What’s in a name?
The Bard asked that more than 420 years ago in “Romeo and Juliet.” Only Shakespeare was playing with flowery metaphors such as roses to talk about teenage love.
“That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet,” he had Juliet say to her beloved Romeo, a dreaded Montague courting the sweet Capulet.
Surely he did not have livestock on his mind when he scrawled out those lines, but at the Allen County Fairgrounds this past week, you could find all kinds of beasts and animals that were given names – some lovely; some funny – by the owners who fed and cared for them.
But what’s truly in a name?
Does it matter if you name a pig or steer anything other than “Bacon” or “Burger”?
And what does naming these animals do to some of the owners, especially when they know their fate? Do we maybe get too attached?
“Before, I didn’t like it,” says Joel Arney, a 15-year-old who has been a part of 4-H for five years.
On Monday, Arney’s pig, the Allen County Fair’s grand champion Carcass Barrow on Foot, sold at the 4-H Livestock Auction for $450. It was Arney’s best pig he’s ever raised, he said, a laid-back and easy-going swine who likes to “go with the flow.”
Arney, for no particular reason, named him Bull’s-Eye.
In years past, when he was younger, Arney would get attached to his animals and was always sad to see them go. Today, now that he’s older, it doesn’t bother him as much.
“I just got used to it,” he says.
He still plans to name his pigs in the future, but others let their future slices of ham live a life of anonymity – something they prefer.
“It’s easier to let them go,” said Nathan Hammon, a 17-year-old who was entering his ninth year in 4-H.
One of Hammon’s pigs went for $250 at the auction Monday – a fair price, he said, for a pretty good, if a little lazy, pig.
Pigs are smart animals, Hammon said, and are friendly as long as you work with them. Each has its own personality, from obnoxious and ornery to playful to, like Bull’s-Eye, easy going and relaxed.
Which might make it kind of hard not to name them.
“I never called them anything other than Ham or Bacon,” Hammon said of his younger years. “Naming them just isn’t for me. It is for some people, but not for me.”
Logan Kurtz, 12, is maybe becoming one of those people.
The third-year 4-H’er sold one of his pigs for $500 at the auction. In years past, he named his pigs and animals destined to become food products somewhere.
“This year, we didn’t name them,” Kurtz said. “I don’t really know why.”
Kurtz said it didn’t bother him to not name the animals, though it never bothered him when he did name them and watched them marched away or loaded up into trucks.
And for most farm folk, it’s no big deal.
“That’s what they’re for,” said Randy Schaefer, who watched his daughter show a grand champion steer this past week named Felix.
The Schaefer family, consisting of a boy and two girls, has been involved in 4-H and the county fair for eons. They name their animals, always, and if it’s not an NCAA basketball player, it’s based on where they got the animal.
Felix, for instance, came about because he was bought at a feed lot – “fee” in Felix being a play on feed.