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that. What is this big gal thinking? A few more minutes passed before she moved into
the open again and paused, oblivious, as I centered low on her shoulder and reminded
myself not to flinch.
Then an orange blast cleaved the dusky silence, and having practiced shooting with
both eyes open, I saw her collapse, kick the sky, and go still.
Evening had cooled nicely when we suspended the field-dressed sow from a tree near
the house. David guessed her weight at 150 pounds, about a third of which Kelly and
I later converted to delicious ribs and pulled pork. What I hadn't counted on, never
mind an invasive species humanely harvested for food, was the wave of sadness that
tempered my elation, a vivid reminder that we, alone among predators as far as we
know, empathize with prey. This led to reading in Juliet Clutton-Brock's A Natural His-
toryofDomesticatedMammals that wild pigs are omnivores—hunter-gatherers like us,
not browsers or grazers—and their young require more prolonged parenting than those
of deer and cattle. 16 Then I remembered the bears Gordon Burghardt was studying
when I first moved to Tennessee, how impressed he was by their broad diets, mater-
nal care, and other similarities to humans. Conflicting emotions aren't surprising, I con-
cluded, given the fuzzy-eared sow's ursine countenance and my lifelong affection for
her kin.
As if fondness for pigs and some heavy-hitting hunting literature hadn't challenged my
evolving notions of “wild” and “natural,” returning to Texas a couple of months later
further upped the ante. Because a piddly five inches of rain had fallen on the Double
Helix over the past ten months, all the drainages and Lower Pond were dry; Upper Pond
was shrinking fast, its surface a variegated sheen of red and green algae. The deep-
rooted mesquites owned their usual emerald glow, whereas many oaks were brown
or had already dropped leaves. Driving in I'd seen two turkey vultures tugging on a
cardboard-thin raccoon mummy, but the arid-adapted longhorns seemed unaffected,
forsaking baled hay to graze elsewhere on the ranch. One afternoon they showed up
around the house and gorged on purple cactus fruits, as if the huge bull Quannah or his
matriarchal counterpart, Buffalo Springs, had suddenly declared, “Okay, herd, let's go
out for prickly pear!”
Although I'm comfortable killing game for food, butchering seemed dubious with
the porch thermometer showing 103 in the shade. Pigs, however, compete with native
species for scarce resources, so at David's request I would humanely dispatch them
whenever possible. Strolling about the first three days I encountered as many as twenty
at a time and tried to imagine how much water a ton of hogs might drink, but they al-
ways bolted when I was still hundreds of yards away. Once a noisy dove spooked the
shoat I was about to shoot; another time, creeping behind trees, I spotted a couple of
adults and assorted smaller pigs beside Upper Pond, but they caught my smell at 250
yards and trotted off. Late on the fourth afternoon, though, I snuck up on their encamp-
ment below the dam. A mottled orange shoat ran squealing past my feet before rejoin-
ing the melee, and as half a dozen animals streamed off down the ravine I dropped the
last one, a young sow. Then I sat quietly for a few minutes, admiring her long wild-boar
head, her horizontal tusks, and her sooty gray, mud-caked fur.
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