In Hambone, Jeremy starts out to tell a simple story – “I want to tell you about my garden and the tomato memorial for Hambone.”
But in doing this, he tells us much more – about life on a small Vermont farm, about his gruff and loving father, about his big brother who tells him, “Only girls plant gardens,” about his big sister who understands his dreams, about his mother mysteriously gone to the city, and, finally, about Ramona who seems to be taking his mother’s place. At the center of this web of relationships is his love for Hambone, the funniest, most mischievous and cleverest pig a boy ever had.
Jeremy loves to plant things, and killing breaks his heart. He shoots over the heads of the ground hogs that invade his garden, and he worries about Florence, a mean cow whose days are numbered. A child, poised on the verge of adolescence, Jeremy struggles to understand himself and the events that swirl around him.
Love and loss converge on Jeremy when, at breakfast one morning, his father announces, “We’re doing Hambone in today and I want you out there.” Taking one of his first halting steps toward growing up, Jeremy refuses.
In the midst of a flawed but loving family, Jeremy learns that love forever changes us and endures beyond space and time.
I thought Hambone would like the red ribbon he took at the A-Fair last summer. It should have been the blue one, because Hambone looked so much better than the Woods’ hog. But Jack Woods wins the blue one every year, no matter what his hog looks like.
Hambone didn’t care what color it was. He’d just as soon have eaten it. And would have, too, if Papa hadn’t taken it away from him.
It was Papa who cared, and me too. We were mad. If it hadn’t been for Mr. Grayson, Papa might have punched Jack Woods. I’d have liked to see it.
Papa and Mr. Grayson were standing in front of the judge’s stand. Jack Woods was close by.
“It should have been the blue one,” I heard Papa say to Mr. Grayson.
Jack Woods heard him say it. “You’d have got it if your hog was any good,” he said.
Papa glared at him for a minute. Then he glared at him for a minute. Then he walked straight for him.
There was a fight coming. Papa’s fists were clenched tight to his sides. And he looked hot! As hot as I’d seen him since Alec flunked his chemistry test.
Mr. Grayson caught up to him and put his arm around Papa’s shoulder. I was right behind them. When the reached Jack Woods, Papa didn’t say a word. He held out his hand. Jack Woods didn’t want to shake it. I think he’d rather have been punched. But he did shake it, and that was the end of it, or just about.
When we had pushed Hambone up the ramp and onto the truck, I climbed in with him. I yelled out to anyone who might have been listening, “Jack Woods fills his hogs with sewer water!”