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Fair play

Alison Osius
Post Independent
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Femaelstrom
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As Teddy pulled away from the Co-Op with 600 pounds of feed piled high in the back seat of the rusty little Suzuki Sidekick, Sean entered the lot in his high pickup. A former BMX pro whom my kids know from biking, Sean unrolled his window and gazed down through his sunglasses.

“Got a dog?” he drawled, looking over the layers of bags piled like igloo blocks behind Teddy.

“No,” Teddy said. “I’m raising a pig.”



Sean raised his eyebrows, chuckled. “Good times,” he said, and drove on.

Teddy, 17, raised the pig this summer through 4H. He kept it at the ranch where he has worked the last four summers, sharing care with two friends, Carson and Griffin, who were also raising pigs.



A kind parent friend, Heather, had driven several boys up to Meeker in April for an auction. Teddy consulted with his friend Tanner, son of an old ranching family, over the phone in choosing his pig, which came home at about 40 pounds, with a startling basso snort. Through early August the boys fed the pigs, bought medicines, watched them run around the yard, kept ledgers.

Two weeks ago, all the valley kids who raised animals took them to the Garfield County Fair in Rifle, the oldest fair in the state, to sell them. The day before the fair, Teddy, Griffin and Carson cleaned up the pigs, now 250 pounds, and Teddy’s expert friend Tanner drove over to help shave them for effect.

The fair, attracting some 15,000 visitors, features livestock, live music, crafts, FMX motorcycle show, food booths, rodeo and demolition derby. Teddy would be in the swine show.

Mike and I spent that week at an outdoor-industry trade show in Salt Lake, attended by 25,000, at which I put on climbing contests and book and poster signings, and he attended the Uphill Challenge, which pits runners against each other on steeply inclined treadmills.

Teddy spent four days largely on his own at the “fair.” He’d been there one night last year, camping on a cot in the stalls with friends.

In curry restaurants and from our motel, or from the chaos of the cavernous, halogen-lit convention hall, where booths as big as houses displayed rows of sleeping bags, Gore-Tex parkas and tents, Mike and I phoned and texted, wishing to be there in the heat and dust. Teddy’s answers were usually not long.

“How is it? Fun?” I’d text eagerly.

“Yah.”

Reaching him by phone, I asked, “Who of your friends is there?”

“I’m not going to list all the names!” he’d complain. When pressed, he exclaimed, “All the ones you’d think!”

On the first day of fair Teddy, or rather his pig, won a prize.

“How do you win a ribbon?”

“Oh, first you take it up there and get points for showmanship,” he said, adding offhandedly, “I didn’t get any points for that.

“Then they judge the pig on structure and musculature. And fat.”

Each night we’d check in, asking what he was doing. Watching a rodeo, he said, or hearing a concert. Several nights the kids hung out in a lot practicing roping on a plastic cow.

One morning Teddy texted that he needed new swim trunks. I assented, slightly puzzled, and received this explanation: “Some drunk chicks ran through the stalls at like 4 last night and took my trunks where they were out drying.”

Half an hour later he texted: “It’s OK found them in the next stall.”

On auction day, hopeful that he might clear a good amount, I texted, “How’d it go?”

I got a bleak reply: “Bad. S-t for money.”

“What?”

He explained what he’d gotten per pound, and what it amounted to. “I will make like 50 bucks. I’m pissed.”

I texted back reassurances, and wondered why.

“Just low bidding and bad luck.” Just the economy.

Mike and I were sorry, knowing his efforts, and that he’d taken off work for the fair.

Teddy hasn’t gotten his final check yet, but tonight I asked if it had been worth it to raise the pig.

“Oh, yeah!” he said quickly. “It was fun.”

– “Femaelstrom” appears on the third Saturday of each month. Alison Osius lives in Carbondale, where she is a climber, skier and magazine editor. Contact her at aosius@hotmail.com.


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