Twenty minutes decided four months of work Louis Eschenbacher put into raising his Hampshire Duroc pig, Wilbur.
Nine squealing market barrow pigs -- including Wilbur -- galloped around the ring Thursday night in the Crow Wing County sheep, goat and swine barn while the judge inspected the animals for weight, muscling and length. Their owners followed more slowly to avoid scaring the pigs.
Eschenbacher, a 10-year-old Crosby native, earned two blue 4-H ribbons -- one for Wilbur's appearance and the other for showmanship. This is the first year Eschenbacher showed a pig at the fair.
Eschenbacher said he decided to show a pig because his father raised pigs when he was young.
"I just told him how funny they are," said Mark Eschenbacher, Louis' father.
Louis Eschenbacher bought Wilbur three weeks after he was born April 15, 2002. Wilbur was a 40-pound feeder pig.
"It means all they do is eat," Eschenbacher said.
Wilbur ate about 12 pounds of food per day and gained two pounds per day.
"When we got home, he actually lost weight in the first month," Eschenbacher said. Wilbur lost 10 pounds before Eschenbacher discovered what he would eat. Wilbur weighed 195 pounds Thursday and was the third heaviest pig at the fair this year.
Eschenbacher was solely responsible for taking care of Wilbur. He fed him each morning and evening and checked on him throughout the day.
"At first I showed him how he had to feed it, water it and clean its pen," Mark Eschenbacher said. But Mark Eschenbacher said he leaves every morning at 6:30 for work and returns at 6 p.m. so Louis took care of his own animals.
"There were times when I really didn't want to, but I had to and there were times when I loved going out there," Louis Eschenbacher said.
Eschenbacher was not only responsible for caring for his pig, at the fair he needed to know information about his pig, such as what it eats and how much it weighs to answer the judges' questions.
"If you've been in pigs for four years they ask you tougher questions than if you've been in pigs for two years," Eschenbacher said.
All blue ribbon pigs can be sold at the Northeast Livestock Show in September. Mark Eschenbacher said the going rate for pigs is about $30 per 100 pounds. They would barely make what they paid for Wilbur excluding the $400 in feed the Eschenbachers spent. Instead Mark Eschenbacher will butcher Wilbur.
"I probably won't be out there when he does it," Louis Eschenbacher said.
Wilbur is content to live at the fair for six days rather than the pole barn at home. Wilbur doesn't mind the attention and likes to be petted, Eschenbacher said. The weather even has been good at the fair for the animals.
But there are other perils. Wilbur choked on a watermelon rind someone threw in his pen Wednesday. Luckily, Eschenbacher's father saw Wilbur choking and was able to dislodge the rind.
Eschenbacher is at the fair from about 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. each day.
"Every two hours or so, I come by and check him," he said. The rest of the time he spends wandering the fair with his friends.
Eschenbacher washes Wilbur, keeps his water fresh and feeds him. Though Wilbur weighs twice as much as Eschenbacher, Eschenbacher said he is not afraid of him.
"If I were to act all scared ... then he would get scared, too, and probably bite me," Eschenbacher said. "So I just stay calm and get out of the pen."
"Just playing around, he's bit me in the foot," he said.
Eschenbacher also raises chickens to show at the fair and has a calf at home he will show next year.
Eschenbacher said he doesn't know whether he will show a pig at the fair again next year, but he was anxious to show Wilbur again in open class Saturday.
"All I know is that showing pigs is fun," he said.
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