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Pig Collection Strictly For Snout-Hearted

Tue., March 11, 1997

We’ve all heard of single guys living like pigs.

Meet Dan “The Pig Man” Clark, a Spokane bachelor who lives with pigs.

Piggy banks, piggy ties, piggy umbrellas, piggy calendars, piggy books, piggy games, piggy figurines, piggy shot glasses, piggy beer signs, piggy lamps, piggy cards, piggy matchbooks, piggy hats, piggy mugs, piggy Christmas ornaments….

Clark’s peculiar quest to corner the world’s supply of porcine-related items has turned his North Side home into one weird wallow. With a collection of 2,600 figures and growing, nearly every square foot of this otherwise lovely white, 1930s-era house is occupied by Porky or an oinking cousin.

Pure pork lard buckets hang from the kitchen ceiling. Dozens of pig pictures hang on dining room walls. There’s barely space to walk through the living room, what with the snouted army on the floor.

Here a pig. There a pig.

Hard to believe Clark created his vision of hog heaven in just two years of rooting through antique stores, flea markets and yard sales. The Pig Man’s collection ranges from items a few inches tall to Marcel, a 5-foot-6 red antique French pig vending machine.

Space is so cramped, in fact, that Clark plans to move to a larger house down the street. The change of location won’t confuse mail carriers, who are used to delivering letters addressed to “Dan Pig Man.”

“I guess I’ve gone one step beyond the trough,” chuckles Clark, 45, a burly, good-natured man who has no children, but carries photographs of his favorite pigs in his wallet.

Pig Man understands how off-beat his swine zeal could appear to the non-pig-adoring public. “I majored in psychology,” he explains, squealing with laughter at the irony. “What I’m doing is a little obsessive-compulsive, but not in the Howard Hughes realm.”

Clark earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in the subject and was working on a doctorate when state budget cuts limited job prospects in the juvenile justice system.

At the same time, however, he owned 20 old houses. A shrewd guy, he bought them one at a time on the cheap, did all the repairs and used the equity to leverage bank loans to buy more houses.

“I thought, ‘Why should I become a prison guard with a master’s degree when I can make good money at real estate,”’ he says.

Clark eventually sold all of his houses for enough money to do what he wants. But pig collecting? “There must’ve been a connection with pigs that I never knew.”

Clark knows how he became The Pig Man even though he can’t fully explain it.

It happened one day when a friend noticed the few pig figures sitting on Clark’s fireplace and casually mentioned how he could get more at an estate sale.

So Clark went scurrying to market and soon found himself hooked. ‘It’s the thrill of the hunt more than anything,” he says. “The horse trading is great fun.”

Clark has become an expert on the porker’s place in human history and has made what he claims are some great buys.

Marcel the red French truffle dispenser, Clark says, dates to the 1880s and is worth thousands. Another museum-quality piece is Pierre, a carved wooden pig that came off a vintage carrousel.

Some rare cookie jars book for as much as $700 each. Clark estimates his entire collection at “$100,000 if it’s worth a nickel.”

Yeah, but how easy would it be to cash it all in?

Easier than you think, counters Clark. “Pigs are hot.”

Well, maybe. But owning a pig-cluttered house has other drawbacks - especially in the romance department. Consider the telephone conversation Clark once had with a woman in which he was interested.

“Sooo,” he mused, wondering if this was a girl he could bring home to meet his curly tailed family, “do you collect anything?”

“Naw,” replied the woman, “I hate knick knacks.”

With those four words, the promise of love soured like the air around a barnyard full of sows.

It makes you wonder, is there a woman on the planet who would share Dan Clark’s idea of bringing home the bacon?

“Hey, I may be the Pig Man,” he says, “but I’m never a boar.”

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color Photo

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