Pigs Are People Too… (Part 3)

October 7, 2016
In honor of National 4-H Week I’m posting a story about a brother’s and sister’s experiences with their 4-H fair projects –show pigs. Today’s post is Part 1 and each day of the rest of this week I’ll repeat the previous parts and post the next segment. There will be four parts in all. By Saturday you will have the entire story. I hope you enjoy it.

Pigs Are People Too
By Alice V. Brock

Sarah and Ryan baled out of the truck and ran for Mr. Kirkpatrick’s show pig barn. Kirkpartick Hog Farm had supplied pigs for their 4-H club for several years.
“Hurry, Dad. I get first pick for the fair.” Sarah, her brown pony tail bouncing behind her, burst into the barn and ran to a pen full of squealing piglets. She squatted on her knees and stretched her hand through the wire squares toward the little pigs running helter-skelter around the pen.
“I like the one with blue spots.” Ryan climbed onto the railing beside his younger sister. Though his twelve years was two more than his sister, they looked enough alike to be twins, brown hair, brown eyes, sun-browned faces with deep dimples.
“You can’t pick first.” Sarah jumped up and stomped her foot. “You got the best pig last year. I get first pick.”
Dad walked up. “Sarah, let’s pick your pig.”
She crinkled her nose at Ryan.
“Dad, see the black one with the white band around her middle.” The pig walked up and sniffed Sarah’s outstretched hand. “She likes me. I want her.” Sarah scratched behind the pert black ears. The pig leaned into her hand as if to say, ‘That feels good.’
“That’s a great way to pick a pig.” Mocking Sarah, Ryan stuck his arm through the wire and waggled his fingers, “She likes me.”
“That’s enough, Ryan,” said Dad. “Sarah, are you sure you want that pig? She’s pretty small. Don’t you want to look at the others?”
“No, I want this one. She turned to her brother, “My pig will beat any pig you choose.”

National 4-H Week—Second Insallment
Part Two – Pigs Are People Too
By Alice V. Brock
Ryan pointed to the spotted one he had first seen. “Look, Dad. See that cross bred pig with the blue spots. I like the way he’s muscled.”
“Looks like a good pig to me. You kids sure made quick choices. Are you sure?”
Both heads nodded vigorously.
Mr. Kirkpatrick scooped up Sarah’s pig and put her in the crate in the back of the truck.
“See, Ryan. She’s a good pig.” Sarah climbed onto the tailgate and looked through the crate bars. “She didn’t wiggle or squeal. She’s a lady.”
Mr. Kirkpatrick went back to get Ryan’s pig. He grabbed at it, but it darted away.
“Come on, Ryan.” Dad climbed into the pen. The three of them trapped the pig in a corner. Mr. Kirkpatrick caught it. The pig climbed over his shoulder and jumped to the barn floor.
“Don’t let him out,” Mr. Kirkpatrick roared, “or we’ll never catch him.”
Ryan slammed the barn door, lunged for the pig, missed, and landed in the dirt. Sarah opened an empty pen. In it went and she slammed the gate. Dad caught the squealing, wiggling bundle and carried it to the truck.
“You sure picked a lively one.” Dad latched the crate. “Have you thought of a name?”
“It’s Blue because he has blue spots on his rump.” Ryan wiped smelly mud off his hands onto his not-to-clean jeans.
“Mine is Lady because she knows how to behave.” Sarah’s ponytail flipped from side to side as she skipped to the truck.
On the way home, Sarah watched the pigs out the back window. Lady’s black and white coat gleamed. Blue’s spots were covered in mud. “Doesn’t Lady look pretty? She has better manners than Blue.” Sarah’s voice was as sweet as dripping syrup.
“Judges aren’t interested in manners. That’s for people,” Ryan answered with an older brother tone.

