Samuel J. Tanner 4 minute read


It's taken me thirty-eight years, but I finally trespassed through a pig farm last weekend.

"But Sam," you might say, "that's super weird."

"But you," I might say, "I live in Central Pennsylvania."

Land of milk and honey? Land of pig farms and college football.

My Jewish ancestors left their bondage in Eygpt with the hope for a new life. A promised land. They walked on the seabed, wandered the wilderness, danced until the walls of Jericho fell, cast out the astonished Hittites, and settled in what is now, thanks to Western Imperialism, a highly disputed piece of real estate. What lunatics.

I left my job as a teacher in Minneapolis behind with the hope for a new life. I set out with a pregnant wife and a volatile toddler, drove through east through the rust belt, took an enormous paycut, left all that I've known to settle in a valley that is teeming with football fanatics and pig farms. What a lunatic.

Faith, my friend. It is the drink of a fool. I'd rather be a fool, I guess. The logical, sensible move rarely feels right to me.

Incidentally, the only math class I've taken since the 11th grade was a course on logic at the University of Minnesota. This class counted as my only math requirement. I was an English major, planning on being an English teacher. What do I remember from that logic class? It was a night class, the woman who sat next to me always smelled like alcohol, and mathmatical systems are simply another way to represent our innate desire to provide a linear order to the chaos of reality. Reason. Who needs it? Certainly not the 18th century Romantic poets. I love them. William Blake had it going on, baby. S.T. Coleridge too. Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner always made more sense to me than Algebra. So I suck at math and the paycut I took when I started this new life didn't seem important. I'm four years down the road. I'd like more money and, financially, things are tight. I miss Minnesota, the people and places, but I also have a beautiful family in a beautiful valley.

And I trespass in pig farms now.

My friend James invited me to join him, his wife, and our friend Nate for the Wisconsin Penn State football game last weekend. This game was suppossed to be important. Each team had high hopes this year. Instead, they were both sitting with three losses and playing for a moderately more prestigious bowl game. Still, James generously offered up two of his season tickets. Great seats near the endzone. We met at James house for some informal tailgaiting. A friend drove us over to the stadium. She left as in a cul-de-sac and pointed to the local Mecca: Beaver Stadium.

"Stay to the left!" she howled as we left her car. Soon, we were walking through a pig farm. Great hulking beasts of burden were feasting on slop. A few wondered across our path. The stench of shit and stadium food filled the air.

I often boast of my ability to handle the cold. I'm used to negative temperatures, to be sure. A child of the north. Still, after four years in Pennsylvania, even I started to freeze last weekend. The temperatures dropped below twenty, my face grew red, and sitting on a bench in Beaver stadium for a game of little importance proved a little much. Don't get me wrong. It was nice to spend the morning with James and Nate. I'm glad to have friends in this strange valley.

A man hasn't really lived until he's wondered through a pig farm on his way to a football game.