Biology Reference
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ies Longhorn genetics, while half-brother Placido, all red-brown splotches and dark eye
rings, looks like a bovine jester.
The week unfolds and I indulge in natural history. Out here sights, sounds, and
smells are explicit, everything is signal and nothing is noise; vistas appear framed in
my mind's eye, and things happen that I've never seen before. A turkey vulture lands at
scum-covered Lower Pond and drinks like a barnyard chicken—quick pecks, followed by
gawky naked head tilted skyward to swallow. Later I'm sitting quietly, watching a brows-
ing doe from 150 yards out, when, within seconds of wind gusting against my back,
her head swings up, ears spread wide like parabolic reflectors, and she laser-locks my
gaze for a long minute before sauntering off. Another morning McTavish and Placido are
play-jousting as the herd grazes around Ann and David's new house, yet by sunset even
the spindly-legged calves are at Upper Pond, having followed their mommas a couple of
miles uphill despite temperatures in the nineties.
My own wanderings are freeform, conducive to daydreaming. Because Galápagos
iguanas lack enemies and are deemed “island tame,” are they no longer “wild”? Might
hunting, viewed by some as a cruel perversion, enhance wilderness by promoting fear
and alertness? In any case, feral pigs, a genetic hodgepodge of domestic and wild boar
lineages, are center stage this trip. Their rooting is everywhere obvious, and David re-
cently dropped two standing side by side with a single bullet. Tuesday a sounder of
adults and piglets crosses the power line cut where I killed a buck last December, then a
smaller group trots off as I approach Upper Pond, but in the afternoon rumbling thunder
and grisly memories of a long-ago lightning victim convince me to take shelter. Wednes-
day a nearby storm drives us in early again, but by 10:30 a.m. skies have cleared and
telltale diggings have replaced corn at the Lower Pond feeder, so of I go, in search of
the culprits. After an hour traversing the incoming ravine, back at water's edge, I sur-
prise a flock of wild turkeys, perhaps those that gobbled as I first walked down here in
the predawn light.
By late Wednesday afternoon I've seen pigs on three occasions but never had a good
shot, and I will leave Friday morning. As still another thunderstorm skirts the Double
Helix, David goes for a stroll near the house, scares up a sounder, and returns carrying
a dead black shoat. I'm impressed by the youngster's ragged five-inch exit wound, hav-
ing puzzled over why external gunshot damage to deer looks minor compared to that
on some humans I handled as a medic. We chat over beers and admire a glorious sun-
set while David guts, skins, and grills the little boar, concluding that maybe people and
piglets are simply fragile compared to a whitetail's chest and hide. During the ensu-
ing feast our conversation veers from tactics for teaching about biological diversity to
a good-natured debate about wild pigs as ecological proxies for Pleistocene flat-headed
Thursday morning I park the pickup a quarter mile from Upper Pond and hike in,
discover the feeder is bare of corn, and surmise that pigs have been here too. David
has encouraged me to hunt the drainage ravine, so I set out along its near slope with
the .270 slung over my shoulder, striving for silent footfalls on the pebbly ground. This
proves tricky with aging knees, each step a reminder of how much more quietly other
large mammals move. Every few minutes I detour into the ravine, check out its nooks
and crannies, then press on. I try to visualize how a pig will materialize in my conscious-
ness, wonder whether any have already spooked. By 11:30 my stomach is grumbling, so
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