National 4-H Week—Third Installment
Pigs Are People Too—Part 3
By Alice V. Brock
The gray of winter became sunny spring. Ryan and Sarah worked daily with their pigs. Sarah fed and watered Lady. She washed and brushed until the black hair shined and the white band around her middle glowed.
“Look at Lady, Ryan. See how fine she is and how she’s growing,” Sarah’s pride beamed.
“She may be pretty, but she can’t beat Blue.”
Long walks and running away to the pond for a swim made Blue’s muscles ripple under his spots. Ryan measured exactly the right amount of feed for each meal. “Remember, Blue, we want a good balance between muscle and fat,” Ryan told him when the pig flopped the lid on his empty feeder. “You don’t need to overeat.”
County fair time moved closer. Sarah and Ryan worked the pigs in the practice ring Dad built next to the barn.
“It’s important for Lady and Blue to behave in the show ring,” said Dad. “I’ll act as judge and you work your pigs.”
Both kids followed their pigs, eyeing each other to see who could reach Dad first.
“Sarah, hold your show stick up. Keep your eyes on the judge. Watch Lady out of the corner of your eye.”
“Ryan!” yelled Sarah. “Don’t let Blue bump Lady. He’s muddy.” She poked at Blue with her show stick.
“Sarah!” Dad took her stick. “There’ll be lots of pigs in the ring that will bump Lady.” He rumpled her hair. “Your job is to see the judge gets plenty of good looks at Lady.”
In a corner of the ring, Blue rolled in the dirt.
“Ryan, keep Blue out of the corners. You have to control him in the center of the ring. A tap on the shoulder will turn him. A tap on the snout will slow him.”

To Be Continued…

Pigs Are People Too… (Part 2)

October 6, 2016

First Installment
Sarah and Ryan baled out of the truck and ran for Mr. Kirkpatrick’s show pig barn. Kirkpartick Hog Farm had supplied pigs for their 4-H club for several years.
“Hurry, Dad. I get first pick for the fair.” Sarah, her brown pony tail bouncing behind her, burst into the barn and ran to a pen full of squealing piglets. She squatted on her knees and stretched her hand through the wire squares toward the little pigs running helter-skelter around the pen.
“I like the one with blue spots.” Ryan climbed onto the railing beside his younger sister. Though his twelve years was two more than his sister, they looked enough alike to be twins, brown hair, brown eyes, sun-browned faces with deep dimples.
“You can’t pick first.” Sarah jumped up and stomped her foot. “You got the best pig last year. I get first pick.”
Dad walked up. “Sarah, let’s pick your pig.”
She crinkled her nose at Ryan.
“Dad, see the black one with the white band around her middle.” The pig walked up and sniffed Sarah’s outstretched hand. “She likes me. I want her.” Sarah scratched behind the pert black ears. The pig leaned into her hand as if to say, ‘That feels good.’
“That’s a great way to pick a pig.” Mocking Sarah, Ryan stuck his arm through the wire and waggled his fingers, “She likes me.”
“That’s enough, Ryan,” said Dad. “Sarah, are you sure you want that pig? She’s pretty small. Don’t you want to look at the others?”
“No, I want this one. She turned to her brother, “My pig will beat any pig you choose.”

National 4-H Week—Second Installment

Ryan pointed to the spotted one he had first seen. “Look, Dad. See that cross bred pig with the blue spots. I like the way he’s muscled.”
“Looks like a good pig to me. You kids sure made quick choices. Are you sure?”
Both heads nodded vigorously.
Mr. Kirkpatrick scooped up Sarah’s pig and put her in the crate in the back of the truck.
“See, Ryan. She’s a good pig.” Sarah climbed onto the tailgate and looked through the crate bars. “She didn’t wiggle or squeal. She’s a lady.”
Mr. Kirkpatrick went back to get Ryan’s pig. He grabbed at it, but it darted away.
“Come on, Ryan.” Dad climbed into the pen. The three of them trapped the pig in a corner. Mr. Kirkpatrick caught it. The pig climbed over his shoulder and jumped to the barn floor.
“Don’t let him out,” Mr. Kirkpatrick roared, “or we’ll never catch him.”
Ryan slammed the barn door, lunged for the pig, missed, and landed in the dirt. Sarah opened an empty pen. In it went and she slammed the gate. Dad caught the squealing, wiggling bundle and carried it to the truck.
“You sure picked a lively one.” Dad latched the crate. “Have you thought of a name?”
“It’s Blue because he has blue spots on his rump.” Ryan wiped smelly mud off his hands onto his not-to-clean jeans.
“Mine is Lady because she knows how to behave.” Sarah’s ponytail flipped from side to side as she skipped to the truck.
On the way home, Sarah watched the pigs out the back window. Lady’s black and white coat gleamed. Blue’s spots were covered in mud. “Doesn’t Lady look pretty? She has better manners than Blue.” Sarah’s voice was as sweet as dripping syrup.
“Judges aren’t interested in manners. That’s for people,” Ryan answered with an older brother tone.

