Monday, February 11, 2013

Monday Memory: My First (and second) Pig

When I was fourteen, our family moved from a small house in town to a new place out in the country. Along with a big house and neat yard, it had plenty of room for three kids to work hard and have fun raising animals for 4-H and FFA. The first livestock project was raising and preparing market hogs for the Milton-Freewater Junior Livestock Show and Sale.

Jen and I each picked out a Red Duroc and faithfully attended to their every need. (Initially, Jen was terrified of the pigs, and Kasey and I had a rollicking good time shouting "Killer Pig! Killer Pig!" whenever she hesitantly entered the pen. But that's Jen's story, not mine, so she can fill you in on the horrific and traumatizing details of her cruel siblings' taunting.)

Here I am "training" my pig (I think I named him something oh-so-original like "Ham Steak" or "Pork Chop.") For show, hogs are guided around a ring with a large cane in front of a judge. It's debatable as to how much the pig is actually guided and how much the pig just wanders around doing it's own thing.

The day we loaded the pigs up for the show was a bit crazy. Neither pig wanted to load up in the trailer and we spent way too long in the pen dealing with our own personal hog rodeo. When they finally did get loaded up, both were breathing hard and exhausted - not the best way to travel with livestock.

After weighing in the hogs at the show grounds, we guided them through a maze of pens and panels to their respective homes for the duration. Jen's pig had calmed down, but mine was still very agitated and breathing hard. He was either mad and fighting me and the other handlers, or stopping to catch his breath the entire way. Then the most unexpected event occurred; Three feet from his pen, my show-ready hog laid down in the aisle and died.

I had no idea what to do. This was my first show and my pig had just DIED. Fortunately, this junior show is run by some awesome and dedicated volunteers and the crew on-hand sprung into action. The dead pig was hauled away and a show board member pulled my dad aside for a quick chat. Jen was inconsolable (why she was so sad about MY pig is still a mystery) and I was so very disappointed. A member of the show board told me about a hardship clause in the rules that allowed me the opportunity to show a different pig and we quickly found out another family had an extra pig they wouldn't be showing and I was welcome to use. I got my second pig within the hour.

This pig and I became fast friends and I showed him to the best of my (very limited) ability. He was black and white and I think I called him "Oreo" (again, so original with the naming).

(Here I am showing Oreo. If I look awkward, it's because I was awkward. It's very difficult to look suave and comfortable in a ring full of pigs.)

We showed pigs again several times after that first show and never lost another one. As traumatic as the first one was, we'll certainly never forget it!
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