PORKERS AT THE POST
Sooooweeee! Hide the kids and guard the corn crib, the latest rage on the tractor-'n'-terbacky trade-show circuit is pig racing. Don't grunt. When the critters first waddled to the post at last year's Farm Progress Show ("The World's Fair of Agriculture"), more than 45,000 two-legged rooters jammed the Heinold Hog Market's tent for the three-day race meeting.
"There are three things people feel about pigs, all false—that they are dirty, dumb and slow," says Roy Holding, an adman who doubles as trainer of the Heinold Pig Racing Team. Not only do the young porkers learn the Pavlovian ground rules in just two weeks, he says, but they also "develop a keen competitive spirit," trying to bump one another off course as they charge out of a five-pig chute and race down a straightaway track to a feed dish 40 feet away. Their lickety-split gait is called the "forward skedaddle."
Going into this week's Farm Progress Show in Taylorville, Ill., the full-dress excitement of race day—bugle, racing silks, electric tote board, photo finishes—was expected to inspire the odds-on favorite, a fleet little sow named Chicago Merc, to go the distance in a record 2.9 seconds or better. "That's equivalent to a 5.7-minute mile, you know," Holding proudly notes.
The Heinold team has had numerous offers to race elsewhere, including on The Tonight Show, but it has so far limited its season to one fall meeting because the piggies tend to eat themselves out of contention in a matter of weeks. Other trade-show exhibitors do not miss the competition. Indeed, when the porkers debuted last year, they hogged the show "by outdrawing the fair's other attractions, including country singer Jimmy Dean. Which was only porcine justice, because the Texas crooner also happens to be owner of the Jimmy Dean Meat Co., Inc., America's leading purveyors of pork sausages.
Doc Counsilman, the 57-year-old Indiana University swimming coach who has trained more than his share of Olympic champions and world record breakers, plans to make a big splash of his own. He has decided to become the oldest person ever to swim the English Channel. "I would like to do for marathon swimming what has been done for marathon running," he says.
As a warmup—and to qualify for membership in the World Professional Marathon Swimming Federation—Counsilman recently slipped into Lake Monroe, which is near the Hoosier campus, and swam eight miles in the respectable time of four hours, 22 minutes, 54 seconds. "I knew I'd make it," he says, "but I didn't know I could do it and feel so good the next day. Something like that swim changes your self image. You don't feel quite as old as you did."
By taking on the Channel, Counsilman hopes to promote marathon swimming as the ideal exercise for the coronary set. "A lot of people can't jog when they get older," he says, "because it hurts their joints. But you can get into the water and swim because water holds you up."
Counsilman, himself a gimpy victim of the jogging craze, speaks from experience. Four years ago, overweight and suffering from high blood pressure, he began working out every morning for two hours in the Indiana pool. He lost 62 pounds and became a national sprint champion in the AAU Masters' swim program. But now, he cautions, "I question the benefit of sprints because they could precipitate a heart attack. So we've started a trend away from sprints to endurance swimming for older people."