Don#039;t confuse pigs with the Dead

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, October 29, 2002

My brother Tim was telling me how he recently attended a concert in

northern California for a band called the String Cheese Incident. He said the concert was good and it had a fair-like atmosphere with all the vendors in the parking lot. One of the vendors was selling live chickens. The vendor told Tim that his chickens were a rare breed called Japanese Oriental. Tim paid $15 for a hen and a rooster after the concert was over. Tim must have had a few too many beers at the concert because when he looked at the chickens in the light of day he saw that the rooster was pretty old and beat up. He didn't seem to mind as the night brought back memories of past Grateful Dead concerts. Grateful Dead shows always had a fair-like atmosphere to them similar to the String Cheese concert. Tim is a Dead Head from way back having been to more than 60 Grateful Dead concerts. Five of my six brothers are Dead Heads.

Growing up, I would often go to sleep to the tunes of the Grateful Dead and wake up to them. I went to my first Grateful Dead concert in Des Moines, Iowa when I was 18. It was held at the Iowa State Fairgrounds. I went with two of my brothers and some of their friends. We drove in a red Volkswagen Beetle and we brought along a lunch of ham sandwiches on homemade bread, chocolate chip cookies and water. It was a beautiful August day and my brother John was smitten with the longhaired, freckled-faced Midwest girls that sat beside us. He offered four young beauties our melted, crumbly chocolate chip cookies and they devoured them with smiles on their faces and licked their fingers clean.

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I went to my second Grateful Dead concert in 1981 at the St. Paul Civic Center. My husband, Tom and I were raising pigs and a sow had died and we were bottle-feeding her six pigs. I had arranged for my mother to baby sit our three children, but she said she would not baby sit pigs. When our ride came to pick us up for the concert, we brought the pigs along in a box with several bottles of fresh cow’s milk.

We left the piglets in the car with a window rolled down when we went to the concert. The Civic Center smelled like several different types of smoke, there was beer spilt everywhere and the music was way too loud and made no sense to me. This was not like the peaceful outdoor concert I had been to seven years past. After an hour and a half of misery, I said to Tom, "Let's go feed our pigs."

I didn't know that once you came to a concert that if you left the building you weren’t allowed back in. I explained to the security guard at the gate that I had to go and feed my pigs. The guard looked at me and shook his head and laughed.

"Hey," he hollered to two other security guards, "this is the best one I have heard all night. Tell them what you told me."

"I have to go to my car and feed my pigs. The pigs' mother died and I feed them every four hours and it’s now time," I explained.

The security guards let me leave and they said they wouldn't forget me and I could come back into the concert without any hassle.

"Just don't bring the pigs back with you," one security guard said.

Our pigs were fine and we bottle fed them in an alley near the Civic Center. It was such a nice night out that we didn’t want to return to the concert. But we did return and the security guards wanted to know how our pigs were. I never went to another Grateful Dead show; Tom went to one more and he said the music was great, only the night wasn't as memorable as the time we brought the pigs.

Sheila Donnelly can be reached at 434-2233 or by e-mail at