THE WILD, WILD HOG
By Brenda S. Presnell
Spring is always such a pretty time of year in the woods. The weather is still a little bit cool, and the yellow flies and mosquitoes have not yet made their way to the hunt camp. The wonderful smell of pine floated through the crisp air and made me thankful just to be alive.
This particular spring evening, Kenny had gone outside to pick up a few limbs and pinecones that had recently blown to the ground while I finished cooking supper on our little gas stove. It wasn't long before Kenny finished his chore and walked through the door.
"Looks like we're gonna have us some ham hocks to put in the butter beans," Kenny said with excitement while licking his lips.
"Are you going to town?" I inquired.
"No," he said with a grin. "Town is coming to us."
It's really hard sometimes to get information from my dear hubby. He likes to play little guessing games when he knows something that I don't. It appeared that this was one of those times.
"My goodness. What in the world are you talking about?" I asked, playing along.
"While walking the firebreak around camp just now, I noticed the ground had been rooted up and saw footprints of an animal. Upon closer scrutiny, it looks like we have a hog visiting us. And from the look of his footprints, a big ole hog!"
His eyes sparked with glee as he spoke. And I could imagine the wheels turning inside his head conjuring up a plan of action. He had wanted to get a hog for some time, and the opportunity had never presented itself -- that is until now when he walked the firebreak on this lovely day.
"Whatcha gonna do about it?" I inquired.
I don't know yet. I gotta see him first before I can shoot him. Maybe I'll put the wild-game camera out there and see when he comes back -- if he does."
After we finished eating supper, Kenny rushed outside before dark to position the deer camera on a pine tree at the edge of camp. It looked like the hog had walked along the firebreak and then back into the national forest.
"We'll just have to see what we get," said Kenny, eyeing the situation with satisfaction and anticipation.
A couple of days came and went with no sign of the hog returning. Kenny repositioned the camera to a ti-ti tree facing in the opposite direction. The next morning after checking the camera, we didn't need footprints or rooted up ground to let us know that the mammoth hog had returned. We saw on the camera that the hog, in the dead of night, had feasted on acorns that had dropped from a nearby oak tree.
"I can sit in my deer-blind tent and stake him out tonight," plotted Kenny. "I'll use the crossbow so as not to disturb the folks with gunshot blasts over at Quit-Cha-Belly-Achin' camp down the road. He was already heading to the shed to find the camouflaged tent.
I was back in the kitchen fixing breakfast of bacon and eggs, while Kenny set up the small hunting blind behind the camp. He even positioned a cooler and a chair with a cushion inside so he could have all the comforts of home just in case this took a while.
Kenny waited all day long for nightfall to come with eager anticipating of finally getting his hog. He checked his crossbow to make sure the string was tight and the broadheads were sharp. I flipped through a cookbook for recipes for cooking wild hog. Although I had not yet started preheating the over, I guess you could say I was so confident in Kenny's hunting skills that I knew the hog's demise was near. I have often thought of my dear hubby as a modern-day Daniel Boone.
After supper, Kenny took his post inside the tent. Every so often, I peeked out the window into the darkness to see -- well, not too much of anything except darkness. I waited for Kenny to finally give up and come back inside. The minutes, then hours passed by, but still no Kenny. I listened for sounds of the hog rustling through the bushes and grunting and snorting. But all I heard were crickets and frogs.
Kenny said not to wait up for him. So I finally gave up and went to bed.
One word for Kenny frequently comes to mind. Determined. Kenny kept vigil all night long. Finally, just before daybreak, he succumbed to the pains in the joints of his not-so-young-anymore body and came back inside to stretch out on the soft welcoming bed.
"I gotta come up with another plan," Kenny said after getting up from a few hours of rest.
"I'm listening," I said.
"I can't sit up all night, every night, waitin' on him." I'm gonna build a hog trap!"
"What, pray tell, are you gonna build this trap with?" I inquired.
"We got plenty of stuff around here. Old fence wire and posts. I think I even got a couple of boards laying somewhere -- and steel rods."
