Robert Newton Peck

A Day No Pigs Would Die

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A Day No Pigs Would Die Summary

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Robert Newton Peck’s a semi-autobiographical novel, A Day No Pigs Would Die (1972), tells the story of a character named Rob Peck growing up on an impoverished farm in Vermont. A sequel to A Day No Pigs Would Die called A Part of the Sky was published in 1994.

Rob is walking home from school. He is skipping class to avoid the bullying of Edward Thatcher, who torments Rob because of his poverty and because he is a Shaker. On the way home, Rob spots the neighbor’s cow Apron, in the throes of a difficult birth. Rob chases Apron down and helps her deliver the calf. However, after the calf is born, Apron attacks Rob, knocking him unconscious with her hooves.

Rob’s injuries are treated by his parents at home. As thanks for delivering the calf, Rob’s neighbor Mr. Tanner gives him a piglet as a reward. At first, Rob’s father, Haven, will not let him accept the gift, but Mr. Tanner finally convinces him, telling him that the pig is early payment for work Rob will do for him later. Rob names the piglet Pinky and realizes that she is the first valuable thing that he has ever owned.

The family moves Pinky into an old corn catch. When Rob goes for a walk around the farm and surrounding area, Pinky follows him like a dog. Rob talks to her and tells her about his family and life on the farm.

The narrative jumps ahead two months. Pinky has grown very large, though she still comes when Rob calls to her and plays with him as a beloved pet. Rob brings his report card home from school and presents it to his mother, who is dismayed that he has a D in English. His Aunt Maddy, whom Rob loathes, offers to tutor him and immediately sets to work teaching him grammar and manners.

A big thunderstorm rolls in one night. Mrs. Hillman, a neighbor, comes to the Peck farm to ask for help finding her missing husband. She believes that he has snuck off to the grave of a woman with whom he had an affair who killed herself from shame after it was revealed. Haven enlists Rob’s help in hitching the wagon, and they leave to find Sebring Hillman. They find Sebring in the cemetery where he says that he intends to dig up the woman’s grave so the world can see his sin. Haven will not allow this because the dead woman was his relative. However, Sebring does dig up the grave of the woman’s dead illegitimate child so he can claim her as his own.

The Tanners plan to take the calf Rob helped deliver to the local fair to compete. Rob also wants to take Pinky to showcase her. On the day of the fair, Rob’s mother packs him a lunch, and his Aunt Carrie slips him ten cents to spend. Rob is impressed by the size of the fair since he has never been to one before. He helps Mr. Tanner hitch up the team and leads them around the ring to display them.

After the oxen are reviewed, Rob runs to the area where the 4-H representatives are judging the animals raised by children. Right before Pinky is to be judged, Rob notices that she has rolled in some dung which has ruined her coat. He runs off to find some soap, and finally trades his only ten cents for a bar of it. He cleans Pinky off just in time. She wins a blue medal, and Rob passes out from the stress of the situation.

When Pinky returns from the fair, Rob tells his father that he is happy Pinky will never have to be butchered because she is going to be a brood sow. Haven tells him that he thinks Pinky may be barren since she hasn’t gone into heat yet. Rob is devastated since this means they will have to kill Pinky. Haven tells Rob that farming is hard work, and he hopes his son will have a better life than his parents.

Rob tries to breed Pinky with the Tanners’ pig, Sampson, several times, but she doesn’t get pregnant. Since she is too big to keep as a pet, Haven decides that she has to be slaughtered. He and Rob take her to the barn and kill her, which devastates Rob and causes him to hate his father.

However, shortly afterward, Haven dies. Rob knows that he has to take over for his father and immediately starts his chores for him. He digs a grave for his father and waits for guests to arrive for his funeral. He gives a eulogy for his father and then goes back to work. He and his family work hard throughout the day to stave off their grief, and at the end of the day, when everyone else is asleep, Rob goes to Haven’s grave to say goodbye.