Back in the spring, we decided to raise pigs for 4-H. You may remember my recounting Spider Pig’s journey to the farm, in the back of my Subaru. It turns out, pigs don’t travel well in cars.
After a long summer of feeding, weighing, and worming pigs, fair week finally arrived.
I thought I knew a lot about pigs, up to that point, but fair week taught me how much I still don’t know.
It started with getting the pigs back to the fair grounds. When they were cute little 97-pound piglets, they could be easily hefted into the trailer, for transport to the farm.
By last week, the pigs were each pushing the 300 pound weight limit. Loading them onto the trailer was no easy task. When a 300-pound pig charges at a 97-pound girl, if she’s learned anything at all over the summer, she jumps out of the way.
My good-natured friend cheerfully herded the pigs toward the trailer, and the kids began closing in on the pigs, trying to coax them into the trailer. As one pig reluctantly climbed the ramp, another pig in the trailer saw his chance to escape. He bolted between legs, knocked down children and fled to the safety of the mud lake at the far edge of the pen. The pigs learned early on that no children would venture into the muddy morass. It was a refuge of cool water for the pigs whenever we came to weigh the pigs. Finally, after more pigs had escaped than were on the trailer, someone grabbed a few scraps of bread. The food tempted the pigs back onto the trailer.
Once the pigs were at the fairgrounds, they had to be bathed and shaved. Once again, I found myself asking, “Who knew?”
Someone seriously suggested we bathe the pigs in buttermilk, to soften their skin.
Pigs enjoy being bathed and shaved less than they enjoy being herded onto a trailer. After a lot of screaming, by children and pigs, the animals were clean and ready to be judged. By the time it was over, everyone was exhausted. And this was only day one.
Judgment day came on Tuesday. As I pulled into the parking lot, Gunnar bolted out to the Jeep.
“Mom! Come quick! Sissy is crying,” and with that, he ran off, expecting me to follow.
Upon entering the swine barn, I encountered a sobbing teenaged daughter, who had apparently tripped over her pig, Bill, and had chipped her tooth on the stock fence.
I wrapped my arms around Samantha and tried to soothe her crying. She was on deck to show her pig, and her agitation was clearly upsetting Bill.
I stroked her hair, “Calm down. Take a deep breath. You’re upsetting the pig.”
I chuckled as I heard myself say that. Upset the pig? It reminded me of an old saying, “Never try to teach a pig to sing. You waste your time and you upset the pig.” Although we were not trying to teach Bill to sing, he was growing more and more agitated with the chaos around him.
Samantha showed me her tooth, broken neatly in half at a sharp angle. I stifled a surprised gasp. It was awful. I could see why she was crying so hard.
When the judges called her name, she took a deep breath, swallowed the remainder of her tears, and marched Bill down the walkway to the show ring.
I felt a lump rise in my throat as I watched my daughter put on a brave smile and lead her pig around the ring. What a great kid.
At the end of the day, Samantha and Bill placed third overall, out of a couple hundred pigs, and Samantha learned a valuable lesson about pulling your stuff together in the middle of a crisis and doing your best.
By the time Friday rolled around, the kids and the pigs were all sick of the fairgrounds. The air was electric with anticipation when the stock show began.
Chickens. Rabbits. Lambs. Steer. Pigs. Finally, the Demander kids headed into the sale ring, near the end of the auction. Having never participated before, we still had a few lessons to learn.
Apparently, the kids are supposed to present a gift to the buyers of their livestock. Who knew? Let me just say, to Wendell Fraughton, Don Pedro, and Alta Construction, “Your gifts are on their way. And thank-you.”
Without a lot of further ado, the pigs were sold. The kids were happy until Saturday, when they went to clean up the remnants of the project.
There, alone, stood Bill.
Samantha ran to her pig, wondering if he had been forgotten.
We headed to the fair office, and were reassured that Bill’s buyer would certainly be back, likely soon, to retrieve his pig.
As we headed out to the barn, Don Pedro pulled in to claim his pig.
Hating good-byes, Samantha left so she wouldn’t have to see Bill, loaded into one more trailer, for one more trip away from the fair grounds.
We laughed. We cried. We raised some pigs. When it was all said and done, there were some lessons that I’d like to pass on for all of you:
Never, ever, ever give a pig a ride in your car.
Pigs, like the rest of us, enjoy a kind word and a good snack.
Nothing beats a good back scratch.
You can always do your best, even when things around you are falling apart.