the Shiny Show Pig

With 30 minutes to kill before my movie started, I looked around outside. It was biting cold, so I headed into the nearest store, right next door to the movie theater and in the same parking lot of the city mall in Rock Springs, Wyoming. Some sort of wholesale ranch and rodeo supply store. This place was huge! Being in Wyoming felt like being in a foreign land. I started making my way through the store with curiosity and fascination.

Rows and rows of cowboy boots. Aisles and aisles of ropes and lassos. Shelves and shelves of belts and buckles. It felt like a Wal-Mart, full of rodeo stuff.

In the book section, my eyes widened at the array.

Goats: Small-Scale Herding Book

Chick Days: An Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Raising Chicken

Homegrown Honey Bees: Beekeeping: Your First Year, from Hiving to Honey Harvest

I moved over to the Dog Food section and started looking at the various pricing, arrangements, and labels. So many flavors! It was someone’s job to come up with and market all of these!

Salmon and Chicken Grill. Red Meat Dinner. Hearty Beef Stew. Lamb Dinner. 

And as the prices went up, the flavors got weirder.

Mom’s Chicken Pie. Backyard BBQ. Turkey Day Feast. Savory Stew with Chicken and Vegetables. 

I thought of every dog I have ever known. They rush to their food, particularly the wet clumpy stuff, and inhale it. In three slurps. What did they care how fancy it was?

Fish and Sweet Potato. Beef, Bacon, and Cheese. Chicken and Rice. Turducken. 

Turducken! Turducken! For dogs!

And for cats, it was somehow worse.

Chicken and Egg. Chicken, Pasta, and Spinach. Hairball Remedy with Real Salmon.

Okay, I gagged a bit at that one. And, as I have a natural revulsion to fish, the next flavors kept the ill look on my face.

Salmon, Tuna, and Rice. Sole and Spinach. Trout and Pasta. Beef and Cheese. Chicken and Liver: Long Coat Formula. Salmon and Ocean Fish Medley for Sensitive Skin. Sensitive Stomach Lamb. 

And then it got fancy, like reading a menu at a fancy restaurant.

Taste of the Wild Rocky Mountain Feline Formula with Roasted Venison and Smoked Salmon. Feline Greenies Dental Treats: Oven-Roasted Chicken. 

It only got more baffling in the food for various farm animals.

Rooster Booster Multi-Wormer Triple Action Type B Medicated Feed Concentrate. Happy Hen Treats: Meal Worm Frenzy. Premium Wild Energy Wild Bird Suet. Lamb Milk Replacer. 

I moved through the rest of the store with wonder, a delighted smile on my face. These products were sheer entertainment. With glee, I got out a pen and paper and began jotting down product names at random. Following are several of my favorites:

The Cowboy Living Western Buckle Slotted Spatula. 

The Original Mane n’ Tail Detangler: Spray-on with Friction Free Slip. 

The Equestrian Hoof Pick. 

Bovine Rhinotracheitis-Virus Diarrhea Parainfluenza 3 Respiratory Syncytial Virus Vaccine: Modified Live Virus Version. 

Leather Now Easy-Polishing Glycerine Saddle Soap. 

Excalibur Sheath and Udder Cleaner for Horses. 

Pink Lady Wound Dressing.

War Paint Insecticidal Paste.

Apple-Flavored Equistrength Paste. (Also came in Triple-Berry, and Oats and Honey).

Purina Premium Poultry Supplement Flock Block for Free-Ranging Poultry and Game Birds.

Y-Tex All-America 2-Pierce Ear-Tag System for Livestock Identification. 

Molemax Mole and Vole Repellant (which also works on gophers, armadillos, skunks, rabbits, ground squirrels, and other burrowing mammals).

Goat and Sheep Nutri-Drench. 

Liquid SpectoGard Scour-Chek Oral Solution for Pig Scours. 

Python Dust Livestock Insecticide. 

Purina Berry Good Artificial Raspberry Flavor Senior Horse Treats. 

Nature Wise Feather Fixer. 

Bird-B-Gone Plastic Bird Spikes.

And then I came across perhaps the most fantastic product label of all time. A giant-white bucket with a purple label and white lettering read Sunglo Bling Show Pig Supplement next to a drawing of a pig made out of shiny sequins. That was one fabulous pig.

