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Hans the pig walks Brenda Rudolph's son Everett to school bus each day. (Brenda Rudolph/Special to Agweek)

A different ending for Hans the 4-H project

My son Everett had been wanting to start showing pigs at our county fair for a couple of years but he just wasn't on board with the market concept.

When Everett takes animals to the fair, we focus on the work that it takes to get ready not where he places. Everett focuses on the care of the animals at home and at the fair. We focus on the integrity of the fair, the work it takes of everyone to make a fair. Nathan and I want Everett to recognize when he enters the ring where he will be placed compared to the other animals.

This past summer, Everett was ready for a market 4-H project to take to our county fair. I drilled Everett for about two weeks before Hans came to our farm, "You do understand this is market? You do understand the pig is going to be in our freezer? You do understand, right?" I asked Everett to the point he was getting annoyed with me. I needed to make sure he understood market animals. This was not like our dairy animals he can take year after year.

The pig came in May, Everett and my daughter Vivian decided to name him Hans — the bad guy from the movie "Frozen." They named him Hans so they wouldn't get attached to him.

At the county fair, Everett was awarded a red ribbon with Hans. Everett knew Hans was smaller than the other pigs as soon as we got to the fair. Everett in his mind was anticipating a red ribbon when he went into the ring. When Everett came out of the ring, we didn't need to explain why he was awarded a red, there were no tears or disappointments. A big smile was on Everett's face because we celebrate trying new things, learning and doing better the next time. Big teaching moment for a kid who takes animals to the fair. Hans taught Everett that. Everett is proud of his red ribbon with Hans.

We decided to wait till the nostalgia of the fair wore off. We would wait until Everett and Vivian looked at Hans like a farm animal again. We knew we were ready one cold day after chores when Everett came into the house, "That pig has gotta go!" I smiled to myself.

One day when the kids and I were heading out, I noticed Hans was out of his pen. I grumbled and said, "We'll take care of that later."

I'm really not sure how or why he didn't get put back in his pen. Hans greets you when you walk out the door. He walks Everett to the school bus. He runs and plays in the snow with our two dogs. We have puppies and they pile on top of Hans in the straw.

Hans has become an important part of our farm all by accident. Just like how 304, Everett's special cow, was so important to us by accident, now we have Hans.

Nathan and I laugh about it because from the very beginning, Hans was going to be in our freezer and now he will not.