Andrew Dys

Soooey! Welcome to Pigpen 101

Above, Devin Cathey tries to lift her hog named Pork Rind. Devin is among nine Clover High School students who are preparing their hogs for today's 61st annual 4-H Livestock Show in Chester County. At left, from left to right, Angie Stone, Cathey and Elise Griffin care for the the hogs they raised.
Above, Devin Cathey tries to lift her hog named Pork Rind. Devin is among nine Clover High School students who are preparing their hogs for today's 61st annual 4-H Livestock Show in Chester County. At left, from left to right, Angie Stone, Cathey and Elise Griffin care for the the hogs they raised.

CLOVER -- The girls wear mascara and eyeliner, and T-shirts and jeans that that cost as much as the light bill.

And black rubber boots coated with pig poop.

No makeup for the boys, but boots, yes.

Meet "The Pig Kids."

From Clover High School, this group of nine -- six of them girls -- this morning will get to the school before 7 a.m. They will grab pressure washers and scrub their pigs. Then they will brush their pigs. Then all will ride in a flat-bed truck, at least the pigs will, to a Chester County livestock arena for the showdown to see whose pig is best pig.

Today is the once-a-year, 61st annual, 4-H Livestock Show. An institution kept alive mainly by the Clemson Extension Service and farm-heritage families who love the land and the animals and plants that spring from it.

There will be 41 children between ages 5 and 18 from York and Chester counties. They will parade their pigs around before judges, guiding with sticks that are like canes. Pigs are judged for shape and size.

Yes, a shapely, big rear end as wide as a barn door is considered a beauty queen fit for sash and crown.

Contestants are mostly from farm families who compete often, such as the Westbrook kids from Rock Hill, the Neelys from York, the McGills and Bolins from Clover. Plus, these nine newcomers, swine first-timers, from Clover's Future Farmers of America club. All take Carrie Bolin's agriculture class. Some come from farm families, some not. 4-H and FFA has in the past two years under Bolin become among the coolest things in Clover. Enrollment jumped from about a dozen to more than 40.

"All my classes are full," Bolin said. "I was a 4-Her. I was raised on a dairy farm. I know this stuff."

Some dirty duty

Bolin brought up this year the idea of students trying the hog-raising contest. She found nine volunteers who each raised a pig. Signing up to raise a pig also meant shifts cleaning the pig pen behind the school.

"Not the greatest smell if you have to go back to English class," said Devin Cathey, 18, who has a pig named "Pork Rind."

"I have to go take a biology test right now. Bet the class will love that," said Elise Griffin, 16, raiser of "Spider Pig."

There is Angie Stone with a sow named "Mater."

"Short for 'to-mater,'" she said.

A 250-pound "tomater," raised from 80 pounds in just over three months since the kids started bulking up the hogs for the big show.

There's Josh Long, Kelsey Bridges and Bobby Adams, who didn't have a name for his hog until Thursday.

"Jimmy Dean, like the sausage," he said.

The other students pointed out a few minutes later that Jimmy Dean was, in fact, Jane Dean.

Leslie McGill has "Laverne," and T.C. McGee has "Bubba."

Bubba was so happy as T.C. fed him Thursday in the preparation for today's show that Bubba, well -- "Bubba just peed on T.C.!" cried out the girls.

And there with the smile and the salon French-manicure fingernails, Jessika Tolin.

"Everybody in my third-period class thinks it is just the coolest thing," Jessika said of her raising a pig.

I asked how she decided to take agriculture class, and she said, "Mrs. Bolin talked me into it."

I asked about the pig raising, and she said, "Mrs. Bolin talked me into that, too."

Jessika's pig is named "Bella."

"I'm a little nervous," she said. "I never showed a pig before."

She's nervous? How about Bella?

From winner to dinner?

Because after the contest today, each of the hogs goes from winner to wiener. A mandatory hog auction immediately follows the judging.

Both Elise and Devin said their parents will buy their pigs at the auction.

"One of my graduation presents," said Devin, a senior ready to graduate next month. "Pork Rind will be there for graduation. At the party, we, um, are gonna eat him."

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