Guest blog: Pig-Pickin’ with Penny

At the Pig-Pickin in Virginia

Blog reader Penny (aka Mom) goes into the heart of Tea Party country for a neighborhood Pig-Pickin’. While not necessary, I recommend reading this post with the voice of a BBC announcer. My mom is the only person I know that could (and has) made the question “are you in a hurry to pound some meat,” sound positively dainty.


Delicious parallels begged to be drawn between Golding’s ‘Lord of the Flies’ theme and our October 2013 invite to a  ‘Pig-Pickin’. Most readers would recognize the presence of certain essential elements in both: the one chosen pig, the bonfire, and two opposing groups of guests, Democrats and Republicans.

But herein lies the current problem: whether to define the radical Tea Party supporters as Republican – or to acknowledge a created schism within the ranks of the Republicans, so viewing the Tea Party as a parasitic graft and independent of conventional Republican ideology. The host of ‘Pig Pickin’ was a masterful diplomat. With warmth and hospitality he negotiated his way through the gathering of incongruous persons and the hostile mud of the barbecue area.

The modern version however of the outcome was decidedly cheerful. A six day duration of falling rain failed to dampen the spirited barbecue celebration of Columbus Day. Politics was cast aside as everyone’s attention became focused on ‘Piggy’ who shared billing with boat rides, fishing, live music, a giant bonfire, hush puppies, coleslaw, beer, soda and cider. Baked beans were also on the menu. Never mind that the enormous cast iron pot in which they were warming tumbled into the fire. Scraped up and herded back into the pot the baked beans tasted … woodsy perhaps.

“In my opinion the Tea Party is not unlike the Nazis taking away the people’s freedom.” Clearly the man next to whom I was seated was not the guest who had earlier arrived in a car sprouting slogans in support of extremists running for government in Virginia. Consider one such extremist, Jackson, running for lieutenant governor who warns against yoga by asserting, “Beware of systems of spirituality which tell you to empty yourself. Satan is happy to invade the empty vacuum of your soul and possess it. That is why people serve Satan without ever knowing it or deciding to…”

I was curious about my dining companion’s comparison of the Tea Party; here was a man who’d been born and raised in Germany in the 1940s, the son of a German soldier on the front, solely acquainted with his father by having but three telephone conversations with him. I wanted to ask more. I really did. But after downing two beers I felt I could hear my mother admonishing me.

“Never discuss sex, religion or politics. And never go out without a fresh handkerchief and money in your purse.” For the most part, useless advice by present day standards. And then our table conversation shifted to safer ground: native Virginia plants and shrubs, the convenience of Dulles airport and future highway projects within the area.

The giant bonfire which was lit rapidly became a fluttery fire before extinguishing itself. A steady deluge of rain had converted the mountain of timber into an island unto itself. The Occoquan River had wrapped its watery arms around the wood, obliging the lighter of the fire to wade towards the pile with unusual hope and determination.

And yet the congenial spirit of the evening prevailed as we came together for Columbus Day. The holiday is after all not just about remembering Christopher Columbus, but about taking time to reflect upon who we are and what we can achieve together.

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