Pig Saga Part I: The farm girl’s got a gun
This farmgirl’s got a gun.
Before you freak out, allow me to explain why I have a gun: specifically, why I have a 30-30 Marlin capable of stopping animals that weigh more than I do dead in their tracks (and giving me a nasty kickback bruise if I’m not careful).
In the fall, our farm was attacked by pigs. Which means that in addition to the usual onslaught of sapsucking bugs, burrowing beetles, rabid rodents, damaging deer and berry-biting birds, we now have 250 pound creatures assaulting our produce — creatures whose brains and hearts are (anatomically speaking) remarkably similar to our own. Creatures whose cloven hoofs suggest some insinuation with Satan, creatures which possess an unusual snout that is, well, cute when it’s little but crazy creepy when it’s big.
They also have tusks. Never trust an animal with tusks. I have a fabulous walrus story I could tell you in which I, as a small child, was remotely attacked by a walrus at Sea World in the grossest of all possible ways. But I’ll save that for another day.
Personally, I also would never trust an animal that has corkscrew shaped genitals or 30 minute orgasms. The pig has both. I confess that I do not have any personal experience with either of those things — just a vague sense that they, like the pig’s nose, are somehow creepy and should be avoided at all costs. (Some people express jealousy at 30 minute orgasms. Really? I’d have to sleep for a week afterwards. Worth it? I think not.)
But let’s get out of the gutter and back into the field, where several months ago I shouldered a pink camouflage clad shotgun in defense of our income and property. This, mind you, was after we lost not one but two crops of sweet corn to the wild boars. Overnight, our corn crop went from a head-high forest to stubble. Every single corn plant had been severed less than a foot above the ground. Total devastation.
After the corn, it was the spinach bed. And then the onions. And then the arugula.
After hundreds of dollars’ worth of loss, I decided to take a stand, by which I mean drive over to the local gun shop and arm myself. Bring it, pigs! I’d be a gun-totin’ mountain mama, Farmerette of the Wild West. I’d be the city-bred liberal about to pull a Palin: girl with gun (and even better, brains) ready to shoot-em-up some beast and mount it on her wall.
Palin might be on to something. You do feel (and even look) a little hotter holding a gun. Suddenly you’re Bond girl and Tomb Raider rolled into one — granted, minus the giant lips and boobs — or maybe you’re the cool-as-cucumber scientist determined to stay above the fray but eventually to save the life of Brad Pitt/Ashton Kutcher/Vin Diesel you pick up the AK-47 and, after getting your white tank-top thoroughly soaked with water, discover a remarkable ability to shoot on target, something the enemy can never seem to do. Excellent marksmanship can make a man scary/creepy, but always makes a woman scary/hot.
Back in the real world, guns made my husband serious. In a manly Pa Wilder sort of way. When he carries them he is not husband but Husband, not some guy but Man. It is wrong to say that, walking quietly behind him on one of his nightly pig scouting missions, I was a little turned on?
* * * * *
“What if they come up behind us?” I asked, as Emmett and I crouched at the end of one of the vineyard rows. “Maybe we should hide behind the apple trees instead, against the fence.”
“Oh, don’t worry, they won’t,” Emmett said. “This isn’t their path. They’ve been traveling about 15 rows north of us.”
And so it was that I ended up squatting, gun in hand, in the shade of a grapevine with my barrel pointing at the orchard-pig-playground while Emmett hung back in the vineyard five feet behind me, allowing me my turn as Tomb Raider.
For a while, the world was all silence and big pig dreams. Then, a rustling; then a breathing. A shuffle behind me that was decidedly pig-like. I froze. Wheeled around, banging the barrel of the gun into the metal grape post with a loud CLANG.
In my head, I cursed. The pig didn’t seem to mind the noise. It stood five feet away from Emmett, quietly regarding him. Its ears — erect, but folded over in that way that says “scratch me” — looked exactly like our dog’s.
Clutching the useless gun, I was suddenly overwhelmed with pity for the thing, and glad — in an empty, aching sort of way — that my husband was inconveniently positioned between me, the gun, and the pig.
Meanwhile, the pig seemed mildly surprised to see two humans crouched between him and his windfall apples. He stared at Emmett as though awaiting an explanation. Unable to figure out what we were about, he turned around and sauntered away. Really, I do mean sauntered.
For a few seconds, we held the silence. Then:
“There was no way I could shoot,” I said, somewhat embarrassed I didn’t, but thinking I at least had a good excuse in not wanting to shoot my husband.
“Of course not, and it’s a good thing you didn’t,” Emmett said, probably thinking less of Sarah Palin than Dick Cheney.
* * * * *
Which brings me to the only win of the night: score one point for the wife. As we walked away I heard, unprompted, the three words that women the world over long to hear, “Well, you were right.”
* * * * *
We’ve been back many nights since to protect our fields, and the thrill of the chase is all but gone. Sitting with a gun in moonlight is one of the loneliest things in the world. Barrels are always cold and the safety must be off because of how well the simple sound of pushing it forward carries. If there is moonlight, there is no fog that would make the endeavor feel furtive, secretive — give it a sense of pregnant suspense that might counteract the cold.
Moonlight is naked. The creatures that live in it witness and judge. For all the times that I’ve been out walking after midnight I’ve seen owls, plenty of them, but it wasn’t until I was holding a gun that one wheeled above me and actually screamed. When you are out at night with a gun, you invite judgment.
* * * * *
Of course, the owl might have just been saying, “Damn, girl! Lookin’ hot with that piece.” I doubt it… The threat of death may be sexy, but dying never is.