Lipstick on a pig? That would have been easier
Tattoos have become quite popular these days. At Texas Tech, where I teach, about one student in three sports some kind of artwork.
But what do you think the folks at the tattoo parlor would say if you asked them to tattoo a pig?
The pig I'm referring to was supposed to have a dark-colored nose with a red overtone. In any case, it wasn't supposed to be pink. The owner had put the piglet next to a heat lamp that was too close to the ground, and it burned a large spot on the end of the animal's nose.The spot turned pink as the pig grew. But pink just isn't acceptable in the pig-show world.
My task was to tattoo the nose with something that would restore the correct color.
Just to be clear: I am not a tattoo artist. I don't have anything that even resembles a tattoo instrument. I told the owner he'd have to call a tattoo artist because I had no way of doing it (and really didn't want to be seen tattooing a pig's nose anyway).
He asked if I would sedate the pig if he found someone to do the job, stating that the pig was going to get a nose tattoo one way or another and that he'd prefer it be sedated for the procedure.
He borrowed our telephone directory and pulled out his cell phone. I listened as he explained the situation to several tattoo artists in the area. Most hung up or laughed so loud I could hear them through the receiver from across the room.
So no one was willing to tattoo a pig's nose? Go figure.
But three days later, the owner called to say he'd found the right tattoo artist. He made an appointment to bring in the pig for sedation and tattooing.
I was mortified. What kind of guy would tattoo a pig's nose? And who would want to be tattooed with that machine after it poked holes in a hog's schnozz?
My answer came about four hours later when the owner showed up with the pig. Sure enough, it did have a quarter-sized discoloration on the end of the nose. Obviously it was a very good pig except for that burned spot.
About 10 minutes later, the tattoo dude arrived.
"Holy Mackerel!" was all I could say to myself as this fellow came ambling across the parking lot with a briefcase full of tattooing suppliess. He stood about 6-7, must have weighed 300 pounds and his entire exposed surface was covered with tattoos.
The pig needed castrating, so I sedated it and quickly removed the testicles. With my job completed, I stepped back and watched as this giant man began unpacking his arsenal of tattoo gear. He explained that he had built the tattoo gun from a VCR motor and that it was the most powerful one around — just right for a hog's nose.
His next move made our jaws drop. He pulled off one boot and sock, exposing the top of his foot, on which he had tattooed about 20 thin lines of various shades of reddish-brown. The tattoos looked fresh, still red and irritated on the edges. He then held the foot next the sedated pig's nose and asked which color best matched the nose's natural color.
"Dude, did you tattoo those lines on your foot just for this?" I asked incredulously.
"Yep, when I saw that hog on Monday I realized I would never be able to match the color if I didn't have somethin' to compare it to," he replied.
So there we stood, maybe seven people at varying distances trying to decide which color line on the man's foot most closely matched the pig's nose.
Picture it. This giant man is holding his foot 3 feet off the ground next to the nose of a sedated pig. He moves it back and forth so that each line briefly touches the nose for accurate comparison. After a great deal of debate we decided on a color, and he went to work.
It took him about 15 minutes. The result was smashing. You couldn't tell the slightest difference between the color of the normal nose and the tattoo.
The thrilled owner pulled out his wallet and gave the guy $40.
That guy tattooed his own foot and then a pig's nose for forty dollars?
I don't know what I was expecting. I charged the owner more than that to sedate the pig and castrate it.
I guess I was just going on what I would have charged someone to tattoo my foot and then the nose of a pig.
You can bet it would be somewhere in the six-figure range.
Dr. Brock owns the Brock Veterinary Clinic in Lamesa, Texas.