Two of our classes during the day are devoted to workshopping each other's writing. We get together and read stories and then we tell what we like and don't like about them. It is really helpful and I have learned a lot from not only my teachers but also from my classmates. Every piece we have written must by revised and turned in on the last day as part of our final portfolio. This is the revision of Show Time, my short Story.
I pledge my head to clearer thinking, my heart to greater loyalty, my hands to larger service, and my health to better living, for my club, my community, my country, and my world.
- 4-H Pledge
“Elizabeth,” my mother yelled, “get out of bed right now or I am selling the pig!”
I rolled over and groaned. I looked at the clock. 6:30 A.M.
“Elizabeth Kay Kidd,” she yelled again, “NOW!”
I stumbled down the stairs and met my mother’s disapproving stare.
“I have been yelling at you for ten minutes. You need to start caring about your project if you want to win.”
There are three things that every 4-H member knows. One, you want to be the fitting and showing champion. Two, if you do win, you get to go to the round robin. Finally, you never spook the steers. The last one is taught to us out of fear; no good parent wants their child to be crushed by a runaway steer, so our parents give us a five minute lesson on steer safety before swine showing boot camp begins. You see, kids don’t really care about anything other than staying away from thousand pound cows, but their parents have much higher aspirations.
4-Hers, like me, are dragged from our beds before the sun rises to whack pig’s behinds with sticks while pretending we are actually controlling the large, smelly animal. Parents are required to protect the children from cattle, but, however, they are entitled to throw, squirt, yell, and kick whenever the child whines or the pig does not feel like cooperating.
Swine boot camp started in the middle of July, and by now, the first of August, it was our lives. I walked out to our barn with Chloe, my sister, and Christian, my brother. The sickly sweet odor of animal waste mixed with grain to feed the animals on the farm whipped our faces as we pulled open the heavy, red doors of the barn. I brushed a group of sticky flies off my stick and released the pigs from their stall. Christian gave his pig a hard whack, and the pig took off across the pasture.
“Christian,” yelled Chloe, “you can’t hit him like that or he will never be tame!”
“He doesn’t do anything unless I hit him that hard!”
“Do you want to win the show?”
“No,” the tears started to fall from Christian’s eyes, “I just don’t want to get ran over by the stupid pig.”
“Stop crying and grow up,” shouted Chloe from across the pasture as she moved closer to Christian, her stick raised. I could see that this was getting out of control. Chloe liked to pretend that she was Christian’s mom, and I was usually the one who had to keep her from killing him when he didn’t listen.
“Honestly,” I said as stepped closer to the action with my pig following behind, “he’s nine years old. Worry about yourself.”
“Fine, let him do whatever he wants. He is the one who will look like an idiot when the show starts.”
“Elizabeth,” Christian cried, “I don’t want to look like an idiot.”
“Then practice!” I felt bad for yipping at Christian, but we seemed to have had this same argument every day for the past month and a half. We practiced in silence after that. I walked my own pig around and around the pasture until I decided that we could finally go back into the house without our mother yelling at us.
“Okay guys,” my mother said as she walked out of the bathroom. She got to shower while we were outside getting covered in pig poop. “Elizabeth has the vacuuming, Chloe has the kitchen floors, and Christian needs to dust.”
There was an audible groan from the three of us who were lying across the couch.
“Mom, are you kidding me? You wake us up at six in the morning and then expect us to want to clean for you?”
“Elizabeth,” she shouted back, “you don’t talk to me like that. Do your jobs or I will take away your iPods and cell phones.”
“Mom,” Chloe groaned.
“I am going to sell the pigs!”
I really don’t know why that was such a threat, but it worked for us.
My dad came home at noon for lunch. I had just climbed out of the shower when my mother called me down to the table.
“How were the pigs this morning?” my dad asked.
“Fine,” I said as I put a spoonful of casserole into my mouth.
“How long did you work with them?”
“About two hours,” I said.
“Okay—if you really cared about this project, you would be out there all day, every day We will go out after I finish eating lunch.”
“Dad, I just took a shower!”
“Elizabeth, you are sixteen years old. People are expecting you to win. You will not do that unless you are more dedicated.”
My dad had been a faithful member of the 4-H throughout his entire childhood. He worked with his project from the time he woke up in the morning until he fell asleep late in the night. He had been disappointed with me since I was nine years old when he found out I did not share that excitement towards my agricultural education.
