I was reading an article from a magazine the other night that recognized the common cockroach as the species that will most likely survive the next world-wide catastrophic event.
“Hey, babe,” I yelled across the house, “did you know cockroaches are going to rule the world?”
“That’s nice; have you done the dishes yet?” she yelled back.
I continued reading - ignoring the nag lobbed back in my direction. What a ridiculous notion, I thought. Cockroaches can’t think of anything better to do than hang around in the kitchen cabinets and give people the quillies. In my educated opinion, the feral hog has a much more developed sense of survival and will eventually replace humans as the most intelligent species on the planet. You think I’m crazy? Well, obviously you don’t know pigs. I know many pigs. Mostly the wild kind.
Known scientifically as Sus Scrofa, wild pigs are a big problem out here in our corner of the world. Come to think of it, they’re a problem in lots of corners. Many of you local readers probably know that already, but since I’ve had the duty of wildlife management in the past, they have become the bane of my existence. These beastly porkers regularly tear up landscaping, punch holes in fences, and plow through an acre of turf grass in one night. Over the years, I have developed some serious psychological “issues” based on my fear that hogs will someday rule the world.
My family’s morning ritual before the kids ship off to school is to watch reruns of a TV show called “Pet Star.” It’s sort of the domestic animal version of “America’s Got Talent.” Basically, someone brings their pet like a dog or a parrot out on the stage, the pet does a few tricks, and then a panel of threecelebrity judges rates them on a scale from 1-10. If my kids don’t agree with the judge’s score, we slander them with disparaging remarks.
On one particular episode, we watched in amazement as a pig named “Mudslinger” politely waved to the audience, picked up his toys, dribbled a soccer ball through some cones, and put away his scattered clothes. Actually, it was the rest of the family that was amazed.
My impression, on the other hand, would be better described as alarm, because I realized that this pig was smarter and had more skills than my own children. Heck, based on the fact that I am regularly outsmarted by them, I have to honestly admit that… you can see why I have issues with pigs.
Consider this recent example of the feral hog’s ability to solve problems. While hiking in a canyon called Silver Creek with my golden retriever, Henry, we encountered a wild boar. The boar was initially startled and started to run up the creek bed. Naturally, the dog gave chase to the boar. However, while running, the boar did some basic calculus in weights and measurements, and determined that he outweighed the dog by a factor of four.
Realizing the possible consequences of this mathematical postulation, the boar did an “about face” and tested his hypothesis with an experiment in kinetic energy. Assuming the given of mass as potential, the boar applied the force of forward movement and arrived at the conclusion that he could send Henry and his owner back home rather quickly. You see what I mean? Pigs are gaining intelligence with frightening speed.
Over the years, I have tried many methods of hog removal, mostly resulting in futility. Hogs are mostly nocturnal creatures, and therefore, you have to be willing to stay up late into the night if you want to catch them moving. Hunting them with spotlights doesn’t really work because they can hear you coming, and they just scamper into cover long before you can see them. Trapping them works once in a while, but they have an uncanny ability to sense danger, and they will typically eat every morsel of bait that you set out except for the bait in the trap. Night vision goggles, motion sensing cameras, laser sighted weapons … I’ve tried them all. I hired a helicopter pilot to fly the entire ranch, and I rode along, clipboard in hand, ready to tally the numbers. By the end of the flight, I had counted one hog. At least I think it was a hog. It might have been a black rock disguised as a hog because it never moved, but in any case, I was pretty sure we had more than one hog on the property.
I even tried using our Fisher Price baby monitor as a covert listening device at the H. E. Butt Foundation Camp. Needless to say, that was an interesting conversation. “Hey, honey bun, where do we keep the baby monitor.”
“Next to the baby, why?” she asked with suspicion in her voice.
“I need it for hogs.”
“But what if something happens to the baby?” she inquired.
“We’ll make another one.” I said.
The idea (which I considered to border on brilliance) was to place the monitor in the hog’s usual destructive path, and sleep in a nearby cabin with the receiver on so I would be able to detect the hog’s arrival time and catch it off guard. After that attempt, the late, great Mrs. Butt asked me what was so special about staying up at night chasing after those pesky hogs, and I tried to explain it to her. “Well, Mrs. Butt, there’s just something about pitting your senses and wits against one of the most cunning beasts in Texas. Plus, there’s just something thrilling about standing in triumph in your underwear - rifle in hand over the carcass of dead pig.” I’ve never been able to tell if my explanation made any sense to her because, oddly, she never talked to me again. Sadly, though, all of these attempts at reducing the hog population have largely been in vain.
However, it’s my latest experience in hog control that has confirmed my fears that hogs are threatening to eclipse man’s intelligence. Our latest practice in locating feral hogs has been the use of trained dogs. My friend, James Reasoner from Kerrville, is a master hog hunter, and he uses a pack of dogs that are trained to locate and chase hogs out of their bedding areas and into the open where they are vulnerable. Keep in mind that these are not the kind of dogs that your want sitting next to you while you read by the fireplace. They’re kind enough when they are calm, but if they catch the scent of a hog, they are closer in demeanor to timber wolves, and their aggressive pursuit is unnerving even to the biggest boars.
A while back, early one morning the dogs had sniffed out a boar about the size of my desk with tusks more than 3” long, on the back side of the camp. The fight was pretty evenly matched, but eventually the dogs chased the boar over a mile through cactus, brush, and smack dab up against the edge of circle bluff which drops straight down 400 feet to the headwaters of the Frio River. As it just so happened, on that particular morning, a group of fifth grade boys from Sterling City Elementary School were residing in cabin #2 of the Comanche Outpost campsite directly below the howling battle taking place above. They were just waking up for another exciting day of outdoor education when they heard the commotion, and naturally, being fifth graders, they ran down to the water’s edge to watch the show. In the meantime, our group of hunters had just caught up to the dogs, and were trying to figure out what to do next. The dogs had the beast backed up to the bluff edge. They had him surrounded snarling and howling when all of a sudden, and I’m sure I saw this, the boar winked at me and stepped off the edge.
No, I’m not kidding, this is a true story. Of course, to everyone else who witnessed the event, it looked like the boar just fell off the cliff, but I know the truth… that darn pig was trying to fly.
Needless to say, even though the event was a slight variation to the day’s outdoor educational curriculum, the boys unanimously agreed that watching a wild boar soar 400 feet into the river was the highlight of their experiential learning activity. Being from Sterling City, where most boys are the sons of ranchers and farmers, I wasn’t too worried about any lasting psychological damage. The effect on me, however, was a little more significant.
When Pigs Fly… this phrase gets used often as sarcasm - a joke used in the context of impossibility, something that will never happen. But, take this a warning from a guy who knows because I’ve seen it. Knowing pigs the way I do, it won’t be long before the joke’s on us. By the way, cabin #2 where the event took place is now called, “Boars Landing.” Has a nice ring to it, don’t you think?
For comments or questions, contact John Kerr at john@ctcinspect. com.