By Lori Moffatt
A pig with wings? You bet. Water wings, that is. Just ask Ada Davis, who’s been raising swimming pigs for almost 20 years at her farm outside of San Marcos. Her swimming swine—dubbed long ago with the stage name Ralph—no longer appear at Aquarena Springs’ underwater theater, but a minor change in career doesn’t faze Ada, who’s known around these parts as The Pig Lady. “I’ve got big plans for Ralph,” says Ada with a grin, as she coaxes a piglet into the water with a baby bottle.
“Chili! Chelsea! Charlotte!” hollers Ada, and a trio of her precious porkers come running. “Winston Churchill one said that dogs look up to us, cats look down on us, but pigs treat us as equals,” notes The Pig Lady. “He was exactly right. They’re very smart.”
A swimming pig took its first swine dive at Aquarena Springs’ underwater show in the late Fifties, and the porcine paddler quickly upstaged even the flirtatious, tutu-clad Aquamaids. Because swimming pigs must curtail their careers when their girth grows too great, the underwater show went through a lot of pigs, and all that name-changing confused some folks. A stage name seemed the obvious solution.
“One of the first Aquamaids volunteered her boyfriend’s name,” says Ada. “She said, ‘I’ve got a boyfriend named Ralph, and he’s a real pig.’” The rest, as they say, is history.
'Pigs are usually dangerous, you know, but mine have been pampered and spoiled rotten.'
Since Ralph’s departure from Aquarena Springs, Ada has taken him (although he’s usually a her—female pigs are easier to train—to children’s festivals, job fairs, museum openings, and other special events all across the state. Plus, Ralph has hogged the limelight on such television shows as Inside Edition, Eye on America, and A Current Affair. Ada dreams of taking Ralph on the road to promote water safety for children-kind of a porcine peer to Smokey the Bear. “I’ve taken my babies on airplanes, into banks, even into hotels,” laughs Ada of her out-of-town appearances with pigs in tow. And what if nature calls? “ You should see me in a hotel, running down the hallway in the middle of the night with a pig on a leash.”
Given that there have been hundreds of Ralphs over the years, what happens to Ada’s superstar swine when they case to bring home the bacon? Some 20 grown-up Ralphs live in the lap of luxury on Ada’s farm, but most end up as breeders or as pets. “All these animals have grown to be comfortable with each other,” says Ada, gesturing toward a menagerie that also includes pet turkeys, peacocks, a horse, and even a dog or cat or two. “So my pigs are quite gentle. Pigs are usually dangerous, you know, but mine have been pampered and spoiled rotten.”
In between swimming lessons, Ada keeps by with a never-ending stream of visitors, with the brand-new Ralph Fan Club, and with ceramic pigs, which she makes in a workshop behind her house.
“I’ve always loved pigs, but I couldn’t explain why if my
life depended on it,” she says. “I guess you have to be a pig person to think a
hog is beautiful. But isn’t life full of funny experiences?”
From the August 1996 issue.