America's Top Pig Strikes A Pose

John Batey kisses his pig Wilbur at his farm in Murfreesboro, Tenn. on June 21, 2006. HarperCollins is planning reprints of the children's classic about a pig named Wilbur and his friend Charlotte the spider to tie in with an upcoming movie AP/The Daily News

A New York publisher looking for a cover photo for a reprint of "Charlotte's Web" found the pig for the job in Tennessee.

But this little piggy may have to go to market before his pose becomes famous.

HarperCollins Publishers is planning reprints of the children's classic about a pig named Wilbur and his friend, Charlotte the spider, to tie in with an upcoming movie, a spokeswoman said Thursday. Release dates have not been set.

Earlier this week the photographer for HarperCollins spent four hours in the cornfields of Rutherford County farmer John L. Batey shooting photos of five piglets.

"We are honored," Batey, 63, said while grinning.

Batey's farm was picked after HarperCollins contacted Phyllis Ferguson at the Tennessee Pork Producers Association.

"He called me and asked, 'Do you have somebody that might have a pig?' " Ferguson said. She referred the publisher to Batey, an association vice president.

It is not the first time that some of Batey's 300 pigs have been used as models.

"We had one in a Tennessee Lottery video with Isaac Hayes last year," Batey said. "(That) pig was about 2 weeks old. He had his own studio dressing room. They picked him up in a limo and brought him back in one."

"Charlotte's Web," which author E.B. White called "a story of friendship and salvation on a farm," tells how Charlotte helps save Wilbur from becoming an entree.

The pigs that posed as Wilbur likely will not be so lucky. Batey says they will be headed off to market within a year.
  • Ginamaria Capogreco

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