OPINION COLUMNS

Driving hogs proves to be tedious task

By David Talley | Published Saturday, March 4, 2017
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Hog Wild

HOG WILD – Reporters David Talley and Racey Burden learned how to show hogs at the Wise County Youth Fair Thursday. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

This is the story of a pig. And a boy.

They did not get along.

It’s Youth Fair week in Wise County. The early part of our year revolves around coverage of this event, which seems to bring out the best in our local kids and other extreme emotions in some parents. Messenger coverage of the Youth Fair usually involves photographer Joe Duty spending the better part of his week at the fairgrounds, shooting photos of everyone involved, and a few reporters making routine trips to pick up results and looking for unique stories.

WHAT A PIG – David Talley and his borrowed hog took home a participation plaque. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

This year, fellow reporter Racey Burden and I brought our coverage of the show to a new level, taking part in the market hog celebrity showmanship contest. While I wouldn’t necessarily consider us celebrities, I appreciate the distinction.

We were told to show up at 2 Thursday afternoon for the show, which was scheduled to take place just after the grand champion market hog was named. After sitting though multiple rounds of showing until 4 p.m., it was finally our time to enter the arena. Last year’s celebrity show featured a formidable crew of local superintendents and was won by then-Chico head administrator Mike Jones, so I was hoping for an equally-strong showing from the competition this year. Part of my preparation for the show included wearing a tucked-in shirt with buttons and a collar, which I hoped would convince the judge I was a ready contender.

Unfortunately, due to some miscommunication, the show was canceled this year without our knowledge. But why should we let that stop us?

With some help from sisters Lyndi and Lauryn Luttrull, Racey and I drove our hogs from their holding pens to the show ring to hold a one-on-one contest for newsroom bragging rights. If I needed any more proof the kids who take part in the Youth Fair each year are some of the most dedicated, intelligent and patient members of our community, the pigs definitely provided that. Driving pigs is like herding a 200-pound cat. We took three wrong turns in just the trip between the pen and the ring, and each one meant I had to physically stand in front of the hog to guide it in the right direction. I don’t know if a leash or halter would have helped me guide the pig, but the prodding stick we were given really didn’t seem to do the trick.

Things seemed a little easier once we got in the ring. After watching round after round of youths showing their pigs, I knew to keep mine moving with its head up. The Luttrull girls stayed close to coach us, reminding Racey and I to use the whip more firmly, which I initially felt guilty about, but later understood why. It felt weird smacking the belly of a 200-pound animal that could probably knock me over, but I realized how important it was when lighter taps didn’t stop the pig from chewing on a piece of fence.

Somewhere in the round, I learned we’re also supposed to maintain eye contact with the judge, which was basically impossible because every time I took my eyes off my pig, it shuffled over to the fence and started chewing again.

As the round progressed, the pig and I started working together better. Our laps around the ring included fewer stops at the gate and better direction changes when needed. I can’t imagine how a ring full of competitors and their pigs would have changed things, though.

When our volunteer judge handed Racey the championship plaque and gave me the participation award, I’ll admit I was a little bummed out. Despite darting through my legs three times, I really felt like the pig and I made progress throughout the round and I was hoping for top honors, especially considering I was the only one to dress up for the show. Our judge disagreed and I learned a lesson in humility, too.

In retrospect, I’m still proud of the celebrity designation. I got a plaque, which now adorns my desk in the Messenger office and the experience of a Youth Fair hog show participant, which I’ll take into consideration every time I cover the event in the future.

David Talley is a Messenger reporter.

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