Maryland Farm Bureau director Jacks Mathews recalled seeing Brenda Biggs "driving sows around the state fair" even as a small girl. "Someday," said Brenda, now 17, "when I have enough money, I want to be a farmer. I just got to get back to those pigs."
Mathews was a judge, and Brenda a contestant last week in the annual Maryland Pork Producers Association Maryland Pork Queen competition at the Baden firehouse in Prince George's County.
It was serious business for all concerned in a rural world revolving around 4-H Clubs, county faris and old virtues like hard work, family and respect for one's elders.
For Brenda, whose father keeps about 600 pigs on his farm outside LasPlate in Charles County, it was a victory hard won. She was a second-time contestant for the honor of promoting Maryland's modest port industry.
It was an event that attracted more than 200 persons from across the state and was hailed as the largest crowd ever for the announcement of Maryland's new Pork All-American," the bestowing of the State Fair Carcass Award, the James R. Ferguson Memorial Award for Feeder Pig Excellence, and the - the climatic moment - the crowning of a new pork queen.
The judges were Mathews, Helen M. Huber, marketing specialist with the Maryland Agriculture Department and Mildred Darcey, of Upper Marlboro, whose husband is president of the Prince George's County Farm Bureau. The selection process began in a Waldorf motel that afternoon. The contestants were interviewed and got to know each other over fruit punch.
Danice Joan Conaway, 16, a contestant from Sykesville in Howard County, went first. She has aspirations, she said, to be a "gentleman" farmer, like her parents who have 10 pigs and 36 acres. "I don't think that I'm ever going to relax," she said after her interview.
Next came Terri Lynn Terhune, 16, of Bowie, who wants to be a veterinarian but whose entry in the contest, she told a reporter, was mostly her father's idea.
Then it was Brenda's turn to face the judges. Seated in a wooden chair and dressed in a red pants suit, she told of how she helps at home after school and of her part-time proofreading job at a Charles County weekly newspaper. she has been accepted at Prince George's Community College and plans to be an X-ray technician and some day, a farmer.
Since her parents had to kill a favorite sow, she said, she has "made it a point not to get attached to any more pigs." Pork chops are her favorite cut, she said. "When we kill a pig, we hang it overnight and eat pork chops for dinner the next night . . . I help Daddy hang them out and put them in the shed.
he oldest of five girls, she often baby-sits her 2-year-old sister by sticking "her in the pen with a sow I know won't hurt her - I know she'll be contended - unless the sow starts squealing, and then I come running."
"My daddy won't have chickens. He says they smell too bad," she said.
"A lot of people say that about pigs, too," Mrs. Huber said.
"It's a smell that has to grow on you," said Mrs. Darcey.
The contestants were to be judged on beauty, personality and neatness, oral presentation (content and delivery), oral questions and answers, and personal presentation and poise - the most heavily weighted category.
"The first one," (contestant) Matthews said, "put a bikini on her, she'd look right sharp. But they don't show pigs in bikinis, do they? She (Brenda) seems the most involves."
The judges decided to postpone making a final decision until after the girls gave their 5-minute speeches that evening to the assembled pork producers. "We got ourselves into a pickle tonight," Matthews said.
At the firehouse, they were selling "Hogs Are Beautiful" belt buckles for $4.50, and giving away at each table setting a pork recipe booklet and a pigskin key-holder in the shape of a hog.
The judges and the three contestants sat at one table. As special gifts, Mrs. Huber and Mrs. Darcey each got a pig necklace, while Matthews got a metal pig key chain. Mrs. Huber said she also has a peach pin from the National Peach Council and an apple broach from the apple growers group.
At the adjoining table sat the three nominees for "Pork All American" and their wives. Robert Jester, a large man in a blue sport jacket from Caroline County on the Easter Shore, was the winner but he did not know it yet.
Franklin Feeser, the outgoing president, recalled some of the achievements of 1976 - the formation of the Junior Pork Producers Association for those under 24, the illuminated billboard during the peak tourist season near Salisbury, a new monthly newsletter, "The Swine Line."
"Give the ladies all a big hand for that wonderful meal we had this evening," he urged the assemblage. The ladies auxiliary of the Baden Volunteer Fire Department deserved it for the buffet feast of home cooked ham and chicken, scalloped potatoes, cole slaw, cooked apple and more.
On cue when the toastmaster, Prince George's State Sen. Thomas V. (Mike) Miller Jr. (D-28th District), was introduced, the three queen contestants retired to the coatroom where two would wait while the third gave her speech.
Dannice had a little trouble with the miscrophone, but her discussion of still-born piglets was informative to an outsider. "Some can be revived," she said. "All you have to do is give them a little mouth-to-mouth resuscitation."
Terri Lynn refuted the reputation of pigs as "the filthiest, most ill-tempered animal in the barnyard . . . This reputation is hardly justifed, as well all know . . . We as pork producers should be concerned with the reputation of our product. The public is not aware of what the pig is really like."
Brenda chose to look at the "recent accomplishments" of pork producers "since it's year after the Bicentennial." She also disagreed with medical doctors who say that pigs aren't healthy to eat.
Now, it was the judges' turn in the cloakroom.
"We have to decide which one will best represent the pork industry," Mildred Darcey said. "I'm telling you, I think I'm gonna resign before I go back out there."
The judges were torn between the qualities of looks, personality and knowledge.
"Most pork producers are men," Mrs. Huber said. "Like it or not, they want a cute little gal talking about pork. She's got to get their attention before she even opens her mouth."
Feeser stuck his head in to say, "The main thing we want is someone who can sell pork in this state, meet the people, be outward-going."
The judges bit the bullet and returned to their table. Sandy Gladhill, last year's winner, said she hoped her successor "finds her year as Maryland Pork Queen as rewarding as I found mine."