Show Time: Abigail Gass
Abby Gass' crossbred pig, Squirt, squealed with excitement as she scrubbed and scratched his back during his daily bath. As she splashed water on him, he oinked and attempted to dart out of her reach.
"He's a spoiled brat. He gets out everyday and walks himself," Gass explained. "When my mom comes, he's the one who gets marshmallows. He's definitely the favorite." Squirt is one of seven hogs Gass is raising this year. This is her first year showing a crossbred pig. She also raises Duroc and Yorkshire breeds.
Gass will be a senior this year at Marshall High School. When she's not tending to her numerous animals, she's playing volleyball, basketball or staying busy with FFA and 4-H. She also trap shoots and shows horses. After high school, Gass plans on attending College of the Ozarks. She intends to study animal science with an emphasis in dairy cattle. She is unsure of what career path she will take after college.
"I don't want to sit behind a desk all day," she explained.
For now, Gass is content getting her animals ready for the showing season. In late March, she starts going to pig sales looking for her next champion. They start off as small 30- to 40-pound pigs that she will raise to be nearly 300 pounds in time for the Missouri State Fair.
"You spend time. You spend so much time in the barn it's ridiculous," Gass said.
The long hours spent getting to know the personality of each animal and walking your pig have a huge pay-off in the show-ring. The phrase 'walking your pig' does not mean the same thing as walking your dog. Using a pig showstick, Gass will tap Squirt on the side of the neck to encourage him to turn in the direction she wants him to go. Gass explains it takes practice and patience.
"It's controlled chaos. The first 10 times you walk a pig, they just run," she said.
Gass knows the time she spends with her hogs can be strenuous, but it is worth it once she's in the show-ring.
"You can go and buy a good pig, but if you don't pay attention to it, walk it -- don't wash it everyday -- so it has a clean coat, all those little things come down to (results) in the show-ring," Gass said. "When you're proud of what you've raised and what you're bringing to the show, you do better."
Gass has a full schedule of livestock to show this year at the fair. She's showing sheep, goats, pigs and her palomino mare, Jenna. Due to heavy rainfall this summer, Gass has not been able to attend any horse shows this season. She and Jenna will compete in multiple events at the Saline County Fair.
"(After) Western Pleasure, she will be calmed down enough so we can run barrels and egg-and-spoon," Gass said.
Even with the lack of horse shows, Gass is not worried about the events. To prepare, she has been lunging and trail-riding. She feels that because of their strong bond, and the time she has spent with her, they will do well.
A previously clean Squirt waded into a convenient mud puddle that had started to form from the running hose. Rooting his nose into the mud, his expression could only be described as pure joy. Gass giggled, "He's definitely the favorite."