At Russell Watson's farm on a gently sloping hill near the Patuxent River, George Walls found what he'd been looking for after months of stale doughnuts.
There, lounging on his side in the noontime sun, his long, lean, black body punctuated by a white belt around his shoulder, was the object of Walls' dream: a 355-pound Hampshire boar. For $300, Walls had bought the best of the seven purebred boars on sale at Watson's Robin Hill Nursery Farm in Brandywine, about 30 miles from Washington in southern Prince George's County.
"If you're going to use something for breeding," he said, "you want the best. That's the price you got to pay for the best."
Walls, a baker from Waldorf, has decided to enter the pig business for real after the single gilt sow he bought recently grew to adulthood on a diet of mostly old doughnuts, supplemented with a bit of corn.
"Now," he says, "I've got tow. I'm going to buy five more sows and turn him loose on them," he said, pointing to the bristly animal with his snout plastered in the dirt.
Walls was one of about 100 people who turned out in yesterday's heat to drink free beer, eat barbecue spare ribs and hear auctioneer Truman Schrock jabber in what must surely have been pig Latin.
"I've got a 6-month-old Duroc here. Can I get $200? $200, $200, $200," he said, as his eyes skimmed the crowd of farmers and their wives dressed in dungarees, plaid shirts, knit pants, sleeveless blouses and hats that read, "I dig pigs."
Without speaking or waving a hand in the air, someone bid $200 with a twitch of his hand at his side.
"I've got $200. Can I get $210? Two hundred ten for this Duroc? Duroc $210, $210, $210." Another silent bidder nodded his head.
"Ive got $210. Can I get $220? Two hundred twenty dollars for this Duroc," Schrock said, as Frank Feeser, a local hog farmer who had just sold the big Hampshire to Walls, poked the red, native American hog in the side to get him on his feet. "I've got $220. Can I get $230? $230, $230, $230, $230. Sold for $220!"
Feeser, a hog farmer from Taneytown, said that when you're looking for boars, your're looking for three things: Good health, a powerful fertility and a lean body. There are other subtle indicators of the better boar.
"Sometimes his inside toes are smaller than the others," said Fesser, "and he walks uneven. You like to have the toes spread out so that they stand up better on wet cement."
Watson, owner of the 150-acre Robin Hill Nursery and former president of the Maryland Pork Producers Associaiton, said, "If I was looking for it, I would look for a long hog with strong legs that can stand on concrete well, a good disposition . . . They have a certain disposition just like a person."
"They're the closest thing to a human being," added Julie Fesser, Frank's wife and vice president of the Porketts, a newly formed auxiliary of the Maryland Pork Producers Association. "John Wayne had a pig valve put in [his heart]."
Kam Mayne is the Maryland State Pork Queen. That is, she travels around the state and promotes the local pork industry, handing out recipes and pork-fact brochures. For instance, did you know that pork is high in thiamin and protein, and can be cooked on gas grills as well as in ovens?
Kam comes from a family that has been raising pigs about 150 years, and she collects little things that have pigs on them: pins, hats and T-shirts that say, "Kick the habit, smoke bacon," "Nuzzle my muzzle," "Man's best friend is a hog" and "This little piggie went to the market and the middle man made all the money."
"What did the pig say when the farmer picked him up by the tail?" asked Watson's son, Russell Jr. "That's the end of me!"
Asked what would become of the boars sold at yesterday's auction, a Charles County man said, "They're going to go home and make bacon."