I showed a pig for the first time in 1985 at the Hancock County Fair in Findlay, Ohio. It was the open barrow show and I had been given a pig earlier in the summer to check on each evening and claim for my own. I was two and a half years old and couldn’t really pronounce “barrow” so I referred to my pig as “barrel” and that became its name – Barrel the Pig. I don’t remember this myself, of course, but this is how my parents tell it.
At the fair, my uncle helped me show my barrow, which is likely to say that I followed my uncle around the ring. Barrel the Pig was named champion and later on, perhaps my favorite photograph of my life is taken of my dad and me and Barrel the Pig. A fun beginning to what would become an almost twenty-year, life-shaping experience.
I can’t take any credit for Barrel the Pig’s success, but it was a fun starting point from which I grew and learned how to raise and show pigs. In those early years, I had a lot to learn. In fact, while I became an adequate showman later on, I initially had a really difficult time grasping some basic showmanship skills as a novice. The first time I clipped a pig was a less than stellar performance. It took a few years before I found a good system for walking pigs each day around the farm. In every scenario, I learned how to be a better showman, how to clip pigs effectively, and how to walk pigs by getting out there and doing it. Doing things incorrectly is how I learned to do them correctly.
I started showing pigs when I was very young, but I first showed a steer as a high schooler. He had some interesting markings (my budget didn’t allow for a competitive black calf) and so his name was Tigger. Wow, did I have so much to learn! There were many jackpot show weekends when I felt I had no idea what I was doing in the ring, but being there and getting out in the ring is how I learned what to do.
When my husband and I were first married and I moved to a farm owned by his family, I experienced horses for the first time on a daily basis. At that time, there were three kind horses and Justin the Pony. I won’t go into detail about my run-in with Justin the Pony during the first year of our marriage, but let’s just say I have a lot to learn on the equine front. I have yet to feel comfortable around the horses, but I know that the way to fix that would be to spend more time with the horses, even if I don’t know what I’m doing and would need to ask my mother-in-law dozens of questions.
Whether you start when you’re itty-bitty, in high school, or as an adult, the way to grow is by doing it. We often forget that the experts all started somewhere, too. We tend to focus on the home runs of successful people and dismiss the number of “at bats” it took to make success a reality.
No matter where or when you’re starting, be willing to learn. Be willing to ask questions. Be willing to fail and try again. Get out there, get your hands dirty, and learn by doing.
Barrel the Pig and Tigger the Steer started me on paths of learning, but only because I got out there, asked questions, tried things out, failed, and learned along the way.
And now, I suppose Justin the Pony is waiting…