I glanced at my watch, realizing the movie was starting, and took off with a rush. As the movie began, I was left with three thoughts.

  • I love how much wonder I have at the world around me, even in a rodeo store. It made those products downright entertaining.
  • Thank heavens I don’t live in Wyoming.
  • Someone get me some bacon.






“Now remember, just because he has a mustache, it doesn’t mean he’s 21. Make sure to card before selling alcohol. The risks are just too big.”

As the public service announcement ended and more country music came back on the radio, I looked across the vast stretching snow-swept plains that extended in every direction, rolling black and brown peaks in the distance, a few rocky outcroppings stretching into the sky. The sun was just coming up over the peaks and I could finally see the terrain, after a few hours of driving in the early morning darkness. Gusts of wind blew light drifts of snow across the road.


I pulled into Rock Springs, Wyoming a brief time later, here for a work shift for a few days. As I stepped out of the car, the wind cascaded across me, biting and much colder than I had anticipated. January in Wyoming was a bitch, clearly.

I shivered and pulled my scarf tighter around my neck, nestling into my coat, and stepped into the nearby gas station, a local place with the god-awful name of the Loaf ‘n Jug, it’s sister station the Cum n’ Go right across the road. Yes, spelled just like that.

Half of the gas station/convenience store was devoted to the sale of liquor. I looked around, hearing more country twang from the loudspeakers, and saw several shelves full of booze. Hey, the locals needed something to keep them warm. Several dead animal heads hung on the walls over the shelves, deer and elk and a mountain goat or two. My eyes fell on one of the bottles of liquor, a cinnamon red of Fireball Whiskey, with a handwritten sign over it that said “Buy two bottles of Fireball, get a free fishing lure! Inquire at the desk!”

As I munched on my trail mix and sipped on my hot, and terrible, gas station coffee in the car, I realized I had thirty minutes before my shift began. I grabbed my phone and Googled Rock Springs, Wyoming, figuring I may as well learn about the city I was in.


I read about how, in 1885, the Union Pacific Coal Department was able to hire Chinese workers at a lower wage than White workers, so they, of course, hired more Chinese. The White workers rioted in an explosion of racial tension, burned down 75 homes, and killed dozens of Chinese. I didn’t see a single report of a White person killed. I read how the local newspapers at the time had sympathized with the White man’s plight, and how 16 men had been arrested for the murders, but all were acquitted one month later, met by the cheers of their loved ones for their heroic actions. It was with a pit in my stomach that I thought of recent anti-Muslim, anti-Jew, sexist, homophobic, and transphobic content in the media, in the current presidential campaign, and I wonder, for the one millionth time in my life, if we have evolved as a species at all.

I read about local industries and businesses and politics, about forms of entertainment (shooting ranges and the rodeo), about the long history of the state. And before long, it’s time to step outside the car, back into the biting wind, and to prepare for another day of work, this time in a strange and faraway place.

Later, I check into my hotel, and the kindly front desk attendant informs me that I’m just in time for happy hour. I shrug. It’s a week night, and only 5 pm, “But the drinks are free!” she exclaims. “One hour only!”


And so 30 minutes later, a grandmotherly bartender mixes me a rather strong Rum and Coke. I take a few sips and make eye contact with the severed moose head hanging on the wall in front of me.

“He’s a beauty, ain’t he?”

I look over and see a woman behind me that I hadn’t noticed before. She looks as though she just woke up, her hair disheveled and in her nightgown, a large pink muumuu that drowns her. She takes a large handful of Lays potato chips from a bag she is holding and somehow fits the entire handful of chips in her mouth, cramming them in and not missing a crumb. She has no teeth, so she makes large gumming noises as she munches down on them loudly.

“Um, the moose?” I look back at his marble eyes. “Yup, a real beauty.”

The woman finishes gumming her bite and takes a swallow of the pink alcoholic mixture from the cup in front of her. “I bet he’s been dead fifty years.”

I look at her as she takes another handful, and realize I have nothing to say except, “Yup.”

And this is my life right now, I think. Me and this woman and a moose head at 5 on a week night, drinking free alcohol in a hotel bar in frozen Wyoming.

I give myself a little mental toast and take another sip.