Skip to main content

When the Pigs Begin to Fly (Short Story No. 43)

Author's note

These short stories will be part of the sequel to my novel The Lady Who Loved Bones. Any suggestions for improvement or for future stories are welcome.

Head nurse

Hex Hawkins had travelled to Kentucky to round up Timothy Leary, the Irish dwarf who had been seriously injured in the explosion of the steamboat Victoria. Tiny Tim had been taken to the U.S. Marine Hospital in Louisville. The hospital opened in 1852, intended for treatment of victims of disease, temperature extremes, and deficiencies of the era’s naval technology. Many Civil War amputees had been treated there.

Tiny Tim had been fitted with artificial legs, the latest and greatest designed by Dubois Parmlee, featuring advanced prosthesis with a suction socket, polycentric knee, and multi-articulated foot. The suction device did away with leather straps. Tim didn’t like his new legs much. He concluded they were cumbersome and uncomfortable, and he couldn’t walk without further assistance like crutches. He preferred to be pushed in a wheelchair by a buxom nurse named Henrietta. The innovative chair had rear push wheels, small front coasters, and hollow rubber wheels similar to those used on bicycles with metal rims. Hex had bought a wagon to transport the wheelchair and Tiny Tim.

Hex and Tiny Tim had a warm reunion, reminiscing about the good old days on the expedition searching for fossils.

“Remember when we first met?” Hex asked.

“Yup,” Tim replied. “Along the Musselshell. I was a member of Corwin Lee’s group. He was with the Montana Hide and Fur Company and owns a gun shop in Diamond City.”

Hex responded, “Lee now owns a gun shop in Helena. He had a Gatling gun in his shop for repair when it was stolen by Captain Taz. I have heard no further word on the missing weapon of mass destruction.”

“Damn,” Tim muttered, “that’s not good. So how is Shorty? I remember his first words to me were ‘Jumpin Jehosaphats, it’s a fucking Leprechaun!’ Have you heard from Shorty?”

“Heard about him,” Hex said. “Shorty is now sheriff of Helena.”

The first American Idol

“Holy cow!” Tiny Tim yelped. “I never figured him for a lawman. Too short.” Tim laughed. “I figured he’d become a lawman about the time pigs begin to fly.”

“Hey, sing that song again,” Hex requested. “Like you did on the expedition. It’s one of my favorites.”

Tiny Tim did:

“I’ve got the gift of prophecy,

As I will quickly show.

The secrets of the future

Most infallibly I know.

I’ll give you all a few straight tips,

And I will prophecy,

Of some strange things to happen,

when the pigs begin to fly.

(Refrain song by Hex and Henrietta:)

When the pigs begin to fly,

O won’t the pork be high,

Though they are the most unlikely birds

That ever flew in the sky,

I see no reason why

They should never have a try.

Some folks they want cremation,

And are very much perplexed

Because they say they’d rather burn

In this world than the next.

They’re bound to make an ash of it,

If they cremation try.

They’ll settle this burning question

When the pigs begin to fly.

(Refrain sung by Hex and Henrietta:)

Much queerer things will come to pass

When the pigs begin to fly.

Old spinsters will be ministers

When the pigs begin to fly.

They’ll only wear their natural hair

When the pigs begin to fly.

We hear a lot of women’s wrongs

And also women’s rights,

They want to wear the breeches,

Do the old and ugly frights,

The rights they need are marriage rights,

For home rule they should try.

We’ll send old maids to Washington,

When the pigs begin to fly.

“The forces of folly and of fashion

Could no further go,

You must confess that ladies’ dress

At present is a show,

With ruffs, puff, cuffs, and muffs, and stuffs

Dame Nature they defy,

I do believe they’ll dress like Eve

When the pigs begin to fly.”

Tiny Tim paused. “I’ll walk again about the time when pigs begin to fly. Too bad all those bones we found ended up at the bottom of the Missouri River,” Tiny Tim lamented. “Hannah Monroe would have become a famous name if she had successfully got them back East.”

“Right,” Hex agreed. “She’ll find more, I have little doubt. She is quite persistent.”

“Right,” Tiny Tim agreed. “How is she? And Sweet Water? They were taken by Captain Taz after the explosion on the Victoria, along with the gold. I couldn’t do anything about it, due to my injuries.”

“Hannah and Sweet Water escaped,” Hex reacted. “We are meeting them soon at Cripple Creek on the Musselshell River.”

Unleashing weapon of mass destruction

“Hallelujah!” Tim exclaimed. “Taz didn’t harm Hannah and Sweet Water?”

“No, apparently not,” Hex replied. “I guess they got away before he executed whatever diabolical plan he had in mind for them.”

“What has Taz been up to?” Tiny Tim inquired.

“Robbing banks, killing people,” Hex said. Robert Barnes, editor of the Helena Herald, informed me of all the crimes Taz is suspected of being involved in. There are Pinkerton agents, a marshal, sheriffs, and a famous bounty hunter on Taz’s trail, but nobody has been able to apprehend him. One of the Pinkerton agents is a female, I think.”

“A female Pinkerton?” Tiny Tim questioned.

“Yup,” Hex responded. “Her name is Helen James although the first name she was born with is James. Think Delilah.” Hex added, “Of course you remember Delilah on our little expedition and the problems associated with her actually being a man, anatomically speaking.”

Tim nodded. “Wasn’t Delilah the reason that the undertaker Percy got bit in the arse by the bear?”

“Yup,” Hex acknowledged. “Percy got caught with his pants down, thanks to Delilah.”

“So what have you been up to, Hex?” Tim asked. “It’s been a few months since the Victoria blew up. You are just getting back together with Hannah now?”

Hex explained. “Sad but true. I didn’t know for sure where she was until recently. Besides, I was given a special and very important mission by my friend General Grant. The mission was vital to national security, not to mention crucial to a successful presidential run by Grant next year.”

“What was the mission?” Tim questioned.

“Can’t say,” Hex said. “I was sworn to secrecy.”

Henrietta interrupted, “Timmy my dear it’s time for your sponge bath.” She reached under his kilt and he squirmed and squealed a bit. “You know what the doctor said,” she scolded. “You got to exercise the one good leg you got left.”

Tiny Tim requested, “Hex, can we take Henrietta with us?”

“When pigs begin to fly, Timmy,” Hex said. “Did you forget about Sweet Water and her bad temper?”

# # #

Captain Taz and a handful of his men transported the Gatling gun to a one-room schoolhouse on the outskirts of Virginia City, Montana. The Cheyenne Dog Soldiers had returned the weapon, having never used it. They couldn’t figure out how to operate it.

The outlaw Butch Baker commented, “I heard they had their blood enemy Black Wolf all set up for an ambush but couldn’t execute it due to the failure of the Gatling gun.”

“It won’t fail us,” Taz responded. “I’ll start shooting when they come running out. Go set the schoolhouse on fire, Butch, and yell ‘Fire’ a few times. I’ll spare that pretty schoolmarm. I have other plans for her.”

“Can I have the teacher when you’re done with her?” Butch begged.

“Maybe,” Taz said. “If there’s anything left.”

Related Articles