On June 12, 1959, a young boy named Kenny Wilson attended a birthday party for a classmate in northwest Iowa. Like most of Kenny’s friends, this classmate lived on a farm and the party was held outdoors between the house and the large grain silos. The young partygoers were pointedly herded away from the barns since they were noisy and foul smelling and filled with a few hundred hogs.
Between the pig pens and County Highway B24, ran a ditch about 15 feet wide and 5 feet deep. At the far end, a small hole led into a winding series of limestone caverns. While it was very easy to get into these caves it was exceedingly difficult to get out. The county placed an iron cap over the entrance but it was commonly damaged during large rainstorms.
On the rare occasion where they gate was loosened and a hog managed to get free of the pens, it sometimes found its way underground. Although little light penetrated the winding crevices, it was possible to survive in the caverns. While the lack of proper nutrition would stunt their growth, they would still turn feral after a few months - sometimes to the point where the small tusks, normally filed down by farmers, would grow out of their months. Usually, only the smaller piglets managed their way into the caves and it was seldom worth the time or effort to retrieve them.
If you’ve ever experienced the hardships of growing up on a farm, you know where this story is going: Kenny Wilson wandered away from the birthday and fell into the cave. A quiet boy, he was not missed at the party until his parents came to pick him up a few hours later. A search of the farm by the family, neighbors and police revealed little. Of course, hanging over the entire effort was the immutable horror of living on a farm that no one dared speak: the child may have been knocked unconscious near the hogs. If that were the case, he surely would have been eaten in only a few minutes.
As dusk approached and the search grid got larger, the broken cap was discovered. And when Kenny’s parents yelled into the hole, they could faintly hear him calling back. The lowered a slate down to him and he scrawled out that while he was okay there were things down in the cave moving around near him.
A rescue effort was quickly launched but it soon became apparent that the fragile nature of the limestone could not withstand drilling without risking a total collapse. Days of digging by hand also yielded little progress. Food was lowered into the chamber, as well as a flashlight and blankets. The feral hogs, for the most part, left Kenny alone.
After weeks of heroic yet fruitless attempts, everyone became resigned to the idea that Kenny may spend the rest of his life in the cave. They lowered food and water down several times a day. At least one family member stood vigil over the cave entrance at all times in case he needed anything. Clothes, tools and dismantled furniture eventually made their way to him and he built himself a makeshift bedroom. Each night a classmate would send down his homework and the next morning someone else would pick it up. He made the pigs his pets and was even able to train a few to perform basic tasks.
As of 1986, Kenny the Pigboy was still living in his cave in northwest Iowa.
Obviously, this story is complete make-believe. There was no moral or lesson. My dad told it to me when I was eight for no other reason than to fuck with my head. While he did grow up on a farm in Iowa, there was never a Kenny, he never had a birthday party in his yard and their certainly isn’t a vast series of limestone caves under my grandparents farmhouse.
But I didn’t know that when I was a little kid and told it to my friends and grown-ups and any pet that would sit still long enough to listen. “Did you know there’s pigboy living under my grandparents house in Iowa?” I became that kid who told fanciful bullshit stories. And not because I wanted the attention or because my dad ran off or because I lived with my grandparents and my older sister wasn’t really my sister but actually my mom.
I asked my dad this morning why he would do such a thing to a little boy and he just laughed and laughed and laughed. If you’ve met my father, then you know what I’m talking about.
Anyway, I'm off to see my grandparents in Iowa tomorrow. 60th wedding anniversary. I'll pass your regards on to Kenny.