KNOXVILLE — There was plenty to distract Trey Friday on Thursday as he entered the show ring for the county fair livestock sale.

He had to keep after his brother’s pig on top of two of his own. Then there was his little cousin, Rugar, trotting around behind him. On top of it all was the weight of an absence — his mother, Kim, died four months ago. The Pleasantville woman usually would be in the barn, watching her boys.

So it’s no surprise that he was too busy to be surprised as bidding got crazy on the three big pigs. It’s common for pigs to go for a couple hundred dollars at the fair.

The opening bid was $2,000. Quickly, the price jumped to $3,000, then $4,500. In less than a minute, auctioneer Larry Cummings had sold the pigs for $8,000.

“I don’t think it really hit him until we got the pigs back in and locked back up after the sale,” Friday’s dad, Robert said. “He knew something was up. I don’t think he really grasped the whole context of it at the time.

“Once he got back and he saw me, then we had our little moment there.”

Following their dreams

“It was a total shock for us,” Robert Friday said of the unprecedented price.

But the money emerged from a well-orchestrated plan that began not long after a blood clot took Kim’s life on March 9. Members of a tight-knit circle of families that show livestock wanted to honor Kim and support her sons, Braidy and Trey, said Shannon Harken, a lifelong friend.

“Kim was just an amazing woman who’d do anything for her kids,” Harken said. “She’d let them follow their dreams. She thought that it was such an important opportunity to teach lifelong lessons. and we thought it was important to honor that for the future.”

Harken and her husband, Brian, along with Jeremy and Tara Sheets, sparked a plan that spread swiftly. People wanted to give the Friday boys some spending money to stay active in livestock, she said. Maybe $2,000 was a reachable goal, she said.

“This is just show families getting behind these kids, that’s all,” she said. “Raising livestock is hard work. It’s an opportunity to teach life skills.”

A teachable moment

Braidy was learning about a different kind of pigskin at a Central College football camp on the day of the sale. His dad thought it odd that sale organizers wanted to sell the boys’ pigs as a trio. Then the bidding began.

“Once I heard the bids started going, I’m like ‘Oh, geez!’” Robert said. “From there, the emotions kind of took over.”

As Trey kept track of Rugar and the pigs, friends rolled out a big banner with the names of dozens of donors. After the sale, many of those folks followed Trey back into the swine barn.

“Everybody was in tears, a lot of hugs,” Robert said. “It was one of those special moments you get to share with a few of your closest friends.”

Robert shared a video of the sale with Braidy as he rode home Friday from football camp. He fumbled a few more tears.

“They both understand the impact all the love and support we’ve got from our friends and family and our community,” Robert said. “Sometimes it’s overwhelming, but I think they understand how special it is.”

It’s bittersweet that such support isn’t unique, Robert noted. Bidders also were encouraged to contribute to a fund for Sean and Natalie Collins, who also show swine. Their mother, Sarah, died July 14, in the early days of the fair.

“It’s pretty special. We’ve had great support. It seems like it’s never ending,” Robert said. “That’s something to be proud of for a small town in Iowa.

“That’s what we’re all about.”

Pat Finan is the managing editor of the Journal-Express. He can be reached in the newsroom at 641-842-2155 or via email at pfinan@journalexpress.net.

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