Children and Youth

Tyler Abercrombie and a pricey pig

Members of the local agriculture community give a big send-off to a 4-H youth at the San Benito County Fair.

Livestock auctions are usually a fast-paced blur of words and bids as animals are sold. But when auctioneer Rodney Bianchi came to the 149th entry in the San Benito County Fair’s Junior Livestock Auction, he slowed the pace down a bit to introduce the seller, Tyler Abercrombie.

Tyler Abercrombie and Decimal the pig. Photo by Robert Eliason.
Tyler Abercrombie and Decimal the pig. Photo by Robert Eliason.

“There is one kid in particular and this is his last fair,” he said. “He is an inspiration to me and all the people out there in the barns here. And there is not a kid out there at any fair that doesn’t know him.”

As Abercrombie, 18, and his brother Blake, 15, displayed Tyler’s hog to the crowd, Bianchi raised the bids a dollar at a time, quickly surpassing the $17 a pound achieved for the previous entry. As the crowd cheered and applauded, the number kept going up until Bianchi finally shouted “sold” at $71 a pound.

Abercrombie looked startled for a moment, smiled a huge smile, and gave a thumbs up. He had reason to be pleased. His 259-lb pig Decimal was suddenly worth $18,389. 

It was the work of a behind-the-scenes consortium of around 100 contributors, organized by Abercrombie’s uncle, Tom Illingworth of RBQ Showpigs in Livermore, who wanted to show their love and support for the young man, who is diagnosed with Williams Syndrome, a genetic condition that is characterized by developmental delays and learning challenges. It also makes people very outgoing and interested in others, qualities Abercrombie exemplifies.

Blake and Tyler Abercrombie. Photo by Robert Eliason.
Blake and Tyler Abercrombie. Photo by Robert Eliason.

“He loves being around this industry,” Illingworth said. “He has been showing pigs since he was nine. He also loves people and can talk to anybody. He doesn’t know a stranger. It doesn’t matter if you are the big dog at the show or the kid here for the first time who has no idea what’s going on, he is friends with everybody. So we wanted to come together to make this last auction a memorable one for him.”

The plan to overbid on Abercrombie’s pig was a surprise for his mother, Wendy Abercrombie.

“I kept hearing the number go up and up,” she said “I didn’t know what to think and I couldn’t imagine who was going to pay the bill. But Tyler’s life is going to be a little different from a lot of his peers and being able to have a job and support himself is something we have worried about. So this is a nice little nest egg for him to have.”

One of the bigger contributors to the prize fund was Mary Allen Sanders, a former daycare provider. 

“I had Tyler since he was eight weeks old,” she said of caring for him at Little Golden Wings Daycare. “He is sweet, kind and loving, always giving to others. I can’t be prouder of him than I am today.”

Tyler Abercrombie, Mary Allen Sanders and Tom Illingworth. Photo by Robert Eliason.
Tyler Abercrombie, Mary Allen Sanders and Tom Illingworth. Photo by Robert Eliason.

Abercrombie has had other significant showings in the past, including at the 2013 fair when his pig King Kong won Grand Champion and when his rabbits set the sales record at the 2017 fair.

He named his pig “Decimal” as a nod to the large dark dot centered on its back. Besides pigs and rabbits, he has raised steers and goats through 4-H, the largest youth agricultural program in the country. He is currently raising rabbits on his own to sell for meat to his friends and neighbors and hopes to have his own farm someday.

“Tyler is intellectually disabled, but that has not kept him from doing 4-H and FFA (Future Farmers of America),” Wendy said. “Agriculture, in general, has been very inclusive and accepting of him and every kid around, whether we are at the fair or he is in school, has always looked out for Tyler. I hope he has the chance to keep being the happy person who has impacted so many lives.”

Tyler Abercrombie and his 4H hat. Photo by Robert Eliason.
Tyler Abercrombie and his 4H hat. Photo by Robert Eliason.

Tyler graduated from San Benito High School last year and is currently attending the school’s four-year Life Skills program. A fixture at Baler football games, he was honored on Sept. 17 by joining the team captains on the field during the coin toss.

Tyler Abercrombie at the coin toss. Photo by Robert Eliason.
Tyler Abercrombie at the coin toss. Photo by Robert Eliason.

“San Benito High has been very inclusive,” Wendy said. “I don’t know if the school knows the impact that has. The night before the auction, the quarterback and three other varsity players walked around the fair with my son. They included him because they are learning that inclusion is a cool thing to do.”

Tyler seemed to take the attention in stride with gratitude at a touch of sadness that his years with 4-H were at an end.

“The auction was an awesome surprise and I want to thank everyone,” Tyler said. “It made me very happy and I had fun today. The 4-H program gave me a good education and I have made some awesome friends. I wish I had more years but this is a good time to stop.”

 

 

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Robert Eliason

I got my start as a photographer when my dad stuck a camera in my hand on the evening of my First Grade Open House. He taught me to observe, empathize, then finally compose the shot.  The editors at BenitoLink approached me as a photographer by have since encouraged me to write stories about things that interest me, turning me into a reporter as well.  BenitoLink is a great creative family that cares deeply about the San Benito community and I have been pleased to be a part of it.