Drake Hook will be a sophomore this fall at Wayne Community High School. By that time, his father, Brad Hook, a 1983 Wayne graduate, will be on the road from Ohio to Nebraska to Texas for his day job as a professional freelance videographer and photographer, an annual trek for the last five years. To make up for time lost, father and son spent this spring together on the road for the Iowa Swine Jackpot Series, a group of shows across Iowa from the end of April through June 25. It was Drake’s first year of competition, and he could not have hoped for much more.
“Every show, you get a certain amount of points,” Drake says. “If your hog wins its class, or gets in the top five at the end of the show, you get points.”
It’s a bit like the season scoring system in NASCAR. At the end of the year, the person with the most points accumulated wins their class.
After finishing in the top five overall every weekend that Drake showed his pigs, he celebrated his first year on the circuit by winning first place overall with his Yorkshire barrow. His dark cross barrow finished just short of first place, 413 points to 412 points, but the Hooks can’t complain.
“There are always 200 to 300 head of show pigs at these events, and it’s really catching on nationwide,” Brad says. “We decided to go ahead and hit it hard, and never dreamt that we’d get along as well as we did. Things just kept falling into place, and we kept winning. We climaxed with the grand champion at the grand finale, which is as good as it gets. It’s the equivalent of winning at state track or winning the state championship in football. It’s the best of the best in the state of Iowa.”
People not only from Iowa, but also from Missouri, Nebraska, Minnesota, South Dakota, Illinois and Wisconsin show pigs on the series.
“It was fun,” Brad says. “It was something we did every weekend.”
Drake has been showing pigs since third grade. He is a member of 4H and a veteran of the Wayne County Fair, winning numerous times. This year, Drake and his star pig will be staying home to get ready for the Iowa State Fair.
“It will probably be our best shot ever of being able to do any kind of damage up there,” Brad says. “Which is extremely tough. We’ll probably end up fifth in class, who knows. We’re not counting on winning it, but we do know that we actually have a shot. With having the Yorkshire injured, we’re a little gun shy.”
Just like any athlete, the pigs are subject to injuries, and the Yorkshire came up limp after weighing in one weekend. One of his hocks is now on the mend. He needs to rest to get ready for the big show.
Drake has bought most of his pigs online. With the Yorkshire that finished first, the Hooks never saw him in person before the purchase. They only talked to the seller beforehand and saw a few photos.
“He was one of his cheapest ones, and [the seller] never said, ‘Boy, you need that one bad,’” Brad says. “He was a good, solid pig.”
“It’s a great experience,” Drake says. “You can gain a lot of knowledge about the industry. I’m going to try to start raising my own [pigs] this year, and all the people at the shows, they’re all ready to help you, and you ask them questions, they’re very kind about it. They can give you all the information that you need.
“[I enjoy] seeing if I can raise something that can be as decent as what the large-scale producers generate. It’s also a way to get your name out, so that one day you can be one of the [big guys].”
“You’ve got to start sometime,” Brad says. “The thing about the Iowa Swine Jackpot Series is he’s competing against kids of all ages. You’re only as good as your competition. If you’re not trying to get better, then you’re getting worse, basically. This year, [Drake] really watched the older kids, the kids that were dominating in the showmanship contest. And his game got turned up 100 percent, and his ability to show the animal. It was fun to win, but was also fun to see his talents improve.
“And then, of course, there’s the father-son time together. That’s why we do it. That’s why I try not to do anything other than this. This is our football season. We’re going to start here in spring training, and we’re going to end here, hopefully, at the Super Bowl. We didn’t think we’d get done—our first year—what we did.”
Brad grew up on the same farm his family lives on now west of Corydon. He showed cattle as a member of 4-H when he was young.
“In the 80s, we used to farrow a couple 100 sows,” Brad says. “That seems like a different lifetime ago.”
He now takes photographs and videos of individual calves for online sale companies such as Breeders’ World.
“There’s a season for it, and it starts in August. I’ll film darn near every day straight through till Christmas.”
Drake’s mother Shawn Hook is a second grade teacher at the Wayne Community Elementary School. He has an older sister, Sage, who graduated from Wayne in 2013. Though Brad grew up on a farm and works in a farm-related field, he is not a farmer like his father, and Drake would like to return to vocational agriculture.
“We’ve got around a thousand acres between my dad and I, and I don’t have any interest in it,” Brad says. “[Drake’s] been helping Grandpa all summer. It’s the first summer he’s worked for him, so he’s getting a feel for baling the hay, taking care of the cows and stuff—everything that farm work entails.”
Showing animals is the gravy Drake would like to continue to enjoy, even if he does become a fulltime farmer like his grandpa. Brad compares the swine competition to a dog show.
“It’s a sport. It’s our sport,” Brad says. “And hogs are extremely smart. They’ve got personalities. These hogs are cared for—everyone thinks you slop your hogs—but they get skincare, [they’re] manicured, clipped, they get everything. They’re more than pets, they’re family.
“That’s the toughest part. We always say, when it is time to part with them, we have given that hog—in relationship to all the hogs in America—one of the best lives of any.”
Drake conditions his pigs, and trains them to keep their heads up to make their chests appear as wide as possible.
“They love Ensure,” Brad says. “It’s expensive, but that’s probably their favorite drink.”
Drake capped off the season by winning overall grand champion at the grand finale at the Iowa State University show facility. In so doing, father, son and Yorkshire defeated the fourth-ranked pig in the world. It was the culmination of 20 shows, some as close as Leon, others as far away as Clay County.
Their celebration was the 20-ounce rib eye at the Texas Roadhouse. Their tradition is to find the biggest steak they can buy after a successful show.
Brad estimates that the most expensive pigs shown on the circuit are worth over $7,500.
“The times that you win the big events, you can count on one hand in a lifetime,” Brad says. “I’ve learned, over the past 49 years, that when you do win a big one, you just soak every ounce up, and enjoy it. And if you’re never actually in the game, you’ll never get the full concept of the achievement. It’s like Luke Jones around here. Everyone knows he trains horses, but little do they know that he’s at the top of the heap.
“The same thing with Tracy Goretska. Everyone knows he sells those 4H cows—well, he is the best there is, bar none.
“What Wayne County might not realize, unless they’re in it, is how much talent we have produced over the last four or five decades. We’re not talking the state of Iowa, we’re talking the world. In small town Corydon, Iowa, that’s pretty cool.”