Tuesday, August 20, 2013
Rub, Hog, or Die
I became familiar with hog oilers some twenty years ago. My friends Lyle and June introduced me to the colorful, unusually shaped mechanical devices when they shared photographs of their son and daughter-in-law's growing antique collection. In the early 1900s, hog oilers began being manufactured to oil the skin of hogs, thus protecting them from lice and other pests. Simply by rubbing against the hog oiler, a part of the oiler would rotate and oil (including discarded tractor oil) would be dispensed onto the hog's skin, thus causing relief and hopefully saving the life of the hog from such maladies as hog cholera. While touring the Badger Steam & Gas Show last weekend, we visited with Robert and Willie, two hog oiler collectors. We saw some 100 of their mechanical devices made of iron in various shapes, sizes and colors. We learned from Robert and Willie that hog oilers are highly collectible items these days, each having the appeal of a work of vibrantly painted art. One of my favorites was embossed with the directive, "Rub, Hog, or Die." Another looked like a huge watermelon. Yet another had the great name of "The Swine-Ezer." Most were embossed with the manufacturer's name in full view, usually having been made in Iowa or Illinois. Beauty is said to be in the eye of the beholder. I found great beauty in the hog oiler.