Pigs Are People Too… (Part 1)

October 5, 2016

In honor of National 4-H Week I’m posting a story about a brother’s and sister’s experiences with their 4-H fair projects –show pigs. Today’s post is Part 1 and each day of the rest of this week I’ll repeat the previous parts and post the next segment. There will be four parts in all. By Saturday you will have the entire story. I hope you enjoy it.

Sarah and Ryan baled out of the truck and ran for Mr. Kirkpatrick’s show pig barn. Kirkpartick Hog Farm had supplied pigs for their 4-H club for several years.
“Hurry, Dad. I get first pick for the fair.” Sarah, her brown pony tail bouncing behind her, burst into the barn and ran to a pen full of squealing piglets. She squatted on her knees and stretched her hand through the wire squares toward the little pigs running helter-skelter around the pen.
“I like the one with blue spots.” Ryan climbed onto the railing beside his younger sister. Though his twelve years was two more than his sister, they looked enough alike to be twins, brown hair, brown eyes, sun-browned faces with deep dimples.
“You can’t pick first.” Sarah jumped up and stomped her foot. “You got the best pig last year. I get first pick.”
Dad walked up. “Sarah, let’s pick your pig.”
She crinkled her nose at Ryan.
“Dad, see the black one with the white band around her middle.” The pig walked up and sniffed Sarah’s outstretched hand. “She likes me. I want her.” Sarah scratched behind the pert black ears. The pig leaned into her hand as if to say, ‘That feels good.’
“That’s a great way to pick a pig.” Mocking Sarah, Ryan stuck his arm through the wire and waggled his fingers, “She likes me.”
“That’s enough, Ryan,” said Dad. “Sarah, are you sure you want that pig? She’s pretty small. Don’t you want to look at the others?”
“No, I want this one. She turned to her brother, “My pig will beat any pig you choose.”

To Be Continued…

The First Show Pig

October 2, 2016

I decided to step away from all the business of launching The River of Cattle and write this blog to go in the “From the Pig Barn” section of my website. Fall and spring always bring back memories of the fun trips we took with the kids to shop for just the “right” pig.
I grew up in the city and had never been around hogs. The only thing I knew was that we got bacon, ham, and sausage from pigs. If you had told me I would come to love being around hogs, I’d have encouraged you to see a psychiatrist. Hogs were supposed to be dirty and smelly. I was in for a surprise.
My first experience with pigs was when Rachel was in the fourth grade. She was in 4-H, and her daddy decided she needed to show a pig at the Grimes County Fair. So, early one spring off we went shopping. We came home with two blue butts, which is a cross between a Yorkshire and a Hampshire. They are white with gray or bluish spots on the hindquarters. Even thought she could only show one pig, we always got an extra just in case there was a disaster of some kind.
I remember it was a wet year, and we had quite a large and deep mud puddle caused by the runoff through the culvert under our road to the house. The kids would take the pigs out of the ramshackle open sided barn we had at the time and walk them across the pasture. It didn’t take long for the pigs to find the mud puddle/lake and jump in.
From that day on, when Rachel or Vincent opened the hog barn door those two pigs took off at a run leaving the kids behind and raced across the pasture. With a flying leap, they would launch themselves into the air and land with a belly-flop in the middle of the puddle sending droplets of muddy water flying everywhere. I don’t know who squealed the loudest, the pigs or Rachel and Vincent when they finally caught up with their charges. Those pigs had a great time splashing around, ducking under the water, and blowing bubbles. Finally, after repeated tries, the kids would extract their charges from the water and drive them back to the barn for a bath and supper.
It was a busy spring with all of us learning how to care for these intelligent loveable animals. Fortunately, my husband, Don, was an old hand at dealing with livestock and show animals. We measured just the right amount of feed. We washed and groomed each animal, just to have them flop right back in the dirt when we finished. We shoveled dirty hay and assorted other materials out of their pens and spread fresh hay for them to root around and roll in.
Finally, show time arrived. Rachel had listened well to her daddy’s instructions and did a good job showing her pig, for a first timer. She won Reserve Champion. That was a great start and led to many wonderful years of good times spent in the hog barn.

