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St. Paul Celebrates 'In a Pig's Eye'
A curly tale from citizen reporter Eric Shackle
Eric Shackle (shack)     Print Article 
Published 2007-06-01 12:36 (KST)   
"In a pig's eye" is an American rhyming slang phrase meaning "that's a lie," the internationally known "that's all my eye," or simply "I don't believe you." We Aussies sometimes use a more vulgar phrase, referring to a pig's rear end.

How would you like to live, then, in a town called Pig's Eye? In the U.S. mid-West state of Minnesota, some of its early settlers became so tired of being ridiculed that they changed the comical name of Pig's Eye to a far more respectable one -- St. Paul. It's now the capital of Minnesota, across the Mississippi River from its twin city of Minneapolis.

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Today (June 1) St. Paul is celebrating the birth of its first church, which started life as a modest log cabin built back in the days when the pioneer village was called Pig's Eye. Since then, as St. Paul grew, so did the church. Upgraded to a cathedral, it has been rebuilt four times, until today it is, in the words of the Star-Tribune's Joe Kimball, "one of the most visible landmarks in the capital city.

"The cathedral rises majestically above the St. Paul skyline ... From its front doors on the south, downtown buildings fan out on the Mississippi River bluff; a half-mile to the northeast is St. Paul's other imposing dome, the State Capitol."

Earlier this week the huge granite cathedral was bathed in light from a helicopter that's more often used to hovering over night-time horse races and football games, according to Joe Soucheray, of Radio KSTP.

But the name Pig's Eye lives on, thanks to Pig's Eye Beer and the pig mascot of St. Paul's minor league baseball team. And the Twin Cities' biggest sewage treatment plant is called the Pig's Eye Plant.

How come Pig's Eye? "Back in 1838, about four miles south of Fort Snelling on the banks of the Mississippi River, sat Fountain Cave," says the Pig's Eye Brewing Company, with its frothy tongue in cheek.

"Early explorers stopped to fill their canteens with the artesian spring water that ran freely from the mouth of the cave. Inside lived Pierre Parrant, an ornery old character with one eye serviceable. His other eye was marble-hued, crooked, with a sinister white ring around the pupil, giving a piggish expression to his sodden, low features.

"Parrant opened trade as a bootlegger, selling his homemade spirits. As legend has it, he did a thriving business and built the area's first log cabin.

"One day, in 1839, a Frenchman named Edmund Brisette was seated at a table in Parrant's hovel ready to write a letter to a friend. Geography puzzled the writer. Where should he date a letter from a place without a name?

"He looked up inquiringly to Parrant and was met by the dead, cold glare of that eye fixed upon him ... in jest, Brisette dated the letter from Pig's Eye ... and that was the first name of the city which later became St. Paul, Minnesota."

Pig's Eye's Notepad presents a slightly different version ... It says "Our town was known as Pig's Eye, Lambert's Landing, and finally St. Paul. This is when Pig's Eye Parrant's tavern was the watering hole for river men serving on Louis Robert's steamboats, and the population consisted of fur trappers, Native Americans, discharged soldiers, and lots of other folks with itchy feet and lofty dreams. The muddy swamp they settled is today one of the most pleasant and liveable cities in the United States."

The legend of Pig's Eye inspired a Twin Cities freelance writer and blogger, Lynn Mari, to photograph a clever Pig's Eye impression. She wrote:
Pig's Eye lived in a small shack, rocking with music, dancing and card playing, that became a popular tavern. So popular, in fact, the land surrounding became known as "Pig's Eye." A visiting Catholic priest named Lucien Galtier was so disgusted by the city being named after a "sinner" that he renamed the city "St. Paul."
Dennis Hauth and his wife, Marilyn, have supplied mascots to the St. Paul Saints minor league baseball team for the past 15 years. Twin Cities Pioneer Press columnist Bob Sansevere asked Dennis about this year's mascot.

Dennis said the three-week-old piglet weighed about 10 pounds and measured four inches in height and 10 inches in length. By the end of the season, he would weigh 150 to 160 pounds and would probably be about 2 1/2 feet tall and 4 feet long. In three years he would hit 1,400 to 1,500 pounds.

Asked what had become of Hammy, last year's mascot, Dennis said, "I don't know exactly where he went. We marketed him out and gave him a big kiss and hug before he left. He was in that 700-pound range. Pigs are just like people. They get arthritis. He was getting arthritis in his front legs."

The Saints' original mascot, Saint, was Dennis's all-time favorite. "We did more strange things with him than I ever could have dreamt of doing," he recalled. "For one thing, I put him on a motorcycle and he went motorcycle riding."

Another American city, Cincinnati, Ohio, was known as Porkopolis (although poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow called it Queen City), in the 19th century when pork-packing houses sprouted up all across the Ohio River basin. By 1854, it had become one of the largest cities in the United States. Its salt pork was shipped all over the world -- even supplying ships of the British navy and Queen Victoria's dinner table.

The first annual Porkopolis BBQ Fest took place in 2001 in the shadow of a Cincinnati Gateway sculpture by Andrew Leicester featuring "the famous four flying pigs" (scroll down to Item 15). Joanna Schmersal, the 2001 Ohio Pork Industry Queen, judged a hog-calling competition.

The Porkopolis Web site displays a 34 cent U.S. commemorative stamp showing Porky Pig as a mail carrier wearing a leather U.S. mailbag and standing near a weathered wooden mailbox.

And that's fair dinkum -- not in a pig's eye!
Read more of Mr. Shackle's work at the World's First Multi-National eBook.
©2007 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Eric Shackle

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