Wilbur the Pig lives high on the hog on Batey Farms. Photo by Dan Whittle
Regarding unusual news-gathering assignments, I admit to being “hoggish.”
What I love about professional news writing is that no two days are alike as evidenced by the recent interview with Wilbur the Pig.
Being reared a farm boy, I understood the satisfied “oinks” and “grunts” shared by Wilbur, the obvious “big guy” on the historic Batey Farms that date back to 1807 in the Great Volunteer State’s farming tradition.
Can you, the reader, think of a bigger living and breathing celebrity, more outstanding in his field than Wilbur, currently weighing in at 5577 ½ pounds of pampered pork?”
How happy is this obviously proud and pampered porker?
Ol’ Wilbur “oinked” the measure of his pleasure as he nosed out another hand out of fresh garden-grown (on the Batey farm) veggies from the hands of land owner John L. Batey.
“When the sun comes out, and the warmth of Spring finally settles over our farm, you walk up to Wilbur, for he wants you to scratch his big belly,” noted John L. Batey, himself a legend in Rutherford County farm annals.
Current Batey Farms’ professional manager Brandon Whitt and his bride, Katherine Batey Whitt, were recently recognized as “National Outstanding Farmers” by the Farm Bureau, which is perhaps Tennessee’s most impactful farm – promotion organization.
However, while appearing recently on The Truman Jones Show on WGNS Radio, Brandon and John L. acknowledged Wilbur remains the “king-sized” attraction on their farm in the unincorporated Blackman community of Rutherford County.
“Brandon, are you one of Wilbur’s favorites on the Batey Farm?” asked show host Jones.
“Anyone who walks up with a 5-gallon bucket of slop is Wilbur’s current favorite,” Brandon confirmed.
For unlearned citified folks out at the college, “slop” is a rural term for “swine nourishment.”
“But, Wilbur’s favorite is nice cold and ripe watermelon, especially in the hot summertime,” John L. served. “He’s also a hog for fresh veggies we grow here on the farm.”
But what food makes Wilbur waddle up the fastest to the feed trough?
“Don’t tell Wilbur’s vet, but he likes pizza,” John L. noted as he took a brush to the pampered porker’s backside. “And he goes hog-wild for pepperoni pizza.”
As Wilbur puts on porky pounds, his fandom has exploded.
“Wilbur has fans around the globe,” confirmed John L., now retired at age 71.
Although the historic Batey Farm is known throughout Tennessee and the Southeast, it was Wilbur, a Duroc and Yorkshire-mix, that put Batey Farms on the global map.
“Our farms’ global fame came back in 2006 when Wilbur, as a 6-week-old piglet, was chosen to appear on the front cover of the then new edition of writer E.B. White’s classic ‘Charlotte’s Web’ children’s book,” noted Brandon.
“A Nashville photographer had been told about Batey Farms raising pigs back in July 2006,” John L. recalled. “After a long four-hour photo session, Wilbur became the ‘chosen one’ for the internationally-acclaimed children’s book, and the rest is now history, as they say in show business.”
“Whitt” is also a famous name in Middle Tennessee.
“Does Wilbur know about Whitt’s Barbecue pork sandwiches?” radio personality Jones asked Brandon Whitt.
“We don’t let Wilbur know about that barbecue pork business,” Brandon shared in a hush-hush tone.
Fellow pigs on the Batey Farm and piggy fans around the nation staged a protest back in 2006, when John L. stated in an off-the-cuff press conference that growing Wilbur, although famous, would likely one day go to market.
After that interview was picked up and transmitted to a world of readers by The Associated Press, a pig-led revolt reverberated around the world.
“Calls came to our home, not only from some big cities in the U.S., but from Canada, too,” John L. confessed. “That’s when we truly understood Wilbur’s standing as a world-famous pig.”
A book publishing company even called and offered to finance a pig sanctuary for Wilbur.
Some Nashville businesses had donation cans up: “Save Wilbur the Pig.”
“And Wilbur stole the show when we all appeared on NBC TV, by squealing his lungs out,” John L. recalled.
At the end of the interview, Wilbur slowly moseyed toward John L. on prospect of receiving another personal brushing and manicure from pig master John L.
“Wilbur’s just a big ol’ pet,” John L. confirmed.
The pampered pig emitted a satisfied “oink” in agreement.