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Tom supports youth at the Pima County Fair, and learns more about livestock than an LA kid should

There's this kid whom I have been tutoring in Pre-Calc and a couple weeks ago, out of the blue, she asks, "Are you going to come see me show my pig?"

Now, kids sometimes have a funny way of talking and I thought maybe, in some roundabout way, she was asking me if I wanted to chaperone her Senior Prom, perchance to see her date. But, as it turns out, she really does have a pig and she was going to show it. In public.

Thus it was that I found myself in the Livestock Pavilion at the Pima County Fair, watching Bridget and several other members of her family show their respective pigs. It was really cool; you should check it out next year. However, I do have to warn you about the smell. Even though it's an outdoor venue (covered by a roof), there is a certain aroma that permeates the place. On the Nasal Scale, it's somewhere between Public Park Restroom in mid-July and that time you put a pair of wet sweat socks in your car trunk in the summer and forgot about them until you got behind the wheel one day and swore you were driving on the surface of Venus because of all the methane.

(I am told that a person gets used to the smell after four or five hours, but since I only have reason to be there for an hour or so at a time, it promises to be a new sensory experience each and every visit.) Still, they are pigs, after all, and I'm betting that they smell better than Kim Kardashian.

The pavilion was packed and all of the people were nice and friendly. It's this really cool sub-culture that, frankly, I didn't know existed. And it's not just people from the hinterlands of Pima County. There was a strong presence there from local high schools like Amphi and Flowing Wells. There was one strange thing. Eight different guys all looked just like Jimmy Buffett. And standing next to each one was a guy who looked like Kenny Chesney. The announcer/judge looked just like the guy in the movie "Witness," the one who made the mistake of thinking that Harrison Ford was Amish and then assaulted Ford with an ice cream cone.

As for the showing itself, it's a spirited competition, the nuances of which probably take years to fully grasp. I'm guessing that even if I had stayed past the five-hour, stink-go-away time, I still wouldn't have had a clue. The pigs are moved from pens into chutes, accompanied by their respective humans, most of whom are decked out in jeans, long-sleeved dress shirts and Western string ties. The gates are opened and the pigs and their people move out into an enclosed arena. There, the pigs just walk around, showing off their stuff. The kids walk behind their pigs and use long sticks to try to direct the animal's movements by tapping the pig on the side of the head to make it move left or right.

Most of the pigs are relatively docile, but every now and then, one will just go buck wild and come charging out of the gate and start running around like he's in...you know, Hog Heaven. (I'm sorry about that.)

Standing amid the chaos is an announcer/judge. He does a non-stop commentary, like a cross between a carnival barker and an auctioneer. He's amazing. I just wish I could have heard everything he was saying. I hope Chuck Huckleberry adds some money for a new Livestock Pavilion sound system to the upcoming bond issue. The poor judge sounded like he was speaking into an empty coffee can while standing inside a Port-a-Potty that was itself inside the Tardis.

All I heard was "Echo ... echo ... sickle-hocked ... echo ... weak pastern ... echo ..." Like Forest Whitaker said in "Good Morning, Vietnam": I don't know what that means, but it sounds very negative to me.

They have a pig there on display named Ahab. He weighs 1,000 pounds, although he doesn't look an ounce over 950. A sign says that he consumes 15 pounds of food a day. I stopped and stared at him for a while, but then I realized that he was looking back at me the same way I was looking at him. Man, I've got to lose weight.

I saw another kid from school. She did a double-take and then asked me, "Are you a buyer?"

I said, "No, but I am a consumer."

Apparently, after the Fair is over, the kids sell their pigs, some for pretty hefty chunks of change. (Beginning writing students should note that I put "hefty" and "chunks" in there to advance the theme.) The Fairgrounds even post the record amount of the price per-pound that the top animals each year fetched. You can do the math in your head and realize that we're talking serious four-digit numbers here.

Someone told me that Jim Click helps the cause by buying some of the livestock. I don't care what his politics are; he's got to be one of the most generous people in all of Tucson. I do, however, wonder what he does with the livestock he buys. I'm thinking that maybe they're part of the secret potion that allows him to look exactly the same as he did back in the 1980s.

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