Tifton-- A little girl wants to keep her family's tradition in tact, and it will take her many hard hours, a lot of patience to do it. It all started with a big decision, one Shelby Griffin had looked forward to making when she got old enough.
She bought her first pig to care for and train for a big show March 15, and named it Laura. "It's my favorite name," said the young pig trainer back in January.
Now, she looks forward to after school when she becomes a teacher of a growing pig, with time running out. A big test comes in a few weeks and Shelby must make sure Laura knows her stuff.
"Four more weeks," says Shelby, sitting outside the gate of her pig pen before starting her daily one-on-one training. She works every afternoon with Laura for about 30 minutes as she tries to teach her a thing or two about doing her best in a hog show.
The six-year old finds her pig taking the easy way out, like a lot of students, doing what a pig often does-playing in the mud, not paying her teacher any attention. It seems like a battle of wills. "Sometimes," says Shelby as she tries to get the pig to get up.
But like a good teacher, Shelby finds patience to work with a challenging student in a challenging classroom-a winterized pig pen. "She needs to practice," says Shelby about 15 minutes into their lesson.
While they have a difference of opinion sometimes, they have a special friendship that includes occasional girl talk. "We just talk," says Shelby.
The six-year old has a family tradition to uphold. Her brother, mother and two aunts have won nine hog shows with numerous trophies and ribbons proudly displayed in their home. Her mother's grand champion trophy awarded in the 80s sits in the back.
Shelby's effort brings back precious memories. "Makes me wish I was young again to show," says Deena Griffin as she looks over the gate as Shelby works with Laura. Shelby intends to follow in her family's muddy footsteps, concentrating more on the showmanship award than grand or reserve champion.
"Showmanship is based on presenting the hog to the judge to the best of my ability," says Deena Griffin, remembering the days when she worked with her animals. "It is based on determination and hard work."
The love of training a pig got passed down from mother to daughter. Now, it's Shelby's turn. "We're going to try," says Shelby at the end of her daily workout with Laura.
She has a lot of experienced help waiting on the sidelines, often hanging on the gate, watching the two learn together. Shelby gets a kick out of working with Laura, and realizes that keeping the good family name in the hog show world isn't as easy as it looks.