Pig power: Harlingen youths take spotlight at livestock show

MERCEDES – Talk about a one shot deal.

Actually, several one-hit wonders showed their stuff yesterday in the Market Hog Division at the Rio Grande Valley Livestock Show and Rodeo.

Jorge Jimenez, 17, was one of those, having won first place for his dark cross hog.

This is the Harlingen High School South junior’s first year participating in the livestock show.

“I noticed my friends were in it,” he said, considering his reason for suddenly competing in the livestock show. Many students begin competing much younger. Obviously, it’s never too late.

“I feel very excited,” said Jorge, struggling to control his hog Lulu.

“I feel overwhelmed, great, happy,” he said about his first place. “People helped me learn how to feed it, how to walk, trying to get her used to me.”

The students spent months preparing their hogs for the livestock show, walking, feeding, and cleaning out stalls.

Preparation also included practicing showmanship in an arena. This practice made them ready to appear before judges and spectators.

“Both of these animals need to be more flexible,” said the judge as students walked their animals into the show area. A young girl in a maroon shirt tapped rapidly on her hog with the show stick.

A tall lanky young man leaned slightly forward as he presented his hog and a young boy seemed to stand out by the very nature of his size and level of control.

Hogs pushed against metal rails, churned up sawdust, and squealed amidst the muggy heat of the spectators. Show sticks waved like magic wands.

The spectators suddenly erupted in explosions of applause as the judge recognized Trent Gilbert, 13, as the breed champion for the dark cross. He’s done very well in the livestock show the past three years.

“It’s just a lot of practice throughout the year,” said Trent, a seventh grader at Gutierrez Middle School in Harlingen.

“You just really work with them,” Trent said. “You feed them the right amount of feed.”

His sister, Trista, 8, looked forward to showing her animals later in the day.

Meanwhile, Summer Wade was basking in her own victory and that of her Hampshire hog, Jewel.

“I am speechless,” said Summer, 13, an eighth grader at Vela Middle School in Harlingen.

Her victory came after long days of seemingly monotonous, but strangely joyous, days of disciplined labor.

“I fed and watered her a lot of afternoons,” she said.

Her father, James Wade, has been with her every step of the way. He appeared almost as jubilant has his daughter. The success seemed almost like a dream.

“I don’t want to be pinched,” he said, his body visibly animated with the thrill of success.

He was moving around quickly, looking admiringly at his daughters Summer and her sister Taegan, 10. The younger girl was also showing her animal.

“I don’t want to be woken up,” their father said. Then, taking a more sobering view, he added, “It’s always up to the judges. There were some fine animals.”

Later in the day the news came down the wire. Summer had won grand champion hog and Trent was the reserve champion winner.