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.”
National 4-H Week—Fourth Installment
Pigs Are People Too—Part 4
By Alice V. Brock
Finally, the morning of the pig show arrived. Sarah washed Lady and brushed her until she sparkled.
“You know what to do, Lady. Smile pretty for the judge,” she whispered as the announcer called the lightweight class. They entered the show ring. Lady held her head up as she walked. Sarah tapped her shoulder. Lady turned to the judge. Sarah tapped again. Lady moved gracefully across the ring.
“Heavyweight class, bring your pigs to the holding pen,” called the announcer.
Entering the show ring at a fast trot, Ryan gave Blue a tap on his snout slowing him to a walk. His eye on the judge, Ryan headed Blue in his direction.
Pigs moved around the show ring like ants in a sugar bowl. When the judge pointed to a pig, the ring-men coaxed it out of the ring until there were only two pigs left, Lady and Blue.
Sarah tapped Lady under her chin. Lady’s head lifted. Sarah tapped her on the shoulder. Lady turned to the judge.
When Ryan moved him toward the judge, Blue squealed and ran across the ring. The judge smiled at Ryan and handed him a red ribbon.
He gave Sarah a big blue one.
With both pigs safely in their pens, Dad held up the ribbons. “First and second place.” Pride radiated from his big grin.
“Oh, Blue.” Ryan dropped to his knees and held up the wayward pigs head. “You would’ve won if you hadn’t run across the ring.”
“See, Ryan.” Sarah held up her ribbon. “Manners do count. Pigs are people too, you know.”