Have you ever counted the number of idioms people use in every day conversation? I’m guilty of dropping a few without thinking about it. Wag the Dog. A Leopard Can’t Change His Spots. All Bark and No Bite. Beat a Dead Horse. Bite Off More Than You Can Chew. Don’t Look a Gift Horse in the Mouth. Cry Wolf, Curiosity Killed the Cat. Why do people use idioms? Why do so many contain animal references? Do animals like being used in idioms? What happens when animals try to live them out? I guess pigs fly.
One year ago today. I was driving home in commuter traffic. It was rodeo season which means more animal trailers on the highway. I don’t mind animal trailers, but I don’t like driving behind them. I dislike the odor and flying debris (usually dung). Anyway, I was cruising at 70 mph commuter speed and noticed a horse trailer ahead. There was no horse in it, but every few seconds I noticed something unusual – a jumping pig. I saw the pig’s head and flopping ears. Every third jump, I saw his front feet. Each successive jump I saw more pig and several times, his front feet reached the top of the tailgate. I realized this pig was determined to fly and I changed lanes.
When I moved to the left lane, the pig jumped so high his stomach breached the gate. He hung for a moment and toppled back in. I mumbled “Stay in there Wilbur.” But Wilbur sought freedom.
On his next jump, Wilbur cleared the gate and landed on the highway next to me. I looked in my rear view mirror and cringed when I saw Wilbur roll and skid on the interstate and a string of unsuspecting commuters dodge him. I thought Wilbur was dead, but he got up and raced across four traffic lanes. Pigs are faster than they look.
I sped up to alert the trailer-driver. I rolled down my window and started waving. He waved back. Those animal-lovers are friendly, y’know. I persisted and he finally rolled down his window and I yelled, “Your pig jumped out!” After the third time, he understood and swerved toward the exit.
I couldn’t believe what I witnessed and was eager to arrive home to tell every one. But, no one believed me — the teacher, the prodigy, my neighbor, my friends, my colleagues, my parents. They listened with a doubting look, but no one believed I saw a pig fly.
But I did. Do you believe me or do you think I’m crying wolf.