by David Cecelski
Yesterday I visited the annual 4-H Livestock Show and Auction in Ponzer, a rural community on the Pungo River. The children had worked all year to raise their hogs, sheep, and goats and I could see the pride in their faces. Some of the boys and girls were in middle school, but many were only seven or eight years old and not much taller than their animals. An especially frisky hog bowled over one little boy. He laughed and got right back up.
The day began with the goat show, followed by the sheep show, and, finally, the hog show. In each event, the children led their animals around the ring with a cane or a stick. A judge awarded ribbons. After the livestock show, everybody sat down to a barbecue dinner. Then there was a livestock “fashion show” where the 4-H youth paraded livestock dressed up in costumes. My favorite was a punk rocker goat, though I did find one of the sheep fetching in a blue chiffon gown.
After the fashion show and an awards ceremony, the 4-H club held its much-anticipated “Kiss a Pig” contest. Show goers had been putting donations into hats all day. The man whose hat collected the most money was obliged to chase down a pig and kiss his snout. I heard that the co-workers of one fellow who works at the county courthouse put $125 in his hat. They evidently wanted to see him kiss a pig something awful.
I left before the livestock auction, but I couldn’t help but wonder how some of the littlest children felt about selling the animals that they had raised since they were weaned. Of course, it’s just a part of farm life, but naturally many children find it a hard lesson the first time.
Mostly, there was a feeling of hope and renewal in the air. Spring had come. The sky was as blue as it could be. The local fields are planted again. Old-timers have put in their gardens. Maybe most important, looking at all those young children, you got the feeling that our rural heritage isn’t all lost yet, and that there’ll be young men and women who want to work the soil for a long time to come.