I was sorely tempted recently. (Well there's no news in that. Temptation hits about once every 13 minutes in one form or another; unfortunately, nothing of the exotic nature that hit even more often than that in my salad days when most everything worked without hurting. Current temptations run more to sleeping another 15 minutes or eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch instead of tuna on rye.)
But this time I was sorely tempted to ease out of the substantial protection afforded by my Ford Explorer, sneak around the front end and photograph a large wild hog that was apparently slumbering beside the road (Highway 380 somewhere between Post and Haskell, Texas).
The large, ugly animal — I'd estimate somewhere between 450 and 900 pounds — seemed to be in some distress, perhaps giving birth to a littler of equally ugly porkers, I thought. But no progeny seemed to be issuing from the beast so I conjectured that the hog was in that final phase wildlife enters before becoming roadkill. It seemed unable to move its hindquarters.
So, it probably would not jump up and attack me with its vicious, 17-inch long tusks, I assumed. I lowered the passenger-side window to get a better view. It was a big, black-bristled hog, gender undetermined, apparently unaware that a mentally challenged photographer was contemplating a close-up portrait.
I hit the horn. The animal grunted but made no move to haul its evil-looking carcass off the ground and shuffle away.
Ought to be safe enough, I thought. I opened my door, watching through the window for any sign of threatening activity from the 1,200-pound beast. It slumbered on as I rounded the front end of my car. I moved along the side to within 10 feet of the animal and lined it up in the viewfinder of my digital camera. As I composed the picture, framing the hog between two prominent weed patches, the view suddenly blurred as the small LCD screen filled with black. I looked up in panic to see the animal grunting, rising, staring maliciously at me, its 32-inch tusks gleaming in the early morning sunlight. Saliva dripped from its ugly maw.
I noticed all this as I vaulted across the top of my car and slid into the seat. The door slammed shut as I accelerated.
Actually, all this flashed through my head while I watched the hog from the safety of my Explorer as I shot two photos from the driver's seat. Y'all didn't think I was that stupid, did you? Well, never mind. I'm not. That was one mean-looking brute and I would not have approached it armed with anything less than a bazooka, let alone a digital camera that would have done little more than record my final Kodak moment before I departed this world.
Apparently, I'm not alone. A recent news release from Texas A&M announces a feral hog workshop in Ozona Oct. 21. Roy Walston, Extension agent for Crockett County, says these wild hogs have moved into Crockett and surrounding counties. “They're a real nuisance,” he says. “They tear up fences and waterings, and sheep and goat ranchers are scared to death of them and rightly so.”
I also read an article in the Denton Record/Chronicle about the road hazard wild hogs cause. Deer, the report says, are bad enough and can cause substantial damage to a vehicle. I'll vouch for that. The only deer I've ever killed I got with a Chevy van and a Mazda pick-up. No trophies, though. The body shop cleared about $1,000 for each deceased deer, however.
But imagine the damage a low-slung 500-pound hog could cause. It would be reminiscent of running into a rock, a big one.
The report says hogs also may slip underneath a vehicle and cause it to roll. That's dangerous. About the only safeguard is to slow down and watch out. I saw no disabled vehicle near the hog on 380, but I assume some body shop and possibly a wrecker service got some business that day.
And, having observed the size of this particular porker, I can understand how a farmer or rancher would enter a field or pasture with more than a little trepidation with wild hogs about. Inside an SUV is close enough for me.
For further information on the workshop, contact the Texas Cooperative Extension Office in Crockett County at 325-392-2721.
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