Thursday, March 14, 2013

It Was a Moonless Night When the Black Hog Came

In the summer of 1983, corn was planted in the back garden. It was the beginning of the Drought, the one that lasted over two decades and my father, the man who can make flowers grow on a bare brick wall, was struggling with the corn. The ground was hard. The corn was wilting. Every day, my father watered, prayed, and swore. The corn grew pitifully. So Dad was raging mad when he discovered the corn laying in ruin.

He let into my mother about it, saying she 'wasted time watching soap operas all day' instead of paying attention to the crop like a good farm wife. She didn't know what he was talking about. She probably gave no more thought to the corn than to the moon.

Furious, Dad studied the ground, looking for signs of what he was dealing with. Corn stalks lay everywhere. The ground was torn up. And there were deep, smallish tracks.

Wild hog. Evidently, a large one. It would be bad if the wife, or worse, small child, encountered a feral animal with razor sharp tusks in the backyard.

The hog came at night. Dad worked all day. He couldn't sit up all night waiting. He needed something to alert him to four-legged invaders. So he rigged up a trip wire. He placed a large light in the bedroom window. He ran wire out to the corn. Using a battery, some old car parts, a board, and whatever magic/science old farmers know, he arranged for the light to come on when the board was knocked over.

For two nights nothing happened. Then suddenly one night the bedroom was flooded with a blinding light.


Dad rushed outside with his rifle and a flashlight. And at the edge of the woods, the beam of the flashlight landed on an eye. Balancing the barrel of the gun on top of the flashlight, he guessed where the hog's body would be and fired. There was a grunt, some rustling brush, and then nothing.

He was sure he missed. It was 50 yards. In the dark. At a target he could not even see.

The next day, Dad searched the woods. Nothing.

And then the buzzards came. Dad didn't miss after all. He just searched in the wrong direction.
What I remember are the bugs. The gnats, the flies, the beetles crawling. And the smell. The smell was awful in the hot woods.
Mom and me with the hog.
Dad and me. Our photos are fading badly.
But the tusks are still sharp.

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