By Lindsey Larson
Published on Friday, January 12, 2007
Traffic slows on Lebanon Street to gawk at the festive scene across from the Co-op as two friends who have braved a kidnapping and survived a carpenter ant infestation are celebrating their birthday. Two smartly-painted, beaming wooden statues whose weekly mysterious transformations and representations of current events, stories, and puns involve a changing of their garb to sport costumes from busty Les Mis regalia to karate jackets (Kung Pao Pork!).
Bill Hammond '83, MALS'90 answers the door to 53 Lebanon Street before I even have a chance to knock. Offering me a seat at his small kitchen table, a weighty folder spills fan mail while he picks up a scrap book titled "The Pig's Progress, 53 Pilgrim St."
Inside, a bright collection of photographs, correspondence and front-page news articles detail the lives of a wooden wolf and pig. Did I catch a glimpse of a letter written from Italy? One is signed simply, "With Gratitude, an Admirer." Apparently, although the Hammonds have never met these people, there is an entire community extending far beyond the Upper Valley who is fascinated by these statues.
"My wife asked for something whimsical for the garden," so Bill Hammond enlisted the services of Willy Black, the skilled chainsaw artist, to create Pig, he says. The first placement of the porcine statue was not quite right, so they moved it, and town began to notice the changes. As the Hanover townspeople became more interested, Bill and Cristina began to get more creative in the placement of Pig.
Once Pig's companion, Wolf, arrived the following year, "we started having stories," Hammond recalls. "When we did the three little pigs, the town of Hanover got involved. They put up a building permit on the stick house." And when a massive tree fell on the Hammond house, Pig was immediately on top of the fallen tree, with saw in hoof. "I think we often make comments about humanity how they're set up," Hammond said. "And things that in general we need to take more lightly."
Soon the unlikely duo began popping up all over town. During a Winter Carnival party, the pair was swathed in finery in a sleigh for the "Reign of the Queen" theme.
When Bill and Cristina Hammond eagerly made their lawn ornaments available to advertise for worthwhile causes, the charitable Pig and Wolf have collected food for the Haven, advertised Dartmouth hockey games, dressed up as clowns for the Big Apple Circus and pirates for Opera North productions, and have even volunteered at American Red Cross blood drives.
That is, until they were kidnapped. "Well-orchestrated don't you think?" Bill comments with a twinkle in his eyes. "It wasn't me. I would have brought them back earlier to stop people feeling bad about it." Star Wars: Episode 3 had just been released, and Wolf and Pig could be seen as a stocky Darth Vader and C3PO, dueling valiantly on the roofs of various establishments around town. The Co-op was their last, fateful stop, before they were snatched and cloistered away for six months in 2005.
Bill still wonders, wistfully, "Who would ever steal something that was so much fun for the community?" Nevertheless, Hanover natives did not falter in expressing their concern and intrepid optimism. The Valley News was sprinkled with ads and letters to the editor like, "Halloween dream, Pig and Wolf come home." Neighborhood children created "Wanted" posters.
Then came January 4th, the day that turned attorney Dan Grossman into a lauded, Hanover hero. As he was driving up I-91 that morning, his eagle eyes spotted two shadowy figures in the distance, atop a Vermont farm hillside freshly blanketed in snow.
Lying on a grill in the middle of a snowy field was Pig, while Wolf stood close by with a hotdog and skewer in his hand. Returned in kind, Bill Hammond found his pig and wolf -- with hot dog still in hand -- peering in to his side door as if to say, "We're home!""
Indeed. "Home Again, Home Again, Jiggedy-Jig!" broadcast the headline in The Concord Monitor. Fanfare, scrutiny, enthusiasm and much questioning ensued during a homecoming befit for humans. Hanover police officer Frank Moran asked Hammond, "any signs that the Pig and Wolf were sexually molested?" Bill Hammond could only laugh and utter an emphatic "No!" With that, Officer Moran declared, "Okay then, we're dropping the case."
Now that was settled, the two sojourners could proceed. Wolf and Pig were ready to celebrate with their closest friends. The Hammonds rolled out their own grill. A wrought iron Don Quixote riding Rocinante, fellow Willy Black carvings, plastic pink flamingoes, and a cornucopia of other statues were amongst those who responded to Bill Hammond's letter to the editor, inviting all of the Upper Valley's lawn ornaments to come and flounce in his famous front yard.
The celebrities remain "stoic...unfazed," by the constant attention, Hammond said. "Actually they've never been asked to give speeches anywhere. You know, they're wooden. They don't really come across all that well." But without having to utter a word, they are the constant talk of the town. Most recently, with their glossy wall calendar that sold out in weeks. And I'll gladly admit that I bought three copies.