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The Roberts Trap is Sprung

By:  Bill Dunne
One of the most overlooked aspects of the year just ended is the vindication of Chief Justice John Roberts -- a vindication that showed up as the national catastrophe known as ObamaCare got rolling.  Roberts may have also doomed Hillary Clinton's chance to live in the White House again... click here to read whole editorial


Is Today’s Society Smart Enough to Even Take Care of a Pig?

(answer: For the most part, No!)


By:  David Deschesne

Editor/Publisher, Fort Fairfield Journal

August 3, 2016

  For those of you from away, I’ll preface this editorial with a brief introduction.  A young pig at this year’s Houlton Fair died in a hot car while the family was out enjoying themselves at the Fair.   I don’t think an autopsy was done on the Houlton Fair piglet to determine cause of death.  It could have been heat exhaustion, or shock—piglets are pretty high-strung animals—or, it could have been natural causes. However, the most likely scenario is heat exhaustion.  Houlton Fair President, Paul Cleary told me this unfortunate pig was not associated with the Fair’s Pig Scramble.

   Kim Lauritsen, from Mapleton is currently circulating a petition to ban both pig scrambles and the new fad, “Mutton Bustin’” at the Fairs.  Today, I’m going to deal with pigs on a factual, reasonable and logical level—minus the emotion.


Pig Scrambles

   For those of you who haven’t seen one, a pig scramble is where a dozen or so young piglets are placed in a large pen and a couple dozen young children chase them around and attempt to catch them and place them in a burlap sack.  It’s fun to watch as the kids scurry around after the young pigs—all squealing and snorting.

   Pig scrambles are licensed by the State and Fairs have to comply with a list of regulations pertaining to the care of and maintenance of the scramble itself.  I’ve been providing sound systems at the Houlton Fair for the past 23 years.  I believe they’ve always been licensed and always complied with State regulations.  According to Fair President Cleary, “If people win a pig at the Houlton Fair we have a place in Livestock they can bring the pig until they leave the fairground. This way the incident that happened doesn't happen. We have done pig scrambles for 30 years. Almost 900 pigs have been given away with only 1 incident in 30 years and that incident was from an individual who had nothing to do with the Pig Scrambles.”

  That a pig died there is not the Fair officials’ fault, it is the fault of ignorant people who did not know how to properly handle a young piglet.


Agrarian Roots

   Most people are not aware that Fairs are agricultural and livestock events.  Fairs originated in Maine around 160 years ago as various farmers from an area got together to compete for bragging rights and prize money on who had the nicest bull, hog, chicken or goat; who had the nicest batch of potatoes, wheat, corn or cucumbers.  The wives also competed with baking contests, pie bake-offs, etc.  Carnival rides, which have become associated with Fairs today, are only a fairly recent addition and unfortunately many people consider the carnival rides and motor sports events “the Fair” when they are not.  In the background of nearly all modern day Fairs there are still the livestock competitions and pie baking contests, anchoring them to their agricultural roots.

   When pig scrambles were first introduced to Fairs, the society was much more agrarian.  That is, they lived a more rural, farming lifestyle.   When I interviewed Dottie Shaw a few years ago, when in her 90’s, she remembered growing up on her family’s farm with a 1,000 bird chicken coop.  She said her family only went into town a couple times a year for their grocery shopping and that was only for the items they couldn’t produce on their farm, like sugar, salt, flour, etc.  The rest of the time, they stayed on the farm and raised their own food.

   People of that era—even as late as the 1940’s to 1950s either raised their own food or had several family members doing it, so they were at least familiar with livestock, grain, potatoes and corn.  It was “common knowledge” even if all weren’t directly involved in food production.

   It was in this environment that pig scrambles grew up.  Most of the winners of the pig scrambles brought their young piglets home to either a farm that was already set up for pigs, or at least to a household that understood what raising a pig involved and how to set themselves up to handle a mud rooting animal that can grow to nearly 200 pounds.


Pigs Don’t Sweat

   Humans maintain their body temperature by either constricting blood vessels near the skin surface in order to preserve internal heat, or by sweating to release excessive heat.  Dogs don’t sweat, they pant.  The water evaporating off their tongue is the primary method canines have for cooling (they also cool to some extent through their paws, too).   However, our swine friends do not enjoy such biological luxuries.  In short, pigs don’t sweat.

