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Tragedy spurs record price for swine

A Central Point teenager's second-place, novice-division pig claimed a high

(note: See correction note below) bid at the Jackson County Fair's swine auction Wednesday as friends rallied around her family in the wake of her father's death a month ago.

"I was so excited," said Ivy Cook, 15. "It went from $1 to $5 to $11 (a pound)."

And then to $22.70 a pound.

This was Ivy's first year competing in the Future Farmers of America swine competition. Her 268-pound pig, Mindy, was named after the 1970s "Mork & Mindy" television show.

"It was my dad's idea," Ivy said.

Rick Cook helped his daughter raise Mindy and built an "amazing" pig pen at their home in Central Point, Ivy said.

"He loved the whole pig thing," Ivy said. "He loved Mindy. He thought she was the funniest thing ever."

On June 25, Cook died of a heart attack at their home.

"We don't know what triggered it. My mom bent down, and he was passed out," Ivy said.

Ivy's best friend, Mereena Anderson, 15, said Ivy and her father were "a two-peas-in-a-pod type of thing."

"They were a tight-knit family," Mereena said. "She's taking it like a champ."

Cook had given Ivy a list of about 40 businesses to send buyers letters to. Many of the businesses worked closely with his company, Cook Crane in Central Point. Ivy and Mereena each sent out about 25 letters.

A few days before the fair, Deborah Trautman, branch manager for Sterling Savings Bank in Central Point, learned from a customer about Ivy's dad. Trautman had lost her mother as a little girl and wanted to help.

Over two days, Trautman called many of the businesses Ivy had written and many of Cook's friends, who then referred her to other friends. About 15 of them donated a total of $5,700 for the auction.

"It was a snowball effect," Trautman said. "My heart just went out to her."

Neither Mindy nor Mereena's pig Freckles placed well in market judging, so both were placed in a double lot, which meant buyers had to purchase both pigs.

Freckles, at 234 pounds, was Mereena's backup pig. Her main pig, Socks, had ruptured his ear the week before the fair, and went to the butcher early. Before the auction, Ivy said Mereena apologized to her, saying she was sorry if they did poorly because her pig was ugly.

At the auction, John Murphy, owner of Murphy Plywood, was set on buying Ivy's pig.

"He said, 'I'm buying this pig. Don't try to outbid me,' " Ivy said. "If there was anyone I could thank more than a thousand times, it would be him."

The pigs were sold to Murphy for $11.35 a pound. A few minutes later, a man approached the auctioneer with Trautman's list of businesses that had pitched in and were willing to match Murphy's bid.

"The buyers were all of her father's friends," Trautman said. "It was quite an easy job because he was so loved."

"They (the girls) were thinking if they got $4 or $5 a pound, they'd be elated," said Linda Anderson, Mereena's mom. "They were both just blessed."

When the girls left Olsrud Arena, they still thought the pigs were going for $11.35.

"We were freaking out about $11.35 and her (Ivy's) grandpa, Gary West, came and told us that's not what we were getting," said Mereena.

The girls' pigs were sold for $22.70 a pound — $11,395 for both pigs. The going rate for pigs at this year's auction was about $4.25 a pound, and a Reserve Champion pig went for $12

(see correction note below) a pound. Only the grand champion pig went for more: $40 a pound.

"It was all because of my dad," Ivy said.

"He affected a lot of people."

Reach intern Teresa Thomas at 776-4464 or intern1@mailtribune.com.

Correction: The original version of this story included some inaccurate figures. This version has been corrected.

Ivy Cook, 15, who shows swine in Future Farmers of America, is photographed Thursday at her Central Point home. A community effort raised $11,395 during Wednesday's swine auction in support of Ivy and her family after her father, Rick Cook, died last month. - Jim Craven