Don’t Step in the Metaphor!


“You know,” my wife said to me this morning as I was dragging myself out of bed, “you should write your next blog about that pig thing from last night. You could say it’s a metaphor for health care!” Even through the haze I knew she was onto something. Though she’s not a trained humorist like me, we have been married for a while, so she’s become an expert on irony.

Let me back up. Last night my wife and I went to the York County, Pennsylvania Fair. The York Fair is the oldest continuing fair in the USA. It’s a genuine slice of Americana, harkening back to the Good Olde Days before Bill Clinton got elected and corrupted everything. York is still a genuine farming community, and the fair has plenty of rural flavor. Mostly we go to the fair for the deep-fried pickles, but we’re also suckers for tractor pulls, pumpkin growing-contests, steer juggling, and so forth – the smellier the event the more we like it. Which is how we found ourselves in the 4H pavilion during the pig judging or “pig thing,” as my wife so rightly called it.

For you jaded urbanites who know nothing, nothing about Real America, the 4H is an organization that teaches Rural Youth how to do agricultural stuff like grow cows and rutabagas. Every year, at state fairs across the country, kids bring in animals they’ve raised, which they buff and polish to a luster they never achieve in personal grooming, then chivvy them around in front of a judge who picks a winner based upon the animal’s conformity.

“Conformity” is animal nut talk for how well-put-together the beast is: whether its front legs are in front of its rear legs and how many it has of each, whether its whithers are the correct distance and angle from its fetlocks, whether its croup is adequately akimbo, and so forth. It’s pretty much exactly like a beauty contest except that the animals do better on the essay question. The kids are also judged on how well they display the animal.

While we’ve seen other 4H events, we’ve never seen pig handling before, and boy was it magnificent. Basically you get four or five kids in an enclosed ring, each accompanied by his or her personal pig, which often outweighs the child by 50 or more pounds. The kids attempt to guide the pigs past the judge by prodding them with long plastic sticks. Periodically the pig expresses its individuality and the boy or girl wipes the pig’s butt off with a rag carried for that very occasion.

It’s truly amazing to watch. Pigs are galloping every which way, chased by desperate kids who have totally lost control of their animals. There are pig escape attempts, pig collisions, pig wildcat strikes. It’s pure porcine pandemonium! Adding to the greatness, the bigger kids have been taught to stoop to make their pigs look larger. This gives them a shuffling crouch remarkably similar to that employed by the late Harpo Marx. We had a wonderful time.

Clearly my wife is correct: pig prodding is an excellent metaphor for the health care issue. The kids are Congress, totally out of control, desperately scuttling after their runaway bills like Harpo chasing the ingénue around the bedroom. Obama is an anxious parent, hoping that his beloved child won’t slip and fall in the pig poop of special interests.

And the pigs? Well, they’re gonna get skinned no matter who wins or loses. You can guess who they represent.

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4 Responses to “Don’t Step in the Metaphor!”

  1. Yr Frnd Tammy Says:

    Nice.

  2. vocabulunk Says:

    According to my dictionary, “chivvy” means
    tell (someone) repeatedly to do something : an association that chivvies government into action.

    Therefore, I wonder if your use of the word is correct, then. However, it should be added that the word apparently derives from the ballad “Chevy Chase,” which strikes me as being circular. What did the ballad’s name mean before it was written, if a word in its title derives only from the ballad? And no, the name didn’t refer to the location of the battle described by the ballad, nor even to an elderly comedian. So, you have raised a number of issues here, which I guess is all that one can ask of any blog. Or this one, at least.

  3. vocabulunk Says:

    By the way, is it not true that every one of your blog entries has relied heavily on poop? This is a rich lode of material, no doubt, but you don’t want to get bogged down in it.

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