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It's not hog heaven getting swine ready for show

February 12, 2002|By AARON CLAVERIE, Staff Writer

CALEXICO — Salvador Hurtado's hog was having none of it.

The 16-year-old's face showed abject frustration as he batted his purebreed Yorkshire hog about the ears with a curved cane, then tapped it on the rump.

The hog shrugged off the light taps and continued to root about, paying Salvador no mind.

The darn hog wouldn't budge. This was a bad sign for young Salvador.

The teen was prepping his 244-pound hog for Monday's FFA advanced swine showcase at Calexico High School.

In a large pen near the high school's livestock area, Salvador tried to get his hog moving while his Calexico High classmates and FFA hog wranglers tried to get their hogs to follow a lead.

It sure wasn't easy.

Some teens had hogs that just wouldn't stop rolling in their own filth. Other kids were forced to jog behind rambling hogs as the uncooperative swine bolted for the corner of the pen.

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This behavior just wouldn't do, wouldn't do at all.

The judge entered the pen.

Luke Larson, a Holtville High School ag instructor, surveyed the chaotic mix of hogs and teens with a bemused look.

To create some semblance of order, Larson drew a line in the sand and told the teens to keep their hogs behind the line until he called their number.

Salvador and his hog were called first. The sophomore led his hog past the line toward Larson.

Salvador's hog obeyed!

The young man flashed Larson a grin and led the hog back and forth at about a three-foot distance from the judge.

Larson looked over the hog, then interviewed Salvador.

"Having a good time?" Larson asked.

"Yes," Salvador said, trying to remain composed.

"Good," Larson said.

The judge smiled. After a few more questions about the hog's weight and age, Salvador and his hog went to the back of the pen.

Eight more teens showed Larson eight more hogs.

Only Eduardo Mercado, a 16-year-old junior, showing a freckled Yorkshire/Hampshire crossbreed, did a better job, according to Larson.

The judge said Eduardo showed an ability to place his hog at the proper distance at the proper time.

"When I went to look for him he was there," Larson said.

When Eduardo's family bought the hog it was only 80 pounds. The sow he showed on Monday bowed the scale at 255 pounds.

He's hoping to sell it at this year's California Mid-Winter Fair & Fiesta for around $300.

The money would just cover the $30 in feed the family spends on the hog per month and the initial cost.

Meanwhile, Salvador was happy to place second. He admitted he was having a hard time with his hog in the early going.

"I had to hit him in the knee to get it moving. It even touched the judge," he said.

The only regret for the sophomore was his dad missed the exhibition.

"He's at work right now so he couldn't come," he said.

Salvador heeded his dad's advice, though.

"He told me, ‘Don't get too excited,' " he said.

Taking third place was 18-year-old senior Esmeralda Aguilera.

She is the president of the Calexico High chapter and the proud owner of Kiwi, a 238-pound Yorkshire crossbreed.

She was pleased with her third-place finish, her highest in three years of competition.

Calexico's FFA instructor, Johnny Esquer, said advanced swine showmanship is one of the most popular competitions at the annual showcase. In addition to swine, his students showed off prized sheep, lambs, veal calves, beef cattle and rabbits.

He said swine in particular draws a good number of FFA teens because hogs are less costly to raise than cattle.

To prep his students (and the hogs), Esquer organized eight trial runs before Monday's competition. Some of the hogs look to need eight more hours of work before they will be ready for the fair.

One teen had such a hard time with his 255-pound sow that it was comical to watch.

While Larson meticulously took note of a student's posture and presentation, here came the big sow barreling toward the corner of the pen. Its teen owner sheepishly followed and tried to bat it to the back of the pen.

It was a futile effort.

The teen was red-faced from heat exhaustion and embarrassment. Pretty soon, a young girl's hog started getting wily as well.

By the end of the competition hogs were roaming all over the place with frustrated teens trotting after.

At the end of the competition, Larson commented on the free-wheeling hogs.

"Some pigs are definitely loose," he said.

Larson didn't mark down the top teens for that because this was practice for the fair.

At the fair, however, the hog-wild antics displayed Monday will not be overlooked. Standards will be higher.

The teens will have to look their white-pants best and the hogs will have to be shiny.

With hogs that means, "wipe those butts," Larson noted.

>> Staff Writer Aaron Claverie can be reached at 337-3419 or claverie7@hotmail.com

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