Farming is full of heartbreaking moments.
Two weeks ago, I had to say goodbye to my favorite pig of all time.
Over the past four years, she taught me more about showing, raising pigs and myself than any other experience in my life.
In August of 2006, I asked for a showpig for my 17th birthday.
I’d had many pigs over the years. In fact, that spring we had just started raising our own litters of crossbred pigs.
The pig I wanted wasn’t like anything we raised.
I wanted my dad and I to go on a “hog buying trip” so I could pick out the greatest purebred pig to ever call Laurent Family Farms home.
My parents, realizing that they would get to postpone purchasing this birthday present until March, eagerly agreed.
So in March of 2007, my dad, brother and I loaded up the truck, hitched the trailer and headed north.
We came home with a Yorkshire gilt that I named “Perfect” after a favorite childhood book called Perfect the Pig. After a couple of weeks, however, it became obvious that no one would ever call her Perfect.
I was constantly checking on her, spoiling her and insisting that she deserved preferential treatment so my siblings begrudgingly referred to her as “The York,” insinuating that in my mind all our other pigs didn’t matter.
The York and I kicked off the show season with a win and never looked back.
At every preview show and Junior Expo she took home top honors in the Yorkshire class and usually a banner in the grand drive.
By the time we got to the State Fair, everyone had heard about “The York” and everyone knew that we were shooting for the Sale of Champions.
When we entered our Yorkshire class, the judge penned us in first place.
In previous classes he had brought the top three back out of their pens and sorted them again so I knew we were far from finished.
This time, however, he pulled six pigs back out. One by one, he sent showmen back to the placing pens. Sixth, fifth, fourth, third…
The only people left in the ring were me and The York and a nine year old girl who had been penned sixth.
It seemed obvious that The York and I had this class won.
I was on the verge of all my pig showing aspirations coming to fruition, the adrenaline was pumping and I poured every ounce of focus I had into making sure that The York looked as good as she could.
I placed second.
That nine year old girl would go on to live my dream. Her Yorkshire was named Reserve Champion Market Hog and sold in the Sale of Champions.
That day, I suffered the most devastating defeat of my life.
I was bitter, frustrated and ready to give up on showing in general.
Luckily, no one gave me that option. With the help of my friends and family, I put the loss behind me and focused on a new goal: winning the State Fair’s Open Show the next day.
When The York and I left the ring after the Open Show, it was with heads held high and a felt banner after being named Reserve Champion Market Hog.
That day, my dad and I decided that we’d side with the “everything happens for a reason” philosophy.
Though we didn’t understand it then, there was a reason why The York hadn’t made the Sale of Champions.
It gave us the opportunity to bring her home, breed her and try again next year.
The York went on to be our foundation Yorkshire female.
Her pigs have been shown by not just my family but other showmen in both Kentucky and Louisiana.
The first purebred litter we ever raised was out of her. Our first Kentucky Proud pig to win a Junior Expo was out of her.
One of her daughters was named Reserve Champion Kentucky Proud Breeding gilt at the 2010 Kentucky State Fair.
The last pig I ever showed as a junior exhibitor was one of her daughters.
Two weeks ago, someone approached us interested in buying a sow.
The York was four years old and though the entire family had grown to love her, we all knew that she was getting old and her style of showpig was quickly becoming outdated.
We priced several bred gilts to the man, but it was obvious he was more interested in The York.
Anyone who raises showpigs knows that its not every day that someone wants to buy a four year old sow. At the end of the day, the farm is a business and selling The York meant we could make room for a younger, more competitive sow.
It was tough but it had to be done.
It was strange coming home and not seeing her there. For the first time in my life, I don’t have a pig of my own.
Looking back, I’m so thankful for the five years that The York was mine.
I’m thankful that my parents humored my unorthodox birthday wish. I’m thankful my siblings put up with my obsessive spoiling of a pig.
Most of all, I’m thankful that she didn’t make the Sale of Champions.
If I could do it again, I wouldn’t change a thing. Everything really does happen for a reason.