Two Feathers

September 18, 2016

I would like to introduce you to the thorn in Will’s side, Two Feathers, a half white, half Comanche boy whose goal in life is to capture Will’s big buckskin stallion, Buck.
Here’s a little background history. Before the Civil War the army had managed to push the Comanche back toward the Llano Estacado (also known as the Staked Plains of Texas) and settlers had begun to establish farms and ranches past the hill country of central Texas into the eastern edges of what we now call west Texas. When war broke out the army removed most of its troops to fight in the east and the Comanche managed to reclaim much of their territory back toward central Texas. There were Comanche raids as far east as Fredericksburg.
Will Whitaker lived with his Pa, Dan, on their ranch near Fort Belknap located near present day Newcastle, TX northwest of Fort Worth. The Comanche were active in this part of Texas at the time and danger lurked behind every rock and tree. It was a hard country to live in for both white men and Comanche.
TWO FEATHERS
Two Feathers stood behind the trunk of a sycamore just below the edge of the creek bed. He could feel his blood spurting through his arms and legs, making them twitch, pulse, and want to move. Standing still was not an easy thing to do that morning. He waited.
The birds twittered in the trees, disturbed by his presence. The morning held no hint of summer haze. It seemed he could see every detail of every blade of grass. There seemed no end to the distance. He eased his way from the creek bed up a small rise and bellied down to get a better view of the activity at the ranch.
The white man and the boy had been easy to follow. The big horse had left deep tracks. He watched the yellow-horse- with-black-mane-and-tail, a dunnia. Even from this distance, he knew he had not been wrong when he had first seen the horse earlier that morning. How can a white boy, younger than my own twelve summers, ride such a horse? No white boy can ride like a Comanche.
“A warrior’s horse,” he whispered in awe. His head swam from the sight of the magnificent stallion. So big. So strong. So fast.
He dreamed of riding the big horse into his village, the other boys watching in envy as he brushed the golden coat and braided his eagle feathers in the long, flowing black mane.
The morning sun brought new plans, new confidence. I will follow the boy who rides the dunnia. My chance will come. That horse will be mine.
Two Feathers watched as a dark-gray horse and rider burst from the pen and raced across the prairie. The boy and the dunnia followed, easily keeping pace. His heart swelled with pride. No horse can beat you. You run fast, like the antelope. He slipped from the crest of the hill and ran to Old Pony, leaped astride, and took off through the woods, keeping the running horses in sight. Following a gully, he reached the creek bed in time to see the gray horse with his rider leap off the bluff. It was all he could do not to let out a wild whoop in surprise. The man and horse scrambled up the other side and raced off.
Wild, like a gray wolf, fierce and strong. He, too, is a warrior’s horse.
He stepped Old Pony from the cover of the trees in his amazement. Realizing his mistake, he ducked back in the shadows.
He looked across the prairie. No horse stood on the bluff. The dunnia? His breath caught in his throat. Has he, too, gone over the edge? Eyes searched the prairie and relief made him weak when he spotted horse and boy racing back to the ranch.
Two Feathers searched for the gray horse. It had disappeared over the crest of a hill. Its gutsy spirit thrilled him. Two warrior’s horses! He sat still, lost in dreams. Old Pony nudged his shoulder. Two Feathers thoughts returned to the white man’s ranch and the dunnia. I will have you.