“I’ll show ’em!” Hank shouted to himself as he violently pushed open the screen door and stormed out of the back of the house. The kid was angry, and in his anger he stomped his way across the yard, making his way to the barn. His father had just graciously reminded him that he had chores to do and so he would do them. But he didn’t have to be happy about it.
Working on the farm had been fun when Hank was younger. In those simpler days, he would ride on Daddy’s lap while he drove the tractor. He would do little things to help out, like carry water from the pump over to the troughs. Of course, at the time, one bucket of water was almost more than the kid could handle. But all that hard work as a youngster prepared him for the chores he was expected to take care of as a teenager.
Now, at 14 years of age, he and his father butted heads much more often than they used to. Chores were no longer fun for him. Working the farm that his grandfather had built from next to nothing was definitely not something he saw himself doing his entire life. Hank was doing well in school, much better than his sister or either of his parents ever did. Hank wanted to keep on learning and had a hunger for knowledge. But any time the subject of education came up, Henry Buchanan, Sr. was quick to shut it down.
It isn’t that Henry didn’t want his son to have a fine education. Henry understood the value of knowledge and information. But Henry was set in his ways. His son was only 14 years old, and already he was talking about leaving the farm once he finished high school. Already, he was talking about what university he wanted to go to. Already, he was so eager to leave behind the life that the Buchanan’s had so carefully carved out for themselves for generations.
“I just want to go and see what the campus looks like,” Hank had said to his parents when he got home from school. “It’s an optional trip, but the school is providing transportation. Lots of other kids are going. I just need one of you to sign the permission slip.”
Henry had taken the paper from his son’s hand and began to look it over. “I don’t know about this. You’re just a freshman in high school. Do you really need to start looking this closely at college?” Henry’s hope was to discourage his son early. He hoped Hank would eventually come back around to his way of thinking. College wasn’t a bad thing, but this farm had been left to him by his own father, and Henry had every intention of leaving it in the hands of his son when he finally passed on.
“How am I too young? If I find a good school I can find out what their requirements are. I can work harder towards specific goals while I’m still in high school. That way, when I finally start college, I’ll be that much further ahead, as opposed to starting at square one and feeling like I need to catch up.” Hank was passionate about his education, Henry could clearly see that.
Henry continued to waver on the issue, but he leaned more toward the negative. Hank began to see that his father wouldn’t see reason here. He looked over to his mother, who had been sitting in silence the entire time. The look on her face told Hank that she would never speak against her husband. He was on his own in this argument.
And an argument is what it had turned into. Both of their words had grown louder and more heated until, finally, Henry pulled out the old standby, “You’ll visit that college when pigs fly!”
It was while Hank was finishing the last of his chores for the day that what his father had last said really hit him. When pigs fly. He was filling the pigs’ feed troughs and stopped. He stood there, staring at the pigs as they noisily slopped through what passed as their food. When pigs fly.
The wheels in Hank’s head started turning. At a very young age, he had shown that he had a fairly strong streak of ingenuity. His mind began to work quickly. He knew he could come up with a way to make one of those pigs fly.
Over the next few weeks, Hank was seldom seen inside the house. He came in for supper, but that’s the only time Henry saw him. He chose not to complain about his son’s absence. The chores were getting done and the kid didn’t seem to be doing anything irresponsible. He just chalked it up to the fact that Hank was still angry over their last discussion on higher education. Henry assumed that, eventually, he would get over it.
And yes, Hank was still getting his chores done. He was still going to school like he was supposed to and he was getting his homework done in record time. The rest of his time, however, was spent near the far edge of their property. He needed to work where he wouldn’t be seen by his parents. They wouldn’t understand what it was he was doing. It would only make them more upset. So he worked in secret.
Hank had read about catapults a few years ago. He learned how, in medieval times, an enemy would lay siege to a castle and would launch attacks over the walls using these incredible machines. He spent a few days in the library, boning up on the technical aspects of how such a contraption might work. Then he spent his allowance on the necessary materials. It took him longer than he had hoped (by the time he finished, the field trip to the college had come and gone), but his hard work paid off when he successfully launched a watermelon a distance of 50 yards.
But that couldn’t be the end of it. He had to make the pig fly, not just get it in the air to let it fend for itself. If he wanted to kill a pig, he would have just taken the shotgun from the den and been done with it. He knew he needed some way to keep the pig in the air and give it a nice, soft landing. So he was back to the books.
Time was getting to be an issue. It would be summer soon. With the end of the school year came the end to his easy access to library materials. In the time he had left, he learned all he could about kites and gliding and aerodynamics and wingspan; he looked for anything he thought would be remotely helpful to his cause. Finally he designed a harness that would fit around the pig and would act as a hang glider.
After buying more materials and a few more weeks of hard work, he had his glider ready. He knew that, technically, the pig would never really fly. But gliding was close enough. And thanks to his deteriorating opinion of his father, he figured the old man would never know the difference anyway.
When everything was ready, he tested it all on another large watermelon. He was careful to adjust the harness perfectly, so that the melon wouldn’t slip out in mid-flight. When he was satisfied that all was ready, he pulled the lever on the catapult and watched his watermelon take to the air. He couldn’t believe how well it worked. If anyone had seen the flying fruit, they’d have probably thought themselves insane. Hank couldn’t contain his excitement as he jumped up and down.
Hank regained his composure and made the long trek back to the house. As had been the norm for the last month or so, he walked through the house and up the stairs without so much as a word to either of his parents. He got undressed and laid down in his bed. As Hank began to drift off to sleep, he couldn’t help but smile all over again. I’ll show ’em… when pigs fly…