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A Precious Pearl

July 29, 2015

Craig graduate Harlee Speyer knows the value of being a little pig-headed

For eight years, spunky 18-year-old Harlee Speyer of Riverton, Wyoming has shown pigs at the Fremont County Fair. This week, she again showed a pig – a sow she named “Pearl,” short for Paralysis. This time, however, it was from a standing track chair.

In June 2014, Harlee was in a car accident that severely injured and partially paralyzed her, leading to a nearly four-month stay at Craig Hospital. In April, Harlee spent her spring break at Craig for re-evaluation. But she rushed back to Riverton just to buy a pig.

“Pigs have personalities just like dogs do,” said Harlee in July. “I think Pearl looks really good and I hope she does really well at fair. You get close to a pig during fair just shaving her; washing her and hanging out with her the entire week.”

Harlee kept up with her pig during the Jackpot show. Photo Credit: county10.com

Harlee used to play volleyball and was a cheerleader, but FFA is no walk in the park, either. Fair pigs must be fed correctly to make market weight (up to 280 pounds), and taken for daily walks and trained to be exhibited.

“I’m pretty proud that I bought a pig,” said Harlee. “I wanted to show all the little kids that just because you have different abilities doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. You can do anything you set your mind to. I hope that sticks in their minds as they grow up.”

Pearl still lives with her former owner, since the Speyers had to move to a home in town that was wheelchair-accessible. Every week, Harlee goes to the county fairgrounds to practice and spend time with Pearl. Pigs aren’t accustomed to mechanical contraptions. But Pearl and the other fair pigs have easily gotten used to the chair.

“A lot of the pigs don’t have a problem with it,” said Harlee. “One of my friend’s pigs even took a nap under my chair, just hanging out!”

Harlee, the 2014 homecoming queen at Riverton High School, has always been “a girly girl” and plenty sassy, according to her mom. In fact, when Craig therapists encouraged her to remove her long acrylic nails, she kept them nearly throughout her stay there.

“Everyone was wonderful at Craig from the very beginning,” said Harlee’s mother, Lesa Speyer. “The therapists were really helpful in trying to get us going. We feel pretty blessed to have had the opportunity to come to Craig.”

Even after missing four months of school, Harlee graduated with her senior class in May and is now enrolled at Central Wyoming College in Riverton, where she’ll study psychology and social work. She hopes to one day return to Craig to work or to open her own practice, possibly as a neuropsychologist, to help people with spinal cord injuries and PTSD.

“I want to talk to people who are in wheelchairs,” she said. “Most therapists and counselors can tell you, “It’s going to be alright,” but they’re going to walk out the door later that day when they get off work. I think it would be really awesome for someone in a wheelchair to be there for people going through the same thing. I want to tell them it really does get better. I think some of them will be able to relate to me, and then I can help them in their journey.”

Update: On Monday, July 27, Harlee's Pearl placed 2nd out of 11 pigs! Congrats Harlee!

Photos Credit: county10.com

Read the story from Harlee's hometown paper.

I wanted to show all the little kids that just because you have different abilities doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. You can do anything you set your mind to. I hope that sticks in their minds as they grow up.

Harlee Speyer