Think of the old television show "MacGyver" and the role played by Richard Dean Anderson. That's my Kenny! He can make just about anything out of just about anything. So I had no doubt that he could build a hog trap out of the scrap stuff lying around the campsite.
It wasn't long before we were dragging supplies from the scrap pile to the edge of the firebreak. Kenny grabbed the post-hole diggers and commenced to setting out boundaries for the hog trap. Up went the patchwork fence that had an entrance gate with a trap door. He was satisfied with the finished product. I had gathered a bucket of acorns for bait. Kenny carefully scattered them inside the trap and then set the door. Now we waited.
The setting sun cast its final rays reflecting pink clouds in the evening sky. We took a peek through the kitchen window to look at the hog trap that was just barely visible as it grew dark. Soon moon beams shone through the trees in the woods and onto the pile of acorns that, hopefully, would lure the hog into the trap.
"We might be having a hog butcherin' in the morning," said Kenny hopefully as he prepared for bed and a much-needed rest from his busy day.
At the stroke of midnight or thereabouts -- it's more dramatic if things happen at the stroke of midnight! At the stroke of midnight, we woke to the loud rumblings outside of grunting, snorting, and squealing. And the huntin' dogs had joined in with a whole lot of barking and carrying on.
"Yee-haw!" shouted Kenny as he jumped from bed and into his pants and boots. He grabbed his crossbow and handed me a flashlight as he ran towards the door.
"Hold this," he said, "and shine it on the hog so I can see him."
"Huh?" I said. "Let me get some shoes on first." I fumbled around looking for my boots. "And some pants," I added.
"Well, hurry up!" yelled Kenny.
We rushed out the door -- Kenny armed with his crossbow and me with the flashlight. The hunting dogs were now in a barking frenzy in the dog pen and running around like crazy. We quickly found out why as we glimpsed a pair of ham hocks darting through the ti-ti trees past the dog pen and into the woods.
"Well, I'll be darn," said Kenny with discouragement. "What in the world just happened?"
"Beats me," I said.
"We better check the trap," said Kenny as he walked towards the firebreak.
"Give me the flashlight," he said as we got closer. But we were not quite prepared for what we saw when we got there.
"What the . . . ?" said Kenny, not believing his eyes.
I looked toward the end of the flashlight beam. I could hardly distinguish what I was looking at in the darkness. Kenny moved the light beam all around the trap -- or what was left of the trap. The sides had bulges where the hog had repeatedly barreled into them. The board along the bottom was completely shattered and town away.
"That's how he escaped," said Kenny, shining the light along the broken board at the bottom of the pen. "I'll have to fix it in the morning. Not much I can do tonight."
We went back to bed. It was difficult to sleep, though. I thought about how wild and dangerous the woods really could be. I always like to think of the peaceful serenity I feel just by being in its surrounding beauty and quietness. Most of the critters I do see everyday are gentle and non-threatening like the deer and birds and the frogs and turtles. But I just got an up-close picture of the more fierce and violent side of this wilderness. That was a pretty powerful hog to break out of the trap in the violent way that he did. He just busted right on through the thing!
Kenny was up early the next morning rummaging through the scrap pile of building materials while I prepared breakfast. My timing is, usually, pretty good. I had breakfast sitting on the table when he came through the door.
"I think I got a plan," said Kenny, after saying the blessing over the food. "I found some old rebar rods that might do the trick."
"I hope so," I said. "I really hate to think that mammoth hog is hanging out around camp. I don't wanna run into him unexpected while out taking a walk one day."
"Don't worry," reassured Kenny. "He won't be able to get out of the trap when I get through with it."
We finished eating breakfast. I cleaned up the kitchen while Kenny went to work reinforcing the hog trap. I watched through the kitchen window as Kenny stuck the rebar rods down along the fence wire. And he ran more rods along the edge of the bottom, jamming them in place with more wooden boards. He adjusted the trap door then added some corn to the acorns he used for bait. I went outside to inspect his handiwork.
