An unforgettable fair moment
September 08, 2011LANCASTER — I've never been to a pig scramble before, but it sounds more interesting than a talent show or a tractor pull, so I hustled over to the Main Grandstand. I leave my
wife and two young boys in a lurch; I'm here to work, not play. At the scramble, there is a large crowd assembled, much larger than even Lancaster Fair President Paul Thurston had predicted. This is just the third year of the event.
My newspaper colleagues are already here, inside the large pen with their fancy telescopic-lens cameras. I hang back and try to blend into the crowd and remind myself that my job is replicate the experience for readers or get the over looked details, language and nuisances. Sometimes a camera -- especially TV cameras overwhelm and become the story.
Ed Samson and Matt Smith, both who are Fair Directors in their matching green golf shirts -- seem to be running the show. Ed is shouting out directions and Matt is guarding the door where presumably the pigs are held captive.
I catch sight of Chris Brady, a vocational agriculture teacher at the local high school (as well as a Fair Director) leaning against large farm truck partially full of hay. I quiz him on what's
about to occur. He gives me the basic facts: these are his piglets and they are 8-9 week old, 30-35 pounds and their formal breed is called Yorkshire Land Race Duroc, which as far as I can tell means they're reddish-colored pig that grows fast; fast enough that Chris plans to slaughter them in January. There is a de- gree of stress, he admits, that will engulf these little critters once they are let loose in the pen, but it will last only a few minutes. Besides, Chris adds, they have a pretty charmed life kept in the shade, plenty of feed and no hard work.
Pig Scrambles, often called pig wrasslin' vary greatly. Some- times the pigs are greased and
the job is to hold on to the animal for a set period of time, while others reward contestants that haul the pig to a certain spot.
The Lancaster version is chaotic, I soon learn, with dozens of children chasing after, grabbing and then stuffing a pig in a burlap bag. No grease is applied. Still, the whole affair is controversial.
Animal-rights organizations have forced the practice to be discontinued in many places. I wonder how many of them enjoy a baked ham or crispy bacon?
As the race is about to begin, I notice to my surprise that my 5 and 8 year old sons are jump- ing over the bales of hay that make up the ring and joining in the competition. Then, three little pigs saunter out and this marks the start of the scramble.
It is pure pandemonium with shouting kids, squealing pigs, and cheering and groaning spectators. The whole affair conjures up images of Lord of the Flies, but soon I notice a swirl of attention focusing in on two kids and a pig.
To my astonishment (and utter delight) my 5 year-old son, is assisting a very agile and persistent 8-year-old girl snag a pig.
He is holding the bag and trying to slip it over the pig's head much the same way we often dress him. The pair wrestles the pig and the bag back and forth for a few seconds. Then, finally the momentum turns -- and the pig is more in the bag than out.
Triumphantly, the bag goes up and the pig goes down, and the champions raise their arms in victory. And, eventually my boy catches my eye and says, "Dad, I won," and as if I didn't know -- or that either one of us would ever forget.