Hobo clown Moocher the Tramp led a life similar to that of any hobo clown: riding the rails, begging for hand-outs of food and clothing, scavenging for over-sized novelty shoes in trash heaps and entertaining young and old alike.

What made Moocher different, however, was the presence of his best friend Hammy the Pig, the trained pet sow he raised from a piglet. Delighting children with her uncanny tricks, Hammy would dance, stand on her hind legs and even juggle multi-colored rubber balls with her snout. The sound of Moocher’s accordion, accompanied by Hammy’s happy squeals and oinks, was always guaranteed to alert children up and down the Sioux City Line that fun was on the way.

That is, until last week.

“Due to the current recession, in combination with the onset of winter, Moocher the Tramp is sad to announce that his friend and partner, Hammy the Pig, has been slaughtered, filleted, and stored as foodstuffs,” a press release from Moocher’s agent said.

“I know children are aghast at what I have done,” Moocher said to the assembled media. “But they don’t understand what it’s like to be a hobo clown these days. The poverty, cold, and unsympathetic brakemen can be unbearable. For a homeless vagrant to go on supporting a 500-pound sow under such conditions is just too much to ask.”

A mere 10 inches long when Moocher first began training his animal friend, the rotund Hammy had grown to 504 pounds when she was slaughtered for meat last week at age six.

“Those were six good years,” Moocher said. “Believe me, when you’ve got empty pockets and find yourself huddling for warmth on a freight car outside of Fargo, a sow that size starts looking less and less like a humorous sidekick and more and more like a couple months worth of pork.”

Hammy, whose slaughtered corpse yielded Moocher nearly 200 pounds of sausage, ham, ribs, pork patties, bacon, chitlins, pig’s feet (pickled) and head cheese, may be gone, but she will not be forgotten.

“I have in my left pocket a memento,” said Moocher, his painted-on frown all the more tragic and emotionally evocative for the experience of his recent loss. Pulling out a small plastic-wrapped bundle, he said, “This is all that’s left of Hammy. It’s my lucky pork chop, and it will be a part of every magic act I perform from now until the day of my death.”

The public may be reeling from Moocher’s decision to end his six-year partnership with Hammy the Pig, but who is really to blame for this tragedy? We must ask ourselves, is it a hobo clown trying to survive on the railways? Or is it the sad, cruel legacy of Reagan’s America? For Moocher, a single tear trailing down his stubbled, painted face, there can perhaps be no answer. The only solace is a few more more months of food and one fewer friend.

The New York Times contributed to this story.