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Free Study Guide/Summary for A Day No Pigs Would Die

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When Robert arrives in Rutland, he is sure it must be almost as large as London, which he calls the largest city in the world. It has been an eventful day for the boy. Mama packs him a food basket that is “so full you’d think that nobody in Vermont had ate for a week.” Aunt Carrie slips him the promised ten cents, knotted in a white handkerchief, and warns him not lose it. Papa drives him in the wagon to the Tanners, reminding him of his “manners.” The trip to Rutland passes quickly, for Mr. Tanner’s horses, named Quaker Lady and Quaker Gent, are fast; Robert and Mrs. Tanner have to hold on tightly as they pass up lots of other rigs. It is very obvious that Ben Tanner is proud of his pair of grey horses, just as he is proud of his pair of calves. Robert wants to ask why he does not keep a second Mrs. Tanner around in order to have another “matched pair,” but he boy remembers his “manners” and the fact that his father has taught him “to keep your mouth shut.”

Rutland is crowded with people, mostly dressed in clothes suitable for the Sabbath. It is an amazing sight for Robert to see, and he is afraid to blink, fearing he will miss something. Arriving at the Fair Grounds, Mrs. Tanner says she needs to find the rest room in a hurry. Robert cannot understand why anyone would need to rest when it is still morning. When they locate little shanties that say Ladies and Gents, Robert assumes it is where Mr. Tanner will keep his two horses since their names are on the doors. Robert hopes to find a shanty for his pig that says Pinky. Mrs. Tanner pushes Robert through the door that says Gents, warning him not to speak to anyone inside, for “places like that are full of perverts.” Robert has no idea what a pervert is and assumes it is something like a cornet. He hopes to see one before leaving Rutland since Bess Tanner seems to be rather “keen on them.”

After the rest stop, the Tanners and Robert head to find the animals. Pinky is only one shed away from Bob and Bib. The boy jumps into her pen and hugs her neck. Then he helps Mr. Tanner yoke the calves and lead them to have their picture taken. Robert almost jumps out of his boots to see the explosion of the “funny looking geegaw” on the camera. It gives off such a bright “bang” of light that he is sure it is like the action in the World War. Bob and Bib do not seem to like it any more than Robert. All of them take better to the ring. The boy is proud to hear his name announced on the loud speaker as Mr. Robert Peck; he is even prouder to be marching Bib and Bob around the ring while people clap for them. Robert wishes Mama, Papa, Pinky, and Aunt Carrie were there to watch him. He also wishes everyone in Learning could see this proud moment, even though he fears such a wish is quite sinful.

As Robert is walking the oxen back to their pens, Mrs. Tanner comes running up. She tells Robert that the 4-H animals are being judged and that he needs to hurry and get Pinky to the ring. She volunteers to take Bob and Bib and tells her husband to help Robert. When the boy arrives at Pinky’s pen, he is horrified. The pig has been rolling in dung and looks and smells awful. Robert is scared that there is no time to clean her, but Mr. Tanner sends him off in search of soap while he goes to get a bucket of water. Robert spies a bar of saddle soap in a tackroom and grabs it. When a man stops him, he gives him his dime tied in the handkerchief as payment. He then runs back to Pinky’s pen and quickly gets her “clean as Christmas.”

Soaked himself from scrubbing Pinky, Robert sets off with the pig, arriving in the nick of time. When he enters the ring, he feels light-headed from the hurrying and the smell of pig manure that is still on his hands. He feels that “everything I ever ate went sour and wanted to come up my gullet.” In fact, as the judge pins something blue on Pinky, Robert throws up into the sawdust. Mr. Tanner is there to catch him before he passes out and manages to get the boy and the pig back to Pinky’s stall. When Robert comes to, he is lying in the straw outside of the pig’s pen, and Mrs. Tanner is washing his face. Mr. Tanner points out the blue ribbon that Pinky is wearing. It says, “First Prize for Best-Behaved Pig.” Robert feels proud and hungry.


This chapter reveals Robert’s naiveté as he experiences the sights and sounds of the Rutland Fair. Everything about the day is wondrous to the boy, who has never been out of Learning and has no comprehension of life beyond his limited Shaker existence. He is amazed at the size of the food basket his mother packs, believing it is large enough to serve all of Vermont. He is fascinated with the speed of Mr. Tanner’s horses that can easily pass up other rigs. He wonders over the size of Rutland, thinking it must surely be as big as London, England. He cannot understand why Mrs. Tanner wants to find a rest room, since it is still morning time. He is sure the shanties that bear the names of Ladies and Gents are made to keep Mr. Tanner’s horses; he naively looks for another shanty that bears the name of Pinky. He does not understand when Mrs. Tanner warns him about perverts and looks for one, thinking a pervert must be something like a cornet. When he sees the explosion of the geegaw on the camera, he feels like he is experiencing the World War. When he hears his name announced on a loud speaker, he can barely believe his ears. Robert is so amazed by everything he sees and hears that he is afraid to blink or talk, fearing he will miss something. Robert also feels very honored at the fair. When he walks Bib and Bob around the ring, the people clap, and he feels his heart swell with pride. He desperately wishes his family, including Pinky, could see him. Even though he is certain that it is sinful, he also wishes everyone in Learning was watching him in his proud moment.

As he walks the calves back to their pen, Mrs. Tanner comes running up to tell him that it is time for Pinky to be judged and that he must hurry. When he gets to his pig’s pen, he finds her covered in dung. On Mr. Tanner’s orders, he rushes out to find a bar of soap and spends his only dime to purchase one. He desperately scrubs Pinky until she is again clean, trying to ignore the awful smell. He rushes her to the exhibition ring, barely arriving in time. While he is showing Pinky, he is overcome by the exhaustion of hurrying and the sickening smell of pig manure. He throws up in the ring, right on the judge’s shoe, and almost passes out. Mr. Tanner has to catch him before he falls and carry him back to Pinky’s pen. When he regains consciousness, he is proud to learn that Pinky has won a blue ribbon for being the best-behaved pig.


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