Animal Tales

Some strange -- but true -- stories from the Downing Farm.


Matilda and Dan

as told by Vern

Matilda was born in the fall of 1972. Her first farrowing -- in the fall of 1973 -- was uneventful and unrecorded on our part. The next farrowing -- the spring of 1974 -- produced 10 nice beautiful babies. She had her own private "birthing room" and living quarters for six weeks. Twice a day for these six weeks she was let out to waltz around (and do her "business"), after which she very willingly returned to her farrowing pen and babies. On a Saturday night, when her family was six weeks old, a sow in another building had an extremely difficult farrowing. We worked with that sow through the night and by morning she had nine surviving babies. Around breakfast time the sow died, leaving the nine piglets as orphans.

We talked to Matilda, and yes, she would be happy to adopt a new family. Her ten 30-pound babies were plenty big enough to go on their own. So she started an immediate new family of nine three-pounders. She checked them out carefully at first and then fed her hungry new brood. Her twice a day waltzes continued, and she raised another super family.

Six months later, in October, Matilda farrowed again -- 16 babies this time! We decided she could raise 10, and the other six were adopted by some other new mothers. All survived and were raised -- quite an accomplishment. Matilda was a super mother and a beautiful lady. She had her litter of 16 two days after this picture was taken.

Dan was nearly five years old when this photo was taken.

Dan "waltzes" with Matilda.


Orphan Ducklings

as told by Dave

It was a summer evening and we were in the barn doing the milking. I was just a kid, maybe 12 years old. I looked outside and saw a strange sight -- five tiny ducklings waddling up the driveway toward the barn. There was no mother duck anywhere to be seen. I told the adults that there were ducks outside, but they were too busy to really pay attention. They probably thought I just saw some ducks flying overhead. I went back outside to check on the ducklings, but by this time I wasn't the only one watching them -- the cats were pretty interested, too! The ducklings were gathered together in a group, so I was able to set a steel wash tub upside down over them, to protect them from the cats.

I finally did get some help, and we put them in a box and kept them in the house overnight. My grandpa, Russell, built them a cage. Amazingly, they all lived. As they grew and got their feathers, it became clear that they were wood ducks. When they were big enough, we set them free in a wildlife area. We never knew why they came wandering in the driveway all alone, but something must have happened to their mother, leaving them orphans. They certainly never would have survived if they hadn't happened to come into our yard just when I was looking.


Henny Penny

as told by Dave

When I was a teenager I was surprised by a new occupant of the barn -- a bantam hen. We had no chickens on the farm, but one had decided to move in! We checked with some neighbors who had chickens, but none was missing a hen. We never did find out where she came from, but Henny Penny -- as we called here -- lived a good number of years on the farm, surviving on whatever grain and feed she could help herself to.


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To contact us:

Vernon Downing
(or Daisy or the cows)
5323 Royalton Road
Braham, MN 55006
320-396-3296

Dave & Tammy Downing
651-699-3901
e-mail: mail ["at"] downingpumpkins [.com]