We practiced for an hour that day at lunch. I walked the stupid pig around and around while my dad threw, squirted, yelled, and kicked until the pig and I did what we were told. I almost did a little cheer when he told me he needed to head back to work. I ran back into the house, up the stairs, and into my bathroom to wash the second round of barn stink off.
In my hometown, the county fair and rodeo is a huge deal. I had been going to the swine show with my father ever since I was a small girl. He pointed out the best showmen and told me to remember their technique.
There are two shows for every species: Quality and Fitting and Showing. Quality is all based on luck and how much money you have to spend. The Grand Champion of that show would be sold for the most money at the end of the week, but it did not come with the bragging rights that the Fitting and Showing title brought.
Fitting and showing is all based on talent. You spend all summer working on a winning smile, learning to effortlessly control your pig, and studying the answers to a judge’s questions for twenty minutes in the ring, yet a ton of practice isn’t always enough to win. You still have to put a judge’s special preferences into consideration. If he doesn’t like your hair ribbon, you’re screwed. If he doesn’t like the food you fed your pig, you’re screwed.
“Elizabeth,” I heard my mother’s voice shout, “time to get up.”
I knew better than to argue. It was 5:00 A.M. My mom didn’t want to be up anymore than I did.
“Ugh,” I thought, “pig weigh- ins.”
I pulled on my same old jeans and sweatshirt that I had pulled on every morning and stumbled out of my bedroom. I went out to the barn to find my family waiting there. We grabbed our sticks and started the miserable job of persuading the pigs to go into the trailer.
Pigs generally do not like to be put into trailers. My entire family stood by their pen and prepared ourselves to release them. Chloe took her position by the barn door. She would keep them from running into the pasture. Christian stood at the back of the trailer with a bowl of feed we were using as bait. My mother, father, and I coaxed the two hundred and eighty pound pigs closer and closer to the trailer. They stepped timidly out of their pen, and they a few awkward steps as they woke up. That was the easy part because as soon as they noticed the trailer waiting for them, they ran.
We moved slowly, and the kids prepared themselves. Then the pigs saw the trailer. The three pigs looked around for a place to escape. I swiftly rapped one on the head as it tried to run back past me to its pen. Chloe kicked a second as it tried to pass her barricade into the open pasture behind her. My mother screamed and my father swore as the pig they were trying to wrestle knocked them both to the ground. Christian trembled quietly as the back of the trailer with the food held an arm’s length from his body. An hour later we had finally convinced the pigs to move up the old piece of wood we were using as a ramp.
We pulled into the fairgrounds about twenty minutes later and started to wait. Pig weigh- ins were the worst part about the entire project. You had to be up early, with pigs, waiting in a line for hours. And, when you finally got in, you had to wash and feed your pig before you could go get breakfast and go back to bed. Not to mention the screaming noise echoing from every pen as the pigs made the pig barn their home.
“Elizabeth, time to get up,” I really hated the sound of my mother’s voice by the end of the summer. I thought you were supposed to be able to sleep in during the summer.
“Elizabeth,” I heard Chloe come into my room and sit down on my bed, “show time.”
The morning of a show is intense. We, of course, are up early to shower and make ourselves look cute. You had to look nice to impress a judge. That not only included clean hair and a big bow but new cowgirl jeans, a collared shirt, and a belt, special clothes that I only wore one time a year. It was like the prom only with pigs and cowboy boots instead of guys and tuxedos.
We pulled into the fairgrounds at 6:30 A.M., hours before the general public even thought about being there. Our pigs had to look as great as us. We had a water fight with the pigs as they ran in circles while we tried to spray them with a hose and lather them with soap. Then we had to clip their wire like hair to one fourth of an inch.
“Elizabeth, you missed a spot,” said Chloe.
“You try to do this while the stupid pig is moving!”
Christian chimed into our conversation, “I need to clip my pig, too!”
“Wait your turn!” Chloe and I yelled together.
I ran the clippers up the pigs back while Chloe tried to hold the pig steady, but the pig had different ideas. He looked Chloe straight in the eyes and shook. Water went everywhere. The time we spent perfecting our hair and make- up was in vain. We looked like we had just been caught in a freak rainstorm. Christian was rolling on the ground in laughter.
My father came over when he saw our dilemma.
“Go get yourselves cleaned up, girls,” he said as we climbed out of the pen and handed the clippers to Christian, “I will finish up here.”
We had just gotten back when they started calling in groups to show.
