The 2010 Kentucky State Fair marks the end of an era for me.
After 10 years of showing pigs in 4-H and FFA, I’ve finally “aged out.”
Its the last time I’ll compete as a junior exhibitor. The last time I’ll participate in a showmanship contest. The last time I’ll hope for lightening to strike and for my pig to make it to the Sale of Champions.
Its sad, scary and a little surreal.
As I look back on 10 wonderful years, I’m flooded with memories of victory, defeat, favorite pigs, best friends and proud accomplishments.
The memories I hold most dear, though, are the seemingly insignificant aspects of showing pigs that made it such a life changing experience.
So this post is a tribute. A tribute to all the little things about showing pigs that I’ll always remember.
Talking around the dinner table about which boar we’re going to breed our favorite sows to.
Trying to pick out the best pigs only minutes after they’re born and fighting over which of us will claim them.
Talking smack at the first show of the summer, knowing all along that the pigs will change drastically over the two months leading up to the fair.
Shopping with my sisters for the perfect showmanship shirt, searching every store in the mall.
Walking pigs with my dad and siblings, over analyzing everything about each pig.
Getting dizzy when I stand up after being bent over washing pigs all morning.
The sinking feeling you get when one of your pigs gets sick or injured and you know you’ll be spending as much time as it takes to help them get better.
Playing hairdresser before the show for all my little sisters, both biological and the ones I adopted at hog shows.
My dad quizzing me on possible showmanship questions while I wait in the make up ring.
Feeling my stomach knot up when I realize that I’m one of the last two showmen in the ring, and the adrenaline rush of being named champion.
Choking back the flood of emotions on the many occasions that I didn’t come out on top.
Shaking the hand of the showman that beat me, forgetting that I lost because I was so excited that they won.
The inexplicable joy that you feel on those days that you and your pig are on the same wavelength and show like the perfect team.
Depending on my siblings to be my best friends one minute and my toughest competition the next.
The fun of keeping a rivalry with another showman alive for 10 years.
The pride you feel when a pig you raised wins, a feeling that makes you want to scream with excitement and cry with joy all in one moment.
Being congratulated by other showmen and breeders that you’ve spent years looking up to and realizing that their kind words mean more at the end of the day than any banner.
Discovering that the friends you make in the show ring are more than just friends, they’re family.
Warren Beeler, a personal hero of mine and part of my “show family,” once said, “Don’t let school get in the way of a good education.”
I’m so glad my parents believed in that philosophy.
Showing pigs led me down many different paths and accounted for a lot of my high school absences, but the lessons I learned while in the showring have far outweighed those I ever learned in a classroom.
I know it wasn’t always easy for my parents.
My mom has often said, “My kids are addicted to showpigs and its expensive. But they could be addicted to worse things. Showpigs are cheaper than rehab.”
As I look back on the past 10 years, I can’t imagine who I would be had my parents not invested their time and money into our show project.
I owe them, and the rest of my show family, a tremendous thanks.
I hope one day I can make half the impact on a showman that they’ve made on me.