Saturday, April 19, 2008

Pig in a Puppy

After having driven almost 400 miles along North Carolina’s border with Virginia, I was thinking about William Byrd and his 1728 expedition to survey that same border. In his History of the Dividing Line, Byrd’s biting satire infused his observations of the people that he encountered. Byrd took particular aim at those who lived south of the line.

The only business here is raising of hogs, which is managed with the least trouble, and affords the diet they are most fond of. The truth of it is, the inhabitants of North Carolina devour so much swine's flesh, that it fills them full of gross humours. For want too of a constant supply of salt, they are commonly obliged to eat it fresh, and that begets the highest taint of scurvy.

Thus, whenever a severe cold happens to constitutions thus vitiated, it is apt to improve into the yaws, called there very justly the country distemper. This has all the symptoms of syphilis, with this aggravation, that no preparation of mercury will touch it. First it seizes the throat, next the palate, and lastly shows its spite to the poor nose, of which it is apt in a small time treacherously to undermine the foundation.

This calamity is so common and familiar here, that it ceases to be a scandal, and in the disputes that happen about beauty, the noses have in some companies much ado to carry it. Nay, it is said that once, after three good pork years, a motion had like to have been made in the house of burgesses, that a man with a nose should be incapable of holding any place of profit in the province; which extraordinary motion could never have been intended without some hopes of a majority.

Thus, considering the foul and pernicious effects of eating swine's flesh in a hot country, it was wisely forbidden and made an abomination to the Jews, who lived much in the same latitude with Carolina.

I wonder what William Byrd would make of North Carolina 280 years later. I wonder what Byrd would think of all these North Carolina farmers still raising hogs. I wonder if Byrd would prefer his bar-b-que Eastern Style or Lexington Style. I wonder if Byrd would have stopped off for a PIG IN A PUPPY if he had seen this Eastern North Carolina billboard. I wonder…

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