One of my favorite things from my Bozeman research trip so far is this story I came across in the 1921 Annual 4-H Report for the state of Montana:
STORY OF MY PIG, BUSTER’S BIRTA
by Richard M. Flaherty, Jr., Coldspring, MT
I got my pig through Mr. Gustafson. When Mr. Gustafson came he had two pigs each in a sack. He told me to take my choice. I took the first one I came to. Dad wasn’t home so I fixed an old setting hen coop, put her in it and she was as wild as a deer. She tried to jump out ’till I had to put chicken wire over the top. After we had built her a pen she soon got tame. When I would turn her out she would give two big grunts and away she would go straight to the house and then start in plowing around the porch. If the door was open she would walk right in the house and drink the cat milk, then ma would fire us both out and tell me to take Birta to the pen.
Sometimes I would hide from Birta, then she would squeal and run hunting for me. I have my pig trained. When I sit down the pig will sit down; when I lay down the pig will lay down. When I got my pig she weighed 26 pounds. I fed milk and ground oats and sometimes cooked potatoes three times a day for the first three months. After that two times a day with a little alfalfa and I kept her in a clean, dry place. She now weighs 192 pounds.
I hope to raise some nice little purebred next year.
I love the details he chooses to describe his pig, her personality, and their relationship. He’s clearly a young kid, and I love how you can tell this from the way he talks about Birta (and his mother!). This has to be one of the most vibrant little 4-H project stories I’ve come across so far. It just has such a voice to it!
Source: Montana State University Extension Service Records, 1912-1970, Box 80, Folder 50. Merrill G. Burlingame Special Collections, Montana State University Library, Bozeman.