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Sy Montgomery

     ... naturalist, explorer and writer. The Good, Good Pig: The Extraordinary Life of Christopher Hogwood, a best-seller, focuses on the importance of family and home as Ms. Montgomery continues in her quest to give humans a better understanding of our deep connections to all life. Her books for adults include Journey of the Pink Dolphins, Spell of the Tiger and Search for the Golden Moon Bear; for children the award-winning The Snake Scientist, The Man-Eating Tigers of Sundarbans, The Tarantula Scientist and Encantado:  Pink Dolphin of the Amazon. Also a newspaper columnist, documentary scriptwriter and radio commentator, she and her husband, writer Howard Mansfield, make their home in New Hampshire.

A great soul can be found among us at any time, in any form, and just might be someone with a flexible nose disk and a curly tail, Sy Montgomery says. Having spent a lifetime traveling the world to tell us stories of pink dolphins, man-eating tigers and the indigenous people who live among them, Ms. Montgomery brings it all home with a good good pig.

"Christopher Hogwood," the sick runt of a pig Ms. Montgomery’s husband brought home for her in a shoe box, is her latest lesson illustrating what genetics and Genesis and every single creation story tell us -- everything that lives is connected. A family. And family is not about blood, family is about love.

"Chris" grew up to be a 750 pound New Hampshire legend from whom many took inspiration. His ever-expanding circle included protective local law enforcement officers and a dying 14 year old, retirees and locals unknown beyond the local bakery where they saved treats to curious little girls-next-door to people genuinely famous. All were welcome. Come over for dinner-and-a-show, Ms. Montgomery and her husband would say. You bring the dinner and then stay to watch the operatic spectacle of Christopher Hogwood, totally absorbed, eating.

Christopher Hogwood was a gourmand, Ms. Montgomery insists. He did not like citrus or onions or anything in the citrus or onion families. But he never met a bucket of cupcakes he didn’t love. And, yes, it takes a lot of "slops" to raise a hog to 750 pounds. Anything was welcome except meat. Ms. Montgomery and her husband thought it wise not to give Chris the idea that he could eat them, but there was more. She says it's the hard fact that if there is meat in pig manure, it is a very unpleasant substance. Just ask those who live next to today's brutal factory pig farms.

Watching someone following their bliss as Christopher did when he was eating is a thing of wonder, Ms. Montgomery says.  You might think that a pig would just "hoover" everything up but she insists that is not true at all. With great delicacy, Christopher Hogwood would carefully select exactly the thing that he liked most first, eat that along with ropes of foaming drool, and move on.

Chris was compost in fast-forward, providing lavish amounts of garden-gold, she remembers, launching off on yet another wonderful tale of pig magic. Regularly Chris focused his pig genius on liberating himself from his barn and feasting on the neighbor's lettuce patch. But he never touched the lavish and beautiful backyard garden which the family's tenant planted next to his barn.

Like all enduring stories, Ms. Montgomery surprises us with the familiar while familiarizing us with surprise. Christopher Hogwood was her connection to family and anchor to home, a magnet for drawing other souls to her and opening her up to the world. He taught her about travel and finding home, about remembering how much like other species we are -- look no farther than own watery journey from human embryo/fetus/ baby towards birth, she says. Whether you believe in evolution or in Genesis, she concludes, we are all one family.

[This Program was recorded May 3, 2007, in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.]

* — Wikipedia: Pygmalion is a Greek name. Pygmalion ... probably a Cypriot form of Adonis, a Levantine vegetation-god; a George Bernhard Shaw play.

Conversation 1

Sy Montgomery tells Paula Gordon and Bill Russell about Christopher Hogwood (“Chris”), the good, good pig who expanded Ms. Montgomery experience of “family” and “home”.

Conversation 1 RealAudio8:00    
  video excerpt

Conversation 2

Whether you believe in evolution or Genesis, Ms. Montgomery points out, we are told we are all one family. Rejecting the idea that she is anthropomorphizing, Ms. Montgomery uses biology to remind us how deeply connected humans are to all of life, how people and other animals mirror each other and multiple ways to communicate across species. Compassion is considered as Ms. Montgomery savors the beauty of finding a great soul in her pig, in brutal contrast to pigs’ nasty short lives in agribusiness factory farms.  She describes Chris’ pigness and the operatic spectacle of his eating, explains slops and gives ample reasons not to feed pigs meat.

Conversation 1 RealAudio12:21    


The great Elizabeth Marshall Thomas enriched our lives immeasurably when she introduced us to Sy Montgomery and Sy’s delightful and talented husband, Howard Mansfield years ago. It is a particular joy to know first-hand the person to whom “Liz” dedicated her exquisite book Certain Poor Shepherds .  We are immensely grateful to Ms. Thomas for this and so much more.

Conversation 3

Ms. Montgomery pays tribute to the conductor Christopher Hogwood, a champion of early music, and to the appreciation her pig, Christopher Hogwood, had for the great things in life, naming many. Pigs do not multi-task, Ms. Montgomery assures us, celebrating the way Christopher Hogwood followed his bliss. She endorses the diet on which she put her 750 pound pig -- eat less, more slowly -- and introduces some of the many great people in Christopher Hogwood’s life.

Conversation 1 RealAudio8:26      

Related Links:

The Good Good Pig:  The Extraordinary Life of Christopher Hogwood is available in both hardcover and paper back from Ballantine Books, an imprint of Random House, with a reading group guide available.

There is a website devoted to The Good, Good Pig; and one for Sy and her husband and co-pig-parent Howard Mansfield. You might also be interested in our earlier conversation with Sy and two programs (one and two) with Howard.

Conversation 4

Describing Chris as the magnet that drew many to her, Ms. Montgomery remembers how he gave her a family and what “family” really means. Explaining how man-eating tigers and the Tiger God protect people of Sundarbans, Ms. Montgomery speaks of some of the exotic places she has visited and about which she has written. Predators are essential to healthy ecosystems, she reminds us, then returns to the theme of pigs and how a tiny act of compassion -- bringing home a sick runt pig in a shoebox -- changed lives.  She elaborates on the idea that Christopher Hogwood was a great Buddha master and great soul.

Conversation 1 RealAudio11:19    

Conversation 5

Christopher Hogwood’s “garden gold” manure was compost in fast forward, Ms. Montgomery says, then relives the story of Selinda, the tenant (one of many) whose life Chris changed by cooperating with her on her garden. Ms. Montgomery describes Chris’ distinctive vocalizations for each and all of the people in his life, with examples of his ability to recognize individuals across time, circumstance and appearances. Tess, their border collie, is lovingly remembered in a series of stories. Elizabeth Marshall Thomas enters the picture.

Conversation 1 RealAudio10:53    

Conversation 6

Ms. Montgomery describes how -- contrary to what the Rolling Stones told us -- Christopher Hogwood got satisfaction.  With an emblematic story, Ms. Montgomery concludes her recital of the “pig magic” Chris brought into her life and the lives of others.

Conversation 1 RealAudio5:00    

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