Posted 06-24-2003 at 04:00:25
[Reply] [No Email]
In November or December of last year we loaded up fifteen weanling pigs and took them to Sarasota to be viewed by a 4-H group for potential fair pigs. Out of the fifteen, eight were chosen as likely candidates. Despite the long trip and the fact that we would get home very late, we decided to be present. I for one, will never make that mistake again. The judging started at seven p.m. and went on until close to midnight. That had to be the longest five hours of my life.
We started raising swine in 2000, and it has been a joyful, heartbreaking, and eye opening experience. When we lived in the city, the livestock section of the fair was always the ‘stinky’ part, but we took the time to view the animals as we were interested in them, and enjoyed watching the kids interact with their exhibits. Never did it occur to us how much time, effort, money, and blood, sweat and tears went into to preparing those animals for show.
We were just getting accustomed to the fact that all eight pigs that we sold made weight. That was the first bonus of the evening. There were fourteen classes and ‘our’ pigs were scattered over four of them. Out of the fourteen classes I amazed myself by ‘pre-choosing’ the first in show in all but, go figure, four classes. The four that our pigs took top four in. Not that I’m in any way a connoisseur in the judging of swine flesh. It just became a simple matter of observing the judge and his mannerisms, facial expressions, and time spent with pig. It’s easy enough to sit there and note these little details when you have nothing at stake at the moment.
However, it’s extremely difficult to remain objective and calm when you have pigs out there competing, and I got a brutal insight into what each parent and exhibitor goes through during the judging process. I felt like each of those eight pigs were ours, and each child presenting them, belonged to us.
When the first one of our gilts was chosen as first in class, the judge’s word were….‘the minute this pig walked through the gate I knew that it had those combinations that I was looking for……’. My husband had to nudge me, as I was a quivering lump on the bench beside him, and had both ears plugged with my fingers, and my eyes squeezed shut.
Finally the classes were through, and we went on to the granddaddy of all competitions, The Grand and Reserve Grand Champion awards. By this time I had bitten my nails down to the nub, and was making a concentrated effort to keep my heart from beating out of my chest.
Fourteen beautiful pigs, two of them from our farm, milled around inside the arena. The judge went back and forth, taking notes, scrutinizing. When he walked up and handed young Mr. Brown, the owner of one of our babies, the Grand Champion trophy, I was on my feet, hooting and hollering, fit to drown out the Brown family. Young Mr. Brown accepted the trophy with humble grace and his smile lit up the arena.
All our work, investments and efforts came home to roost in that split second. We were on top of the world, However, as in all competitions, that feeling of elation was almost immediately replaced by sadness for those who tried so hard and walked away with lesser trophies. Somebody has to win. That is the sad fact of the competition, otherwise it defeats the purpose.
I felt so bad for the other boy who made it so close. How do you show exhiliration for one kid who bought a pig from you while the other is standing there, having done the work as well and just didn't make the final cut?
However, I will be the first one to tell you that winning is just as agonizing as not winning. Here’s to the 4-H Program that makes each child a winner by recognizing the effort that goes into competing, rewarding those efforts with ribbons, and in most cases, some financial gain, and teaching the skills to be a graceful loser and a humble winner. In my opinion everyone of those kids was a winner. If it wasn’t obvious before it was glaringly apparent in the way they smiled and shook the hand of the young man who took home the trophy.