“Have Pigs, Will Travel” is based on a true story. It is the unlikely tale (some may say preposterous story) of a young German woman who moved to the United States in 1980 by herself, made friends and established a successful livestock farm, against all odds. I hope this book will appeal to women who have overcome great obstacles to establish their careers, as well as young women who might find encouragement to follow their dreams. But most of all, it may appeal to anyone who is ready to enjoy some wild story telling.

Sample Chapter

‘’Want to drive to the other farm with us to pick up some junk?’

Hmm. Let me see. I took out my dictionary and looked up ‘junk’. Chinese boat? Probably not. Garbage? Not likely. A guy’s nether regions? I hoped not. Odds and ends, then? OK, we’ll go with that.

By then, the whole family was laughing. ‘What’s funny?’ They laughed even harder.

That was the inauspicious beginning of my stay in America.

I had come to the Midwest for an internship on a family farm in the summer of 1978, while enrolled at the University of Gőttingen in Germany as an animal science major in agriculture. Gaining practical experience during internships was a requirement before I could graduate. There were some exchange programs that facilitated these programs, both domestic and international, but demand was much higher than the number of placements they could offer.

I was very fortunate to have met a woman in Germany who had just returned after living in Central Illinois for a number of years. She was friends with a veterinarian and his wife, Doc and Miss Mary. They were delighted to help me find a placement, which was the Conour family farm.

Originally, I wanted to become a large animal veterinarian, but when I couldn’t get into Veterinary School, I picked animal science as the next best option. The goal was the same in any case: taking care of the animals and their health, making sure that they had a good life growing up on the farm.

I had no illusions about their ultimate destination, but there was no reason why they couldn’t be treated well in the meantime.

This was the philosophy on both the hog farm and the dairy farm where I had been an intern in Germany, and I had every reason to expect the same approach at my host farm in the US. After all, it was a third-generation family farm, not a factory farm.

The next 4 months would ultimately lead to immigration, permanent settlement in the US and my own pig farm, but that was the furthest thing from my mind as I was trying to get my bearings while still in a fog of jetlag.

The trip to the ‘other farm’ included two sons in their teens, Burt and Junior, farm dog Blue, and Dad Allen Conour, who all squeezed into the farm truck. Somehow, they managed to find room for me, too, and off we went to retrieve the elusive ‘junk’.

The junk turned out to be heat lamps for baby pigs and halters for calves. Not exactly junk, more like equipment Allen planned to use for projects to keep his sons busy. It became junk in their minds, because the projects were going to cut into their free time and all-important planning to become respected cattlemen.

I was taking it all in, wide-eyed and slightly overwhelmed at the scene: the V8 Chevy and Cadillac sedans parked outside the family’s home, huge by European standards; the unfamiliar, full-sized pickup trucks and livestock trailers; tractors that were bigger than any I had operated before. What had I gotten myself into? I was about to find out.

It was hot, not unusual for June in the Midwest. But I had just arrived from Europe where they occasionally skipped the warm season. It had been a rainy year and the furnace was still running when I left. Oh, and I had left Germany wearing corduroys, a sweater and a wool coat.

Getting off the plane at my destination felt like walking into a blast furnace. When my host family saw my attire when they picked me up at the airport, they stopped at K-Mart on the way home to buy some shorts and T-shirts to save me from heat stroke.

Shorts and T-shirts were not considered proper work wear on German farms as it was not safe when working around livestock. But the family was nice and they were making an effort, so I went along with it.

Allen was a big, burly guy with a friendly demeanor who spoke with a Midwestern drawl. His wife Louise was remarkably well put together. Her hair was coiffed perfectly despite the summer heat, her cat eye glasses sparkled, and I would have never guessed her to be a farmer. She looked ready for an afternoon on the town. Also, a couple driving his and hers Cadillacs was a new concept for me.

I had a driver’s license, of course, but my mother, who was about Louise’s age didn’t drive, as was the case for many women of her generation.

I had cheered for my Auntie when she got her driver’s license in her 30s, scandalizing the rest of the family who were unconvinced that she needed to be driving and owning a car at this point in her life.

The next day, Allen announced after morning chores that it was entirely too hot to work. I had tagged along to learn the daily routine while mostly trying not to get in the way.

After loading two canoes into a couple of pickup trucks, he took his sons and me to nearby Sugar Creek. There were considerable logistics involved in making sure that we had transportation home at the end of the journey, parking one pickup at the end of the designated stretch of Salt Creek, and then hauling the whole crew back to the starting point.

I had never been in a canoe before. Allen and his sons instructed me on the proper way to get in and sit down at the front of the canoe without turning it over and dropping the other passenger in the drink.

I was taking in the scenery once we were floating down the creek, when Allen called out ‘Ducks’.

He looked up, and I looked down, having just heard Dachs, the German word for badger. (Dachshunds started out as badger dogs, fierce hunting dogs that were bred to fit inside a badger’s burrow. Then the Dachsies discovered life as family pets and most of them were no longer fierce. Of course, they never lost their attitude, and with their deep-chested barks they might be mistaken for German Shepherds behind closed doors.)

If the early days were any indication, I was going to be in for an interesting few months. I was not worried that it would be boring.