January 13, 2004
Cook County-- A new season has started— a season that has nothing to do with the weather, but quietly comes where animals and young people form a special relationship that will last for a few weeks.
In this case, a very young girl finds a girlfriend she has always wanted.
You’d expect to see grocery carts, cash registers and meat counters when Shelby Griffin goes to buy pork, but she goes straight to the source – a pig grown by a special man who has sold them for 50 years. “That pig will weigh about 120 pounds,” says veteran show pig grower Grady Thompson.
Shelby Griffin hops into one of his pens with two remaining pigs, and takes her time. No quick decision. She has patiently waited for years to get her very own pig, and now the waiting would come to an end.
It was the blond haired, blue-eyed girl’s decision all by herself as her dad, brother and friends wondered which one she would buy. A few minutes go by as Shelby walks between the pigs Mr. Thompson has for sale. She wanted another look before committing herself to a time hogging commitment.
The pigs get a wake-up pat from Mr. Thompson and they walk around the pen one more time, a sort of a beauty pageant on the hoof. Shelby doesn’t have any fear in the pen with two, 120-pound pigs. She acts like a pro, with her selection including touchy-feely moments where she scratches the back of one pig in particular. Could the female pig be the one? Shelby makes her choice. She would buy the female pig with a black spot on its nose for a hundred dollars.
Why that one? “Cause it’s a girl pig,” says Shelby with a smile. Girls do stick together. “I didn’t help her at all,” says Mr. Thompson. But, Shelby needs help getting the pig to her house, and Mr. Thompson gladly provides a victory ride for both of them in a special pen hooked to the back of his tractor. “I think she got the best pig in the litter,” says Mr. Thompson.
Shelby has quite a responsibility for the next 12 weeks, making sure her new girlfriend has enough food to eat and water to drink. The six-year old must take care of a 120-pound pig that should weigh about 225 pounds in about three months. Plus, Shelby must teach it manners, spending hours and hours each day after school, teaching it how to participate in an upcoming pig show.
The hard work comes soon enough. But, first things first. What will she call her new pig? “Laura,” says Shelby with a smile. A pig named Laura.
Why Laura? “Because it’s my favorite name,” says Shelby, almost laughing as she stands in a trailer waiting to take her pig home. A pig named Laura and a pretty six-year-old girl named Shelby begin a 12-week friendship, in hopes of winning their first hog show.
And, from the looks of things, each girl will teach the other one a thing or two.
Showing pigs runs in Shelby’s family. Her older brother has been showing them, along with her cousins. Shelby will have several knowledgeable people to help her along the way.
We’ll see how they do as we follow the new pig owner and her four-legged friend all the way through the upcoming show in March.
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