"It looks strong enough to hold just about anything," I said, complementing my very own trapper Daniel Boone.
"There's just one more little thing to add, and I'll be done," he said as he stood and brushed the dirt mixed with pine needles off his jeans.
"Oh, yeah?" I said, knowing quite well that Kenny always does more than expected, but I wasn't sure what it could be.
"I need you to get a chair."
"What?" I asked perplexed. "Are you gonna sit and wait for him?" I knew he wasn't going to do that, but I couldn't image what else it would be used for.
"No," he said. "It's to stand on."
"Huh?" Now I was even more puzzled. "You want to stand in a wobbling chair in the dark of night balancing a crossbow?"
"What's wrong with that?" he asked. "I can't shoot the bolt through the fence. I gotta get over it."
"Are you crazy?" I asked, thinking that sometimes I really did wonder if he was.
"Do you wanna help or not?" he asked, his impatience showing.
"Well, yeah, if you need me to," I said hesitantly.
"Okay, then," he continued as if this was a perfectly sane idea. "You saw how fast the hog got away last time, didn't you?"
"Yes," I agreed.
"Well, I need to shoot him really quick before he has a chance to get away," he explained. "So the first little noise we hear, we need to get here fast and get 'er done."
"Okay." I went to fetch the flimsy plastic chair from the porch.
The next couple of days and nights came and went. I was beginning to think that all Kenny's hard work and planning would be for nothing. It appeared that the hog had decided to move along to some other part of the woods. The hog trap sat vacant -- for now.
Kenny had to leave for town to run a few errands. I stayed behind to catch up on my legal transcription work that I do part time, thanks to satellite internet. Ah, miraculous technology -- even out here in the middle of nowhere!
I sat happily transcribing at my computer, when suddenly the dogs began howling and making a loud ruckus outside. Thinking that maybe someone was coming up the driveway, I got up to check it out. To my surprise, inside the hog trap was a gnarly-looking hog, lunging his huge body again and again as it crashed into the fence and wooden posts of the hog trap. He snorted and growled before each hit as he attempted to escape.
If I was a hunter, I would have gotten my shotgun by now and blasted him to smithereens. But to be honest, I have never shot anything other than a target in my whole life. And I'm not sure I could even hit a moving target like this frantic hog that was zigzagging inside the trap.
I hurried and called Kenny on the cell phone to let him know his hog trap was now occupied.
"Let's just hope he stays there 'til I get home," he said. "Stay in the house just in case he gets out. I don't want a raging mad wild hog after you."
I was certainly glad to hear it from my dear ole hubby, but I really didn't intend on being anywhere else but inside. I was perfectly fine watching through the kitchen window inside the security of my little house trailer out here 25 miles from the nearest town . . . . all alone, except for a few barking maniac dogs and a raging mad wild hog!
I hung up the phone then returned to keep watch on the hog through the safety of the kitchen window. And watch I did. I watched that ole booger yank the rebar away from the board with his tusk and then bust through the fence. Then I watched him high-tail it right back through the ti-ti trees, past the dog pen full of hysterical screeching hounds, and then deep into the dark woods. The same path he took the last time he escaped.
I reluctantly called Kenny with the bad news that our dream of yummy smoked ham had just sped away on hog hoofs as it hastily left the premises.
"Well, I'll just have to fix the trap when I get home," he said.
He sounded a little bit frustrated. But knowing Kenny the way I do, I knew he would keep at it until he got the result he wanted -- which was to fill the freezer with fresh meat.
The next day, Kenny once again set out to repair the hog trap. Hopefully it would be for the last time. He put up the rebar -- again. He nailed the boards back in place -- again. And he found even more rebar and more boards in the scrap pile and secured those as well.
"I don't know if that ole hog will return or not," he said, after placing the hook securely on the trap door. He's had quite a scare -- twice. We'll just have to wait and see."
