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Regional Archives The Altamont Enterprise, August 14, 2008
Little black dreams for little pink pigs
By Forest Byrd
ALTAMONT Looking around the track laden with wood shavings, all four pigs have big dreams. One of those dreams includes a creamy white filling.
Each pig race, at the Altamont Fair lasts only a few seconds and ends with a reward for the pigs…. Oreos to eat. Jerry Morris, the trainer and showman of six years, always prepares the crowd before the pigs arrive. He picks four cheerleaders and each one chooses his favorite one. After the race, the winner is handed a blue ribbon to wear proudly to the next events.
Without any permanent names, each pig is called something new in every race. He has about 16 different names a day. This year, a few examples, Morris has used George W. Bush Hog, Soggy Bacon, and Schwarzenegger.
“I don’t play favorites,” he said. “The hungriest one is always the winner.”
Morris travels across the country displaying his trained companions. Though his eight pigs are relatively young, at three months, they have minds of their own and are fully trained.
“Pigs are, by far, the smartest farm animals in the world, and the cleanest,” he said. Morris has quite an affinity for these animals. Beyond training them, he sleeps in the front cabin of the trailer that houses their stalls as he travels from state to state, and when parked at each of the fairs. They never leave his sight and he keeps them safe.
“They are my family,” he says.
Whether in Tampa, Fla. or in San Antonio, Texas or in the village of Altamont, this team of racers is always on the road and is a show-stopper in every town. They work for the largest pig-racing outfit in the United States, Robinson Racing Pigs.
The company is certified and licensed to take care of its pigs, said Morris. But being certified means they have to follow certain rules to keep their own animals safe. No one is allowed to touch the pigs. And, after about 10 minutes or so the animals are ready to go inside, out of the sun. With such sensitive skin, pot-belly pigs can’t be out too long or they will get burned, he said. Robinson’s also doesn’t want the germs from the other farm animals interfering with the pigs.
“You never know who or what the kids have been touching,” Morris said.
Though Morris started six years ago, the company he works for has been traveling from town to town since 1985. After being introduced to the festivals and new animal friends, he wouldn’t trade it for anything.
Morris has learned a lot from his six potbelly pigs. “The hungriest winner gets the Oreo, the loser gets the crumbs. That’s just a fact of life.”
Morris is used to crowds of over 2,500 filling the stands in Tampa, Fla. This year, the families fill the wooden benches at the fair with over 150 people and the number can get even bigger later in the day and the week. It often peaks on the last show because the attendance of the fair is larger, especially on the weekend. This year, Morris has three shows every day from early afternoon to 5:30 in the evening.
Morris’s experience at the Altamont Fair is quite a difference from the bigger venues. “All the coordinators, maintenance workers, office help, and vendors really take care of us,” he said. “Bigger events just treat you like another number. There’s really a community feeling out here.”