Christian was in the youngest group, so he went first. Chloe and I went in the show ring to watch him. His pig did not want to do anything for him, but he was not the only one struggling to hang on to a pig. The nine year old group was hysterical to watch. Pigs ran circles around the kids while they frantically tried to figure out which pig actually belonged to them. It lightened the mood before my dad pulled Sarah back into the barn to prepare for the show.
I was in the barn watching my pig when Chloe finished her show.
“Second,” Chloe said.
“That’s good,” I tried to sound excited. I knew Chloe wanted first.
“He beat me again!”
Chloe got beat by the same obnoxious kid every year. She hated it.
“You’ll beat him someday. I’m sure you did great.”
“I thought so, too! How long until you go on?”
“I am in about ten minutes,” I said as I climbed out of the pig pen.
“Good luck. I am going to go sit with mom.”
I sat next to the pen until my dad came in.
“How is it going in there?” I asked.
“You need to be calm. Make slow movements,” my dad said.
“Slow movements. I’ve got it.”
“Stare a hole in the guy. Smile.”
A fair board member came out then, “Senior division!” he shouted.
My dad unlocked my pig’s pen and I grabbed my stick. My hand was trembling as I stepped into the show ring with my pig directly in front of me. The judge was standing in the middle. He was a middle aged man wearing a shirt covered with pictures of pigs. He looked grouchy as I flashed a smile at him. I stared a hole in the guy, but my nerves got the best of me, and I could tell I was not moving calmly. I had never been more nervous as I was the moment the judge grabbed the microphone off the table.
“This is a great group of senior showmen. I have seen all skill levels and all kinds of showmen.” He started to dismiss showmen from the ring. I couldn’t believe it when he made it to the top three and I was still in the ring.
“I have picked the young lady in the red shirt as my first place senior showmen,” he said as he looked in my direction. I looked down to see I was wearing a red shirt and I was the only “young lady” left in the ring. I still couldn’t believe it as the judge handed me the blue ribbon.
My dad grabbed me in tight embrace as I stepped out of the ring. It only lasted a second, though, before he started talking strategy.
“You looked great out there, sweetie,” my dad said, “but you were still too intense. Here watch this.”
He showed me another way to show the pig, and I tried it. My pig moved calmly along with me. It was only minutes later when my grandfather came to the barn as well with his tips he had given my dad thirty years before. I listened as both of them gave me tricks to win the show.
“We are not done, yet,” my dad started, “You have real chance of winning this show and then we will make it to the round robin.”
The round robin is the place that every 4-H member wants to make it to. The Grand Champions of every breed come together to pick the best showmen at the fair. The five participants have to show every animal. It was hard to learn to show sheep, steer, dairy cows, and horses in less than a day, but my dad had made it my goal from a young age. I wanted to be there, and, for the first time, I had a shot of making it to the end.
I stepped slowly into the show ring with my eyes glued on the judge and his pig covered shirt. My pig followed my every move with ease. The judge stepped closer to me and I prepared to answer whatever questions he chose to ask me.
“Hamp- York cross.”
I rattled off the ingredients found the feed I gave my pig.
“What is the most favorable part of the pig?”
The asked me more questions about my project and I answered them with confidence. He walked away with a smile on his face that I flashed back at him as I gathered my pig back up.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” the judge started. My throat was in my stomach. “Give these kids another round of applause. You have seen a fantastic group of kids here today.”
The crowd applauded. I glanced at my mother as she motioned for me to keep my eyes on the judge. I turned back around and waited for the results.
“My reserve champion showman will be the boy in the white shirt with the blue- butt pig.” The judge rattled off the positives and negatives about the boy that had beaten Sarah. I could feel her smirk behind me. She was unbelievably happy that he had not won the show.
“And, now for my grand champion showman,” the crowd applauded again, “this young lady has consistently gotten better all day. She always listens to what I had to say, and she stared a hole through me all day,” the judge started to walk in my direction. Each step as he got closer and closer, I thought about my project and all the projects I had had in the past eight years. I had always wanted this, but it had never been close; it had never been mere feet away with a smile on its face. I thought about all the times my dad had thrown, squirted, yelled, and kicked so that I could make it to this point. I remember the shows I went to as a child, the hours and hours spent in the barn early in the morning, and my dream of going to the round robin. I felt a big, purple rosette in my hand along with a belt buckle. The prize for winning the show. I looked around to see my mother jumping out of her seat, cheering. My dad was by the gate and his eyes told me everything. I had never been more proud of me.