MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (WKRN) – – An ordinary pig with an extraordinary story died Thursday in Murfreesboro.
When he was just a few weeks old, the piglet from Batey Farms in Rutherford County, was hand-picked by E.B. White’s granddaughter to appear on the 2006-edition of “Charlotte’s Web.”
That job gave Wilbur his name and the attention that would eventually save his life.
After he appeared on the novel, John Batey, owner of Batey’s Farm, got dozens of phone calls from people asking him not to sell Wilbur or send him to slaughter.
“I went shopping and there was a tip jar that said, ‘Save Wilbur,’ and I was mortified because I realized it was our pig that they were talking about. I went back to John and I said, ‘John, apparently you didn’t read the book, Charlotte’s Web, the farmer was not the good guy.’ And I said, ‘We got to save this pig because people are going to kill you if it’s not saved!'” said Melissa Batey at Wilbur’s 12th birthday party.
Wilbur was 12 years and 8 months old when he was put to sleep last week. He had a cancerous tumor and after talking with his veterinarian, the Bateys decided it was the right thing to do.
Over the years, Wilbur became a celebrity of sorts, attracting fans of the book to the farm. He roamed the property with the other 300 hogs but “had special places” on the property that were just for him, said Mr. Batey.
When asked how he could pick him out of the herd of hogs, Mr. Batey said, “he was the one who always had a smile on his face.”
That smile got the attention of E.B. White’s granddaughter in 2006. A PR-firm in New York City was commissioned to come up with the new cover of the novel that would be released around the time the movie hit theaters.
A person in that firm happened to know an animal photographer in Nashville. That photographer called the Tennessee Pork Producers looking for pigs and Mr. Batey happened to be president at the time. He told the photographer to come to his farm and take pictures of his piglets. Out of the bunch, Wilbur “won the lucky draw,” said Mr. Batey.
The pig became a family pet and would come to Mr. Batey when he whistled, “like a dog.”
Wilbur was cremated and will be buried in the family plot.
“There’s 5 generations in there but he will the only pig,” said Mr. Batey.