When Spammy the pig escaped a roasting, folks started talking.
After all, how many pigs bust out of a burning shed, rescue their best friend, and earn a trust fund aimed at keeping both animals together forever? For that matter, how many pigs have a best friend?
"Oh, she's a special pig," says owner Les Morgan, standing in a muddy pen Spammy shares with her pal, Spot the calf.
Morgan wakes the napping roommates with a holler and the 150-pound Spammy replies with a hearty squeal. Seeking refuge from the hot summer sun, she takes a few steps and slowly lowers herself into a cool mud puddle. Spot meanwhile ambles to a shady corner near a wooden post.
After a few rolls in the mud, Spammy rises from the murky water to rub noses and cuddle beside her bovine buddy.
Such affection is nothing new. Since they were just a few weeks old, Spammy and Spot's relationship has drawn comparisons to Charlotte's Web, the classic children's story by writer E.B. White. In White's tale, a spider named Charlotte saves Wilbur the pig from slaughter by spinning webs with words touting his greatness.
"They're going to be together for a long time," says Morgan. "This isn't how we planned it. She was supposed to become somebody's food, but fate will have its way. It's kind of like Charlotte's Web," he agrees, "except here, a pig saves a cow."
In fact, Spammy's name, a twist on the canned ham product found in supermarkets, was chosen to remind the Morgans' children and friends that the pig was born to be bacon.
Her heroic feat changed all that.
"Spammy's a heroine who deserves to live and her friendship with Spot should live on too," says Mary Ellen Smith, a Chico resident who helped create the Spammy and Spot Trust Fund.
Spammy's saga began on a cool evening last May, when flames engulfed the shed she shares with Spot. "We thought they were goners," Morgan says.
Then, after firefighters extinguished the blaze, Morgan and his wife, Wendy, heard a faint but familiar squeal. The noise eventually led firefighters to a nearby meadow and a soot-covered Spammy.
Spammy, then about 2 months old, didn't stop squealing until firefighters also found Spot. "Once she did get next to the calf she relaxed and nuzzled up to him and they both seemed to be pretty content," says Bill Redding, Chief of the Butte County Fire Department.
Judging from the scratches, burns and soot marks on her backside, it appeared the then-40-pound pig used her rear end to punch a hole in the shed wall, and the calf followed.
That doesn't surprise Les Morgan. "Spot always goes where Spammy goes," he says.
The animals' adventure made front-page news in Chico, a northern California college town known for its mellow pace.
Folks became especially concerned after word got out that Spammy would be slaughtered when she reached full size. "There was an uproar," says Bob Peterson, an editor at Th Chico Enterprise Record. Readers sent dozens of letters demanding that Spammy be spared.
Among the Spammy-smitten was neighbor Carole Pavlik-Selby. "We wanted them to stay friends forever," she says.
She and Smith contacted the Morgans and pitched the idea of a trust fund. The Morgans, leaning towards keeping Spammy but concerned about the cost, were happy to oblige.
They expect to keep Spammy and Spot for as long as they live, caring for them with help from the trust fund. If the fund runs out, the Morgans plan to hold fund-raisers or use their own savings.
"It was pretty impressive," says Wendy Morgan of the trust fund, which now holds about $200. "Especially considering how she's the runt of the litter, Spammy's done pretty well for somebody who was never supposed to survive."
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