The $47,000 Hog…

My cousin Tamara grew up with me. She and her brother Dane were my companions when we worked cows, explored the woods, and stayed at their grandmother’s house (my Aunt Iris).

Tamara never married, stayed in Wauchula, and became a school teacher. Along the way she served as a Foster Mom. One boy captured her heart, Heath. Tamara adopted Heath and loved him deeply.

Tamara had a spirit that gave and loved.. She taught Kindergarten and everyone loved “Miss Hendry.” She didn’t have an enemy in the world.

Last week, Tamara wasn’t feeling well at school. She got Heath out of his classroom and went home. Shortly after arriving home, she suffered a heart attack and passed away, while Heath called 911.

Last week was also the county fair. As I have explained before, the cultural event in Hardee County each year is the livestock auction. For those unfamiliar with the rituals of 4-H and FFA (Future Farmers of America), kids raise a hog or a steer which is then auctioned off. The bidding is spirited – there is a satisfaction in settling an old grudge by running up the bid on another man. Plus, the kids get to make some money for college. For hogs, the bid is usually around $4 to $6 per pound. On a 270 pound animal, it adds up.

Heath is in 4-H. He had been feeding a hog, anticipating the auction. His mother died in his presence on Wednesday. The livestock auction was to be the next day. All of Heath’s family knew that Tamara would want him to be there for the auction, so Heath went.

This is what I love about community. As word spread through the community about Tamara, friends and kin decided to do something to show Heath their support. Phone calls were made, suggestions were offered, and the community decided to rally around a young man who needed support.

When it came time for Heath’s hog to be auctioned, the auctioneer brought him out into the ring and explained the circumstances (which everyone already knew). The bidding began a little high, at $5. Then it went up. And up. And up again. Twenty dollars flew by, then thirty. Fifty was left in the dust. Seventy, eighty, a hundred dollars per pound was bid.

As the bid went higher, tears started to form. The bid went past $120, then past $150. A minute and half after the auction, the bid was at $170 per pound, and the auctioneer cried “Sold!” The crowd erupted in cheers.

To help you with the math, Heath’s hog weighed 276 pounds. That’s 276 lbs. x $170 = $47,000.

I was told there wasn’t a dry eye in the arena. I know who was there: people who are used to a cow stepping on their foot and shrugging it off; people who never shed a tear when a beloved dog died; people who get on with the hard work of life, never complaining. But this night was different. This night a community came together to say in a very tangible way, “Young man, we are so sorry about your Mother. We loved her and we love you. We can’t replace her, but we can help you.”

It really is better to give than receive.

Tamara would approve.


To see a video of the auction

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