   Without the ability to cool their bodies by sweating or panting, pigs take care of their excessive body heat by finding shady, wet areas and “wallowing” in the mud and cool earth there.  That is why pigs root and roll around in mud.  That is how they cool themselves off. 

   Wrapping a young pig in a burlap sack, then throwing it in a car on a sunny, 90 degree day is a veritable “death sentence” for the piglet.  Now, I’m sure over the years many people have neglectfully tossed their winning piglets into their cars and run off to enjoy the rest of the day at the Fair and it is amazing more pigs haven’t been reported as dead.

   These young pigs are not a stuffed animal that was won at the ring toss game.  They are live, breathing creatures with a pulse and with basic survival needs such as food, water and ability to control their immediate environment.  Wrapped in a burlap sack in a hot car is no place for a pig, much less a dog, or a baby.  But, unfortunately it happens.

   All people aren’t ignorant, though, at the same Houlton Fair a pickup truck with a large cage on back, covered with a tarp for shade and open on the sides for ventilation was seen with two pig scramble piglets enjoying a nice bed of hay and plenty of water.  They were the lucky ones, their new owners came knowledgeable on their basic needs and prepared to win a pig.  Most people don’t.


Pigs Root

   If you have an area filled with bushes and young trees that you want to clear out you can either call a landscaping contractor, or fence it in and put a couple of pigs in it.  The pigs will rip every living piece of vegetation to shreds within that penned in area over the course of a few weeks and reduce it all to plain dirt.  That’s what pigs do.  They root.

   The people of yesteryear understood that about pigs.  But, how many of today’s parents (pig farmers and 4H members excepted) understand that cute little prize piglet Johnny or Suzie just won is going to grow up to be one very destructive earth mover?  How many of these parents have a place to even keep these animals which, as I just mentioned, can grow to 200 pounds?  How many are apartment dwellers?    Pigs tend to defecate whenever and wherever they want.  Go watch them in a pig pen at the Fair, it’s going in one end and out the other at a fairly constant rate.  While pigs are intelligent and might be able to be “housebroken” like a dog or cat, you can be sure these young piglets have not received such training and the parents are going to have a pretty interesting evening if they let their child bring that animal home to their apartment and sleep inside that night.



   I say most of society is ignorant of pigs and their needs, not in a derogatory way. Ignorant doesn’t mean, “stupid,” it simply means “lacking knowledge.”  Most people today don’t know anything about how to raise a pig once they bring it home.  They don’t consider if they have the outside space for it or if they are willing to have that space turned into a mud pit.  If they have an apartment in town, they have no business bringing a pig there in the first place.  A pig is not a domesticated pet, it is a barnyard animal.  Some of these people, I’m sure, aren’t even aware that the shrink-wrapped bacon, pork sausage, pork chops and ham they buy at their local grocery stores are literally cut up pieces of pigs that were once rooting in the mud.

    The petition being circulated by Ms. Lauritsen is noble in its goals but banning pig scrambles would not have prevented this particular pig’s death, or the piglet death at the Northern Maine Fair in Presque Isle seven years ago.  Like the Houlton Fair’s pig death, the pig death at the Northern Maine Fair was also unrelated to the pig scramble.  This particular pig was purchased by a fairgoer from one of the farmers there then wrapped in a plastic garbage bag and thrown in the person’s car trunk.  Really, some people are that stupid.  While pigs are eventually raised to be slaughtered and eaten, it is reasonable to expect that they shouldn’t die of dehydration wrapped in a burlap bag, or plastic garbage bag, in the back of a hot car on a sunny, summer day.  I won’t go into the process of pig slaughtering, but it is quicker and less stressful  than the hot car process.

   I think the Northern Maine Fair has the best compromise on the pig scramble.  They understood a few years ago, after the pig’s death there, many of the things I just pointed out; 1.) most people don’t know how to raise pigs, 2.) most people don’t have a place to keep a pig properly; and 3.) most people will just toss that squealing carnival toy into the back of their hot car and wander off for six hours.    With that said, the Northern Maine Fair changed its pig scramble criteria so that nobody brings their winning pig home.  It is bought back by the Fair and returned to the farmer who provided them.  That way the kids still get to run around and chase pigs, parents still get to obtain good pictures and video and the pigs don’t have to end up roasting in a bag in the back of somebody’s car at the end of the day.



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