughed, leaning in over his steering wheel as he pulled ahead of his big brother.
Two lazy old cows on the other side of the fence pushed their new calves further out into the field. Boys on mowers were not to be trusted. A gray donkey rolled his eyes and stepped into the cool shade of the old oak tree. He wasn’t worried. They weren’t mowing his pasture.
The boys flew by.
At the other end of the yard, Otis the Pig raised his flat snout to the wind. He perked up his ears, listening. A horrible noise, grinding, growling, chomping, chopping rushed towards him. The thick smell of oil and gasoline burned his pink nose. He leapt up out of his muddy hollow, prancing in fear on his little hooves.
Out of the thick summer grass, yellow with heat and Texas dandelions, roared two massive monsters ridden by two crazy brothers. The monsters drove right past Otis, turned, and came back.
Otis froze in fear.
The monsters were going to eat him!
He jumped straight up in the air and ran as fast as his little piggy legs would carry him away from the monsters. But, they followed him, closer and closer, louder and louder.
He squealed, knowing his life was over. He would be devoured by the machines driven by the brothers.
“Heya Jude!” Bruce shouted coming to a stop.
Jude slowed as the roar of his big brother’s mower softened.
“Look!” Bruce pointed.
A pink nose, two quivering ears, and two eyes, wide with fright, stared at them from the grass.
“Oh,” Bruce said, “he’s scared.”
“It’s a pig, Jude. Not a puppy.”
Jude grinned. The brothers shut off their engines. A strange stillness filled the half-mowed yard. The bugs, birds, and animals all took a deep breath and shook the fear from their shells, feathers, and fur.
Bruce climbed off his mower and approached poor, terrified Otis. Jude followed. The boys held out their hands to the trembling pig.
“It’s okay,” Bruce scratched the stiff hair between his ears.
“Yeah. It’s okay.” Jude held out a handful of grass to the pig.
“He’s a pig, not a cow, Jude.”
Otis sniffed at the boys extended fingers as a calm silence settled around him. The monsters stopped their ferocious eating, and the brothers their wild racing. They spoke quietly instead of screaming, and scratched his ears.
He snorted working his nose through the grass in Jude’s hand to find the mushroom he’d also pulled up.
“Come on.” Bruce straightened up and started for the gate that lead to the back pasture. “If we put him in there, he won’t be afraid of the mowers.”
Jude nodded and hurried after Bruce, but Otis didn’t follow them.
“Come on, piggy piggy.” Bruce slapped his thigh and made a squeaky noise at Otis.
“Come on, horsey horsey,” Jude copied him.
Otis stayed in the grass.
Bruce returned to Otis and wrapped his arms around his neck. He pulled. Jude pushed from behind.
Otis didn’t move.
Push. Pull. Push. Pull. Push. Pull.
The pig’s little hooves remained planted firmly in the grass.
Jude ripped up another handful of grass and held it out to Otis.
Bruce sighed. “Pig.”
Otis enjoyed the hug and back rub the brothers gave him immensely. Nothing conquered fear like a good hug. And now they gave him another handful of food. He sniffed through the grass and found another mushroom.
“That’s it, Jude, get more grass.” Bruce ripped up a handful, but moved a step further away from Otis and closer to the gate. Otis followed, nosed the grass in his hand and ate a little yellow flower.
Jude pulled up two handfuls and held them out a little way beyond Bruce. Otis hurried to his hand and happily dug out a pecan and a piece of old orange peel.
Leap-frogging their way to the gate, the brothers guided the pig to safety with food-offerings. Once they got close, Bruce unlocked the big gate and pulled it open. Otis just stood there, again.
The frightening morning had turned quiet pleasant in Otis’ mind as the boys searched high and low in the grass for good things to eat. Had he ever met two more delightful boys?
Yummy, yummy in his tummy.
“Go start your mower.” Bruce whispered to Jude.
Jude ran back across the yard, jumped in the big seat, and cranked his mower to life.
The monsters are back! Otis didn’t care how good the food was, he wanted nothing to do with those loud things.
The pig darted through the open gate and out into the pasture. Bruce jerked it shut behind him and locked it with a sigh. He joined Jude, and the two brothers finished mowing Grandpa’s lawn.
Otis sat in the shade of the old oak tree beside the gray donkey. He kept a close eye on the monsters ridden by the brothers, but they stayed on the far side of the fence. He shook his head and ate an acorn.