GATESVILLE — Joshua Horton focuses on grooming his pink and black hog, Tank. All he hears is the rustling of the hay and the fan blowing air into the barn. To him, the boisterous voices all around him at the Coryell County Youth Fair are silent.
Horton, who is severely deaf and started wearing hearing aids when he was 5, was shocked when he found out his barrow won grand champion in the market swine category Friday night and said auctioning the pig he’s been taking care of for four months was bittersweet.
Tank was one of about 200 items, including livestock and home economics goods, auctioned Saturday.
“He’s had a lot to overcome,” said his mother, Annie Horton. “He won’t tell you that, but he has.”
Annie, who was diagnosed with cancer of unknown primary site in May, wasn’t able to attend all of Joshua’s shows like she would if she was healthy. Although she was able to go to the state fair, she started her first week of chemotherapy when he competed in the national show.
Just like Josh has overcome being deaf, Annie won’t let cancer get the best of her.
“The prognosis isn’t very good,” she said. “I think I’ve already stumped them because I’m doing better than they ever expected. I keep telling them prayer works.”
Horton’s proud mother was happy to see her son succeed at the show.
“It was unbelievable,” she said. “It was just like I was in my own little world and time stopped.”
Horton, who has a Lone Star degree from Future Farmers of America, competed in his first Pee-Wee show when he was 3. Whether he’s walking, feeding or grooming his eight hogs, Joshua works from the time he gets out of school to 9 p.m. taking care of his pigs.
“It’s just a fun opportunity,” Joshua said. “I also like helping the younger kids out. It’s pretty cool.”
Mac Maciel, board member of the fair, said agriculture teaches children responsibility.
“It helps them in life every day,” Maciel said. “If you can take care of an animal, you can take care of a child.”
Horton will use the money from the auction to help pay for college. The senior at Jonesboro High School wants to be a 4-H extension agent and plans to attend McLennan Community College, finishing his degree at Texas Tech University.
“He’s had to work harder at knowing what’s going on around him,” Annie Horton said. “He has all the opportunity in the world if he can stay focused, which is a hard issue for a deaf person.”