Raising pigs and practicing law

Sherman P. Romney leaned down and plucked a piglet from among its nine squirming siblings. Then as he lifted the baby pig to his chest, it let out an ear-splitting squeal. Romney's son, Mitchell, squinted his eyes and covered his ears, but Romney appeared to be unaffected. A man with a foot in two worlds, he appeared to be as comfortable in the barn as he was in his law office.

Some know him as the former city attorney. Some remember him as the former municipal court judge. Still others -- probably many more -- will remember his offer one year to provide all natural pork as a premium for clients who had him draw up a will.

Romney and his wife, Lori, live in Hamilton with their three children, Trevor, Tasha and Mitchell. Romney traveled many miles over the years before settling in this region 11 years ago.

He moved from the United States to Canada when he was just 1 year old. He left British Columbia 18 years later to complete a two-year Mormon mission trip. His assignment took him to San Francisco and San Jose, Calif. There he worked and played with people from Central and South America. He learned many life lessons about people and relationships and even perfected his Spanish skills.

"It was probably the best education I could have received at that point," Romney said.

He experienced another life-altering event when he met his future wife, also a missionary there.

"I came back very motivated to go to college," Romney said. So motivated that he said he finished a four-year economics degree in two-and-a-half years in Utah. Directly following that, he attended law school at the University of Colorado in Boulder.

Romney put his Spanish skills to use while in law school when he represented Cuban detainees in Denver. The Cubans had entered the United States illegally then proceeded to commit serious crimes. Although they had completed their prison terms, Castro would not accept them back and U.S. officials would not release them, because they had entered illegally. The detainees were essentially in limbo, Romney said. He and other law students volunteered to defend the Cuban inmates in hearings designed to set them free if they posed no further threat.

Once out of law school, Romney came to Craig and eventually opened a private practice. In 1993 he was appointed to be the municipal court judge part-time and served for three years before becoming the city attorney. He acted as the city attorney for seven years and eventually went back to having a private practice in 2003.

While serving as city attorney, Romney and his family began to raise pigs, because they liked the taste of natural pork. He feeds locally grown grain to his pigs and does not give them antibiotics. He says he can taste a difference between his pork and conventionally grown meat. At first, they just had a couple of pigs.

"Two seemed good so more seemed better," Romney said.

Once in the early days of pig farming, Romney's naÃivete became manifest in an embarrassing and undeniable way. He had to administer medicine to two feisty piglets. Romney came to the courtroom the next day with both thumbs wrapped in bandages. As prosecutor, he fumbled with his paperwork and left a lasting impression on the people who were there that day. He knows, because they still bring it up, he said.

Raising pigs provided the family with all the pork they wanted, but it was hard work and sometimes dangerous. Romney broke his leg once when he went out to feed them. He slipped on a patch of ice and landed in the pen among a bunch of hungry sows he said. Thankfully, the feed bucket he dropped beside distracted the animals.

Romney was well on his way to turning his pig hobby into a natural pork business. It got to the point that he either needed to spend a lot more time and energy to help it expand or cut it way back, he said. He remembers arriving home after a city council meeting around 10:30 p.m. on a winter night and going out in the 20 below zero weather to do his chores. He decided it might be time to get out of the pork business.

"I'm beaten and battered," he said in regards to the side business, but added that his three children still raise and show pigs at the fair.

With the pig business slowing down, Romney will have more time to devote to clients through his private law practice. He provides a smorgasbord of services from wills and probate to criminal law.

He enjoys working with other attorneys in town, he said, although legal work in a small town has its challenges. "You hope that you don't step on too many toes while helping your client. That's the hard part," Romney said.

Sometimes he has 20 projects on his desk--some of which are the most difficult things his clients have ever experienced in their lives, he said. It can be a heavy responsibility, but Romney said it's important to him to help people get what they want in life.

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