For the Gonzales family out of Mathis, the annual San Patricio & Aransas Counties Agricultural & Homemakers Show is a big deal. 

For seven years, Cesar and Diego have been feeding, cleaning, shaving and prepping hogs for the show, each one wanting to place and possibly make the big sale.

What’s different this year is that their younger brother Thiago will finally be joining them inside the pens.

“They started when they were in the third grade, and they’re freshmen now,” the boys’ mother Belen said about the older brothers. “And then the smaller one, Thiago, this is his first year actually showing, but been out here since he’s was little.

“Sometimes when the older ones were in school he would be the one with me making sure that the hogs had water and he would do a lot of the work.”

Thiago added, “When I was a little kid, I used to take care of the hogs and always asked my mom when could I show a pig. She said when I get into third grade but I was barely in kinder or first. 

“Then she finally said this year was my year and I said, ‘Yay!’”

Thiago said he was most excited about finally getting to show a pig and he wasn’t nervous because he plays football with the Mathis Youth Football League and one year they went to state and played at the Dallas Cowboys stadium.

“No, I’m used to it” he said. “I play football and I went to Dallas and there was a whole crowd looking at us so I’m used to it.”

Cesar recalled his first time showing and he didn’t have quite the confidence at first when it came to stepping into the ring.

“The first year I was nervous,” he said. “But then it’s just like working the pigs at home. 

“I’m also competitive but not so much with the person. And I’m grateful if I get third or fourth. I do try and I do work with them a lot.”

The boys’ mother added that she’s grateful the boys were able to compete in the A&H Show at all.

Currently, Mathis ISD and the family are in litigation due to the fact that the boys refuse to cut off a long strand of hair that they keep because of a religious belief.

Although the boys were briefly kept from competing in sports and extracurricular activities, a recent injunction has allowed them  to continue.

Even though the A&H Show follows a different set of rules, the family still needed permission from the school to allow the boys to show.

“I didn’t want them to take this away from them,” Belen said. “At the last minute the paper was signed and the boys were allowed to participate.

“My boys are always clean-cut and look nice. No one even notices their hair because they keep it tucked in their collar.”

Belen said the boys have made the sale three times over their seven years at the show and have placed fourth or fifth several times.

“We’ve been OK; we’ve done good,” she said.

“You know, but as long as long as we’re able to make it to the sale to them it feels like they’ve accomplished a good deal.

“I don’t expect too much of them. I just want them to have the responsibly.

“They get up in the morning and feed, then I’ll come check in the midday, but if they’re off on holidays they come out and they do the midday and then they do the evening and they do all the cleaning.

“I don’t do anything,” she laughed. “I just stand here and supervise while they do all the work.”

Belen explained that they all became interested in showing animals when they went with a friend from Skidmore who was showing steers at the A&H Show. They walked around and checked out the animals and how things worked and thought they could make it work.

“It just so happened the following year the boys were going to third grade,” Belen added, “so it fit perfectly.

“We decided to try this and see if we could do it. We did and just stuck with it.”

The boys are even thinking about showing steers next year as well as hogs, but nothing is certain as of yet.

And even though Belen is out there trudging in the mud and muck with her boys and spending quality time with them, she says it’s the lessons they learn from showing an animal that makes it all worthwhile.

“It shows them how to be dedicated to something,” the mother said. “You have to start with something and follow through all the way to the end of the show.”

She said that they are also responsible for cleaning the pigs, the pens and making sure the pigs are ready to go by show time which puts bumps in their road as far as scheduling goes. They have to make time for fun things like playing video games as well as making sure the hogs are taken care of.

“It gives them all that responsibility,” Belen added, “and it shows them discipline which is what I like.”