Every year the County Fair falls on the first full week of August in Weber County. This year the Fair fell on us.
The kids did nothing except feed the pigs this summer. Nothing. They did not work with them at all; no time spent training them, handling them, working them in the pasture or the corral. The first time the pigs were washed was at the Fair.
I could not pray that the pigs make weight or that the kids do well at the fair. Because faith without works is dead and the kids had not done the work , I could not pray in faith for any help with the pigs. Instead I prayed that the lessons that needed to be learned would be learned.
Heavenly Father answered both the prayer I did utter and the prayer I did not.
Tanah’s and Grace’s pigs made weight. Because Tanah had a leadership retreat during fair week and because Miles loves showing pigs at the fair, he and Tanah traded pigs; Miles showed Tanah’s pig at the fair. The pigs did well enough in the market class—blue ribbons, 6th and 7th in their respective classes of 12 hogs. The fact that the pigs made weight and earned blue ribbons was a tender mercy. (God’s answer to the prayer I did not utter.)
Knowing that she had not worked with her hog, Grace decided not to compete in the showmanship class. Knowing that he is awesome (Miles is not afflicted with a lack of confidence) and emboldened by his previous successes in the show ring (Reserve Grand Champion Junior Showman last year and invited into the Championship round his first year), Miles decided to compete in the showmanship class. Ever confident, Miles honestly expected to do well.
He did not do well.
Showmanship comes in the afternoon when the pigs are hot, tired and cranky. All they want to do is lie inert in their pens; they have no desire whatsoever to parade around the show ring in front of a judge. In such situations the difference between pigs that have been trained and those that have not is crystal clear.
Miles’ pig had not been trained and it was belligerently uncooperative. No matter what Miles did, it simply refused to walk around the show ring, insisting on remaining at the end next to the exit gate.
We watched Miles melt. He worked the pig, desperate to get it moving around the ring, but met with no success. Fear, frustration, devastation, and finally tears showed on his face. He knew he was losing and there was nothing he could do about it. Nothing.
He did get the pig out of the corner once. On his face, as he worked to keep eye contact with the judge, was a heroic attempt to smile that showed up as a heart-wrenching (for me), heart-breaking (for him), pain-filled grimace that slightly turned up the corners of his mouth but failed to remove the desperation from his eyes.
Frustrated. Humiliated. Sad. Angry. Heartsick. A bit bewildered. Not winning, not doing well in showmanship, was not something that had occurred to him as a possibility. But it came as a stark reality and it hurt. Ouch. Ouch. Ouch.
An 11 year old boy (or a 50 year old woman or even a 350 lb linebacker for that matter) cannot make a 250 lb hog cooperate. No one can. Cooperation is a function of training and that takes time. Period.
Miles’s anger and bitterness accompanied him out of the ring. It was the ornery pig’s fault and bad luck’s fault and…. But the truth was that he did not do the work necessary to succeed in showmanship. We call it the Law of the Harvest and, painful though it may be, it is fair.
Later he said to me “Now that I am back in my right mind, I have decided that next summer I will work with my pig in the morning and in the afternoon. Is that okay Mom?” If that actually happens then Heavenly Father answered the prayer I did utter as well.
P.S. If you see Miles, please do NOT mention the fair Fair experience to him. Research and experience have shown that lessons are best learned when self-internalized. A lecture or comment from anyone outside himself will not drive the lesson home and may drive it away. Thanks!