Squeals are seldom in short supply around Rickey Frasier’s farm near Gadsden. Whether coming from his three rambunctious grandchildren or the pigs in his barn, both make him smile.
“When I was growing up, my daddy had hogs, and I was glad when he finally got rid of them,” said Rickey, the Etowah County Farmers Federation vice president. But when his children wanted to start showing hogs, they put him back in the business.
“You do a lot of things for your children and grandchildren,” he said with a grin.
Rickey and wife Tanya’s children are former stars on the show hog circuit. They reminisce about their late son, Noah, an avid showman who died in a car accident as a teenager. They’re equally proud of their daughter, Julie, also an accomplished showman.
Julie and husband Matt are passing on the family tradition to their children. Darcie, 5, and Frasier, 3, practice with their hogs, Pork Chop, Goofy and Mickey, by walking them around the barnyard each day with careful tutelage from their mom and granddad.
“They actually do the work,” Rickey said proudly. “Of course we help them when they need it, but it’s important they learn to handle the hogs on their own. It’s a little challenging sometimes, but they’re learning something every day they're out here.”
“They walk their hogs every day except Sunday unless it’s freezing outside,” she said. “I think children learn a lot from showing hogs — I know I did. It teaches responsibility and how to take care of something that depends on you. They learn dedication, how to be a good winner and how to be a good loser.”
It’s Frasier’s first year showing, and his hog, Goofy, is nearly chest high to the toddler. He walks behind the 180-pound porker with a show stick, gently tapping to guide the hog in the right direction.
Darcie is starting her third year in the show ring. She shares her mom’s competitive spirit and uses all the concentration she can muster to get her hog, Pork Chop, to cooperate.
Don’t be fooled by pink striped overalls and a big hair bow, though. Darcie's serious about showing hogs. But it’s not prize money she treasures most when she and Frasier enter local and regional shows.
“I love the ribbons and the stickers I get from the bank when I take a check there,” she said.
Even 9-month-old Finn is part of the lessons. Wiggling in his granddad’s arms, his eyes dart to keep up as his siblings scramble about steering the hogs.
The show hogs of his children and grandchildren helped spark another business venture for Rickey, who raises beef cattle and hay and recently retired from Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co. of Gadsden. He raises 45 to 50 hogs a year for customers who prefer homegrown pork.
It usually takes about five and a half to six and a half months for a 35-pound feeder pig to top out at 250 pounds, Rickey said. Finished hogs sell for $200, including hauling to the processor. The buyer pays the butcher for the custom processing.
Repeat customers are common, Rickey added.
Becky Bagley of Coats Bend near Gadsden has bought hogs from the Frasiers for nearly 15 years. She said their pork can’t be beat.
“The flavor is wonderful,” she said. “Once you’ve had it, you won’t ever want store-bought sausage, and you won’t find anyone better to do business with than the Frasiers. They are wonderful people who do everything the right way.”