Now I know why I've never seen a 350-pound market hog on the cover of National Geographic.
First, their afternoon snack of choice is white tennis shoes, which just so happens to be the footwear of choice among photographers.
Well, this photographer, anyway.
Second, 350-pound hogs simply do not listen to direction. Either that, or they listen, but just don't care. They do whatever it is they want to do, paying no heed to the photographer's wants and desires.
Or the wants and desires of local newspaper editors who request a cute shot of a cute young 4-H member with his or her arms around a cute hog to publicize this weekend's 50th anniversary edition of the Northern Gila County Fair, set to unfold in Pine this Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
Freda, the 350-pound hog I was trying to photograph in order to maintain some semblance of job security, didn't give a pig's patoot about posing for pictures. And frankly, the only kid I can imagine hugging Freda under any circumstances is the young Evel Knievel.
After she got a taste of my left tennis shoe, all Freda really wanted to do was to eat the right one. So most of the pictures I ended up with were snapped as I was running away. Backwards. While screaming something along the line of, "FREDA! NO! BAD PIG! GET AWAY! STOP, FREDA."
Yeah, all the 4-H kids that had been rounded up at the Flowing Springs ranch of their livestock-group leader, Bobbi Morris, thought I looked pretty goofy. But hey, I still own two shoes.
And apparently, the kids had never seen a city slicker terrorized by a hog before, so they were all in a pretty good mood when it came time to ask them what it is they enjoy most about showing their hogs, pigs, horses, rabbits and chickens at the Northern Gila County Fair.
"I like the people, raising animals, going to the fair and getting together with all my friends," said Breianon Miller, 12, a past winner of 10 Grand Champion ribbons (among many others) who'll be showing Freda and two horses, Chalk and Toy Soldier. "But it takes a lot of work just to get the animals ready for what they need to be doing.
Like with a hog, you have to work on getting them to go where you want to go by using a cane, but with a horse it's more like getting her to go the right way."
"It's just fun," offered Ryan Steelman, a three-year county fair veteran at the age of 11, who's taking a hog, a rabbit, ducks, chickens and a horse to the competition. "You meet a whole lot of new people, and you get a lot of prize money for your ribbons."
How many ribbons has he won over the years?
"I never really counted," Ryan answered. "A lot."
You know you're talking to a real professional when they don't ever bother counting their ribbons.
"I really like competing," said Nicole Mullaly, 15, who will be showing her hog, Wilma. "It's just a lot of fun. And I like hogs. They're really intelligent."
That seemed to be the perfect opening to solve one timeless mystery that not even scientists have been able to definitively solve: What's smarter, a pig or a dog?
"A dog," Mullaly said.
A hog or a cat?
A hog or a rock?
"A hog," she said without hesitation.
But county fair first-timer Matt Bullard, 10, disagreed.
"Dogs and hogs are about the same," he said.
A pig or a cat?
A pig or a rock?
"A pig, I think."
I would have concurred, but it was at that precise moment when Freda tried to eat my right foot. A rock has never tried to do that.
The Northern Gila County Fair will begin at noon Friday, Sept. 20 and close at 5 p.m.; Saturday it will operate from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
All entries excluding livestock must be brought in between noon and 6 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 19. Livestock, rabbits and birds must be in place by 8 a.m. Saturday.
Award departments, classes, divisions and prize amounts are listed in the Northern Gila County Fair Premium List and Rules book, available for 50 cents each at the Payson Public Library and the Pine-Strawberry Chamber of Commerce.
The award departments and related contact people are:
Horse Show and Livestock Horses, Brenda Steelman, 476-0809; Animals, Bobbi Miller, 474-2364; Small Animals, Catherine Ray, 668-9533.
Agriculture and Horticulture Ed and Carol Lydic, 478-4895.
Floriculture Eileen Lawson, 474-2784.
Homemaking Arts Judy Willingham, 474-5653.
Domestic Science Dixie O'Hara, 476-3754.
School Exhibits Suzanne Fumusa, 476-3734.
Canning Mitzi Paul, 476-2523.
Hobbies and Handicrafts Paul Paul, 476-2523.
Minerals and Lapidary Paul Paul, 476-2523.
Fine Arts Pat Roth, 476-2293.
Photography Ed Toliver, 476-4596.
4-H Members Bobbi Miller, 474-2364.
Small Animal and Horse Show Horses, Brenda Steelman, 476-0809; Small Animals, Catherine Ray, 668-9533.
Llamas Myndi Brogdon, 476-2500.