I sometimes find myself feeling a little defensive about the Texas Hill Country. Martin, a San Francisco native, and I drove across the country via Texas after we graduated from college in Massachusetts. Somewhere around Bastrop, I said, “Well, we’re at the eastern edge of the Hill Country.”
“Really?” he said. “So where are the hills?”
Okay, so our hills are a little stumpy and our landscape a little scruffy, and most of the fauna (and much of the flora) will scratch, sting, or bite you. But at least we can proudly boast that nobody’s got more feral hogs than we do.
Hogs are always lurking in the background of life at Madroño—and frequently in the foreground as well (and yes, those are some of our very own hogs making their way across a creek in the photo above). They’re smart, secretive, social, fierce, and remarkably fecund; a sow can have two, and sometimes three, litters of eight a year. Robert, the ranch manager, figures that his wife Sherry shot the Madroño heavyweight title holder, which tipped the scales at about 400 pounds, and they can get significantly bigger than that. They have no predators other than humans, whom they generally leave alone. Dogs, however, they consider fair game. These hogs are expert at slashing their tusks in an upward arc, where they can easily intersect a dog’s jugular or stomach with deadly results.
One fall day a couple of years ago, my brother-in-law Daniel and I, along with his doughty dog Mojo, were walking along the top of the property. Mojo is an unspecified breed, maybe part wolverine, low to the ground with a long heavy coat, and utterly fearless. The minute he heard porcine snorting in a nearby cedar brake, he charged, even as Daniel and I screamed for him to stop. For the next few heartbeats of eternity we yelled and listened to the invisible fight as it receded down a draw. Sure that Mojo was a goner, we trudged sadly downhill to break the horrible news to my sister Isa—Daniel’s wife—and their young children.
So when Mojo popped out of the brush halfway down, he received an ecstatic and extended hero’s welcome. His ruff was stiff with pig spit; his thick fur had saved him from what were doubtless multiple tusk slashes. Many dogs aren’t so lucky.
Here’s one good thing about hogs: they make delicious sausage. Here’s another good thing about them: they’re omnivorous, eating even snakes. Here’s a(nother) bad thing: they love grubs, especially if those grubs are under wet grass. Carefully tended yards can look like a demonic rototiller has let loose its evil fury after a rain or a watering, the grass torn up and plowed under in great sheets (see below). Robert once got so furious at the persistent destruction of the lawn he’d tended so carefully at the lake house that he vowed to sleep there until he’d hunted the culprits down. After four nights and increasingly plaintive appeals from the family he’d abandoned, Robert admitted defeat. “Those pigs outsmarted me and whupped my ass in the lake house yard,” he said ruefully. “It was a humbling experience.”
Clearly, hog tales running the gamut from slapstick to philosophical will be a recurrent theme of this blog. Share your hog tales with us—and check back for more.