A while back, a pork producer/friend called to "just talk." He had struggled through the '98 market price debacle that had many devoted pork producers picking up the pieces.
He wanted my thoughts about whether he should continue leasing a 130-sow facility. He was selling feeder pigs, but his real passion was showing and selling show pigs.
This young man grew up in the hog business. His parents were active in the state's pork producer organization. He loves farrowing pigs, raising pigs, showing pigs. In his own words: "I'm a hogaholic!"
I chuckled. He chuckled. There was a long pause. I think we simultaneously realized that his play on words had a tinge of truth.
He made the comment to add a little levity to the conversation. It did.
We continued our discussion, occasionally returning to his "hogaholic" reference whenever it seemed to fit. I told him some day I would use his jab at hog humor in an editorial.
So, here goes. In the spirit of country-western comedian Jeff Foxworthy, I've assembled a list of "You know you're a hogaholic..."
...if you have a "Hogs Are Beautiful" poster in your office.
...if you have vanity plates on your car or pickup that say: "oink," "hog," "pork" or some other hog-related phrase.
...if you have a bumper sticker that reads: "Promote pork, run over a chicken."
...if you have at least one tie or scarf with pigs on it.
...if the first thing you pack for a pork producers' meeting is that pig tie or scarf.
...if you have a U.S. Pork lapel pin on your best Sunday, goin'-to-meetin' suit.
...if you get a little anxious a couple of days before a new Hogs & Pigs Report is released.
...if your mind automatically calculates a rough breakeven price whenever you read or hear the corn and soybean meal market report.
...if the name on your farm sign or business card tells everyone you are proud to be in the pork business.
...if your favorite part of past Super Bowls was seeing the new "Pork -the Other White Meat" ads.
...if you have a pig calendar in your kitchen.
...if you get at least one pig-related item for Christmas every year.
...if you have at least one shelf (more likely a bookcase) devoted to pig souvenirs and knick-knacks.
...if the smell of sawdust brings back memories of showing pigs at the county or state fair.
...if you yearn to see your son or daughter, grandson or granddaughter show 4-H pigs at the county fair.
...if you go to the state fair and never get beyond the swine barn.
...if you know the slogan for the National Barrow Show is "the World Series of Swine Shows."
...if you know "Pig Paul's" real name and that he was the first executive secretary of the National Pork Producers Council. (For you youngsters - his real name is Rolland Paul.)
...if you've managed to sort and load market hogs with a spouse or family member and still be on speaking terms afterwards.
...if you've helped sort and load market hogs, declared you'll never, ever do that again, only to return to the task the next marketing day.
...if your family's summer vacation is attending World Pork Expo.
...if the only two Beanie Babies you have are "Knuckles" and "Squealer."
...if you can walk into a farrowing house to do morning chores and know by the sounds and smells that a sow has farrowed overnight.
...if you've ever watched a litter of week-old pigs run and play - scampering around their mother in the farrowing crate - and smiled at the sight.
...if you've thawed frozen water fountains for more than five consecutive winters and you're still in the hog business.
Now don't misunderstand - addictions of any sort are serious business, and I certainly wouldn't trivialize any of them. Hopefully, however, an addiction to pigs can have a positive effect on a life. I feel it has on mine.
What do you suppose it is about pigs, really? I've been around them all my life, and I'm still just as smitten today as I was as a 9-year-old 4-H kid with my first pig project.
Well heck, if we can't laugh at ourselves and our devotion to our porcine friends once in a while, we may just be taking things too seriously.
American pork producers have been through a lot in the past couple of years - record low hog prices, the recent pork checkoff referendum. We need a break.
This week I received a letter and resume from a hog enthusiast in central Illinois. In her cover letter she openly confessed, "I would like to be called `the oldest 4-H'er in the world.' I want to keep on showing barrows until I cannot walk anymore."
She qualifies as a hogaholic.
If you have a "You know you're a hogaholic if..." nomination, I'd love to hear it.
I'll close then, with this confession to you all..."Hello! My name is Dale Miller and I am a hogaholic."