Dec 8, 2014
I find it hard to believe that this 64-year-old grandma was sold for $10,000 when she was 17 years old. "I still keep the receipt," she said to me.
Her mum married a man 20 years her senior. She had 10 children - 7 girls and 3 boys. She was the 3rd child. There was never sufficient money to feed so many.
"One day, my brother said that a tree branches had fallen and obstructed the entrance to the pig pen," she related this story. "My father chopped the tree down. Instead of chopping the trunk nearer to him, he chopped the other side. The tree fell onto the roof of the pig pen. His mouth was slashed and he became giddy and fainted one week later. When the doctor said he needed an operation to remove the blood clot in his brain, he ran away from the hospital. Another 2 weeks later, he fainted and was operated."
"Did he survive?" I asked.
"Yes, he did but was never the same again as he could not work much. Lying around the house. My mum was forced to go out to work to feed him and the 10 children."
"What did she do?" I asked.
"She was a pig middle man, earning $0.50 to $1.00 per pig sold to the butcher. At that time, 0.15 cents could buy you a bowl of noodles and so this amount was big. Nowadays, children would not even pick up a $1.00 coin on the road!"
"Did you go to high school?" I asked.
"No, my family was living hand to mouth every day. I stopped studying at Sec 2 to help my family. I had to shoulder the porker (6 months) with my father to sell it at the market!"
That would be before 1967 as she was 17 years old and sold to the butcher.
"My mum was pestered for payment as Chinese New Year was near. The builder of the pig pens had supplied sand and concrete and had agreed to receive payment when the piglets were sold but he came early and pestered for money."
"Pigs can only be sold at 6 months of age," I remembered my veterinary work as a government vet in the PPD Extension Centres when I started work in 1977 after National Service.
"You know this arrangement?" she was surprised.
"Yes, I was in this government service and there were a few small pig farms then.
"The government took back the farm land," she said. "They just leased the land to us and paid us some money,"
"Yes, yes. For every standing tree you had planted, the government would pay accordingly". This was the era that the younger generation was never aware. The farmers had political clout in the early years before 1967. "
"How many children did you bear from this butcher?" I asked. "Was he married?"
"I had 2 children. I told him I would leave him after 10 years. He was married but he was also a womaniser."
"Why didn't you not marry him?" I asked.
"I was a country pumpkin and knew nothing of the world. My mother had to clear the debts and the $10,000 would pay the builder and other debts. The butcher promised to settle all her outstanding debts."
"Was there a wedding? I asked.
"No, no. A sales and purchase agreement. I still retain the copy."
"It is a surprise that you stayed with him for 10 years."
"Did your children give you money?" I asked since both daughters were house-wives.
"My younger daughter gets her husband to give me $300. But I save the money for her." She was still working as a bus driver and so was heavily made up like an opera singer. This was a fashion in the old days for women.
Her mobile phone was clicking and clicking while I examined the poodle puppy that had sore throat after attempting to swallow a button. This was her daughter's puppy and she was the caregiver as the daughter was in Korea on holiday.
"The puppy's throat is painful on palpation," I showed the gagging sound. "You better answer your phone."
"Oh, those are pictures from my daughter in Korea. Young people will send every item of food they eat in the restaurant to me!"
"You are a lucky mum," I said. "Your daughter sends you such pics. Some children going overseas on holidays rarely remember their parents at home, let alone send any pics. The puppy should be OK but an X-ray would be needed if you want one."
She decided to wait. She cared for a stray cat last week and had it spayed. That was when I first met her. Her grandson adopted the spayed cat.