We didn't have to wait too long. That hog must have been either awfully hungry or very stupid because he came back again to the corn pile Kenny had placed inside the trap. This time it was after dark, and Kenny and I had already gone to sleep.
As hoped, we awoke to the familiar sounds of crazy-yappy dogs and the hog snorting and banging inside the hog trap.
"Get up! Get up!" shouted Kenny. "He's back!"
I jumped up and searched for my jeans.
"Don't worry about that," said Kenny frantically. "Just grab the flashlight." He rushed to get his crossbow and quiver of bolts. "Hurry up!" he called from the other room. "I wanna get him before he gets away."
I quickly slipped on my flip-flops and grabbed the flashlight. With my nightgown blowing in the breeze, I hurried after Kenny to the hog trap. The adrenaline rush was so high that I hardly noticed the night air was a little bit nippy. Kenny was already standing on the wobbly chair at the edge of the trap, in the dark of night (midnight maybe -- the dramatic hour?) He held his crossbow in position steady in his arms.
"I can't see him!" he shouted. "Shine the light! Shine the light!" Kenny tends to repeat himself in exciting situations such as this, just in case I've suddenly lost my hearing.
I stumbled over slippery pinecones and twigs, making my way to my previously assigned position beside the hog trap. The poor ole hog was frantic by now. He slammed and banged against the fence and growled with fear mixed with anger. Kenny stood as still as a statue. I struggled to get my bearings in the dark as the beam from the flashlight was shining every which way.
"Not on me!" shouted Kenny with excitement. "Shine it on the dang hog!"
"Oops, sorry," I said, trying to get adjusted.
"Well, hurry up," he urged. "I don't know how long the trap will hold."
Finally. Finally. The moment Kenny had been waiting weeks for was now at hand. I held the flashlight steady, which was my one and only very important duty at the moment. The wild hog snarled and growled as he stared into the light. Kenny carefully took aim. Then with lightning speed -- whoosh! The bolt shot through the air and into the lungs and through the heart. Instantly, with a thud, the wild hog was down.
We stood still in our night clothes and flip-flops silently looking at the bloody boar.
"Well, whatcha wanna do now?" I asked.
"It looks like the sun will be up in about an hour or so," observed Kenny. "Let's go back inside until daylight. We can get coffee and put some clothes on. But first, I need to cut off this boar's manhood pretty quick so the meat won't get tainted. We can come back out and butcher him when we got daylight to see by."
Kenny and our wild, wild hog!
I ran back inside to fetch a knife. When I returned, Kenny performed the surgery on the poor ole dead boar while I, once again, held the flashlight. I may not be much help in the hunting, shooting, and dismembering manhood body parts, but I can sure hold a flashlight with the best of them!
Soon after sunrise, we returned to the scene of the action. Kenny had finally solved the problem of shooting the wild hog. Now we were faced with another predicament. How in the heck were we going to move the mammoth 300-plus pound monster to the skinning rack? And would the skinning rack be strong enough to hold him? Our inquiring minds needed to know.
These questions were soon answered. During my time as a woman in the woods, I had discovered that many dilemmas can be quickly resolved by a man, his pickup truck, a tow-strap or winch, and a pulley.
Using the pickup and a tow-strap, Kenny dragged the hog to the game-cleaning area. The 30-something year old board holding the skinning rack looked mighty flimsy compared to the big boar. We decided to hang him from a sweet-gum tree that stood proudly in the center of the hunt camp.
Kenny used a 500-pound pulley to hoist the boar up the tree. After much hoisting and crunching of sweet-gum balls underfoot, the hog was finally hung. Stretched out from his feet to his nose, the hog was longer than Kenny was tall.
Kenny began the skinning and butchering process, which took a couple of hours to complete. I stood by with bowls and marked freezer bags to put the pieces and parts in.
Finally, after much planning and with determination, we had hog meat to eat and plenty to spare. Then for months afterwards, we feasted on ham and sausage and shared the meat and the story of the hog with whoever stopped by.
. . . And everyone lived happily ever after . . . everyone, except maybe the hog.