Friday, December 18, 2020

An Unlikely Warrior - Wild Boar in the Hood

--today we have a guest author and illustrator - Tom Vieth

Susan wrote a blog about getting lost in the woods.

I finally figured out why it is so easy to get lost in our local forest. It has to do with animal tracks and thorn bushes.  The forest is chock-a-bloc full of quadrupeds. There are  two species of deer— small ones with little prong horns and big ones that, oddly, bark with a sound like a dog with a bone stuck in his throat.  The forest is home to foxes, weasels, and badgers.  But there is an undisputed king of this jungle:  the sanglier, the wild boar.

Sanglier are all muscle. They weigh the same as a St. Bernard, but are much more dense. To eat wild boar meat you have to cook it for TWO DAYS.

These animals have created a vast network of well-worn paths.  Many of the paths seem like an  inviting, believable human trail. Go ahead, you tell yourself, it's a fine path. Until you hit a patch of thorn bush. Welcome to the gates of hell.

The thorn bushes aren’t really shrubs. They are wild blackberry vines, brandishing uncountable three meter-long branches that create, for humans, a horrifying mass of pain and suffering.

Once a vine has you,  you turn.  Turning causes the vine to spool you into other vines  The more you struggle the more deadly becomes the embrace. You are hit by a tsunami of panic that obliterates reason and any sense of direction.  You will do anything, move in any direction, to get untangled. Finally you are free!  And now, completely disoriented, you are lost.

An Unlikely Warrior

Every December the usual pattern of cold and rainy, rainy and cold is broken by a couple of days of improbable sunshine and mild temperatures. On the train route to Blahsville,  someone put in a hidden magical stop.

Susan, our neighbor, Marte, our deaf Cavalier King Charles, Daisy, and our ridiculously cute Cavalier/Chihuahua, Little Bit, had just entered the forest for a Sunday afternoon walk.  The dogs were off-leash. Susan was wearing an orange vest because hunters hunt on Sunday. 

The wooded valley we were in is deep and steep.  The path is cut into the sidewall, with a bunch of space going down through the brambles and trees below us and another rise of brambles and trees towering above us. We were moving along the path, fragments of  conversation tossed out to the rhythm of our footsteps. 

Suddenly we heard Little Bit cry out.  She was across the narrow valley.  The call she let out was not from a cute little half-breed.  It was a chilling siren wail.  Something was wrong.  We stopped to listen.  Gradually we heard the sound of twigs crackling and wood snapping.  It is the same sound you hear from a bonfire, louder than you would expect, it is an angry noise from an amassing of thousands of bits of destruction.  But there was no smoke. Then we saw the beasts.  Susan yelled, “Get behind a tree!” Four sanglier were pushing through the brambles below us. We know that in a disaster time seems to slow down. It seemed we were experiencing that when the snorting, thrashing beasts were coming upon us.  In fact it was like a movie in slow motion.  Parallel to our path, the panicked sanglier were off the track and running straight through the brambles.  The wild boars, a total of 800 pounds of brute strength, were surging through the thick mass of thorns like they were pushing against a wall of flood-borne debris.

Just as they got even with us, the wild boars turned to cross our path, searching for escape on the slope above. Three sanglier cut between us and Marte.  Marte was perhaps three meters from us.  From where we stood the beasts were nearly close enough to be in the pee-in-your-pants zone. As the last beast blasted by we saw what had spooked the wild boars. Yapping hysterically, Little Bit was on their heals and heading after them up the side of our valley! All I could think about were the scars I’ve seen on dogs that hunt sanglier.  And those were all big dogs without a trace of Chihuahua in their bloodlines.

Hoping to stop this madness, we were screaming and blowing the whistle.  Our cries were joined by the barking of a pack of hunt dogs. Over this was the noise of the hunters’ horns trying to call back their dogs. I headed up the slope after Little Bit.  A large deer bounded past me heading down hill.  I could hear the cacophony of barking dogs, indiscernible French from Susan and the equally indiscernible French of the hunters speaking in the local dialect. But no Little Bit.

A very crazy Daisy trying to launch herself after the sanglier.

This isn’t a movie, so the drama passed and everything eventually got straightened out.  The hunters gathered their dogs and moved on.  Marte and Susan were wearing down the adrenaline jolt by talking through what had just happened. From a direction in which I was not heading Little Bit returned, safe but completely bonkers with the excitement of her chase. 

As we settled down we began to think about how long it took the wild boars to push their way through the brambles.  It was long enough for me to catch Daisy, leash her and yank her out of harms way. It was Long enough for Susan to shout get behind a tree several times in English and then, remembering Marte, several times in French.  As it turns out it was not quite long enough for Marte to find a living tree.  The tree she first went to wouldn’t stop a sanglier because this tree was dead.

In the bear populated American West, forest rangers tell you that the best way to survive a charging bear is curl into a ball and take the first swipe.  If, through the ensuing great pain you can play dead, the bear might move on.  I asked Susan if her poise in shouting out “Get behind a tree!”  was what she had been told is the standard wild boar version of “Curl and take one!”  She said no, in the moment of chaos, it just came to her.  She’d be good in tornados, too.

We turned around and finished our walk by passing through the village and up along the ridge that runs through thousands of acres of wide open, sanglier-free farmland.

Last week I listed a few Blogs I go to to escape or to dream - how could I forget Corey Amaro's adventures into the brocante world and her beautiful, dreamy images of France. French la Vie

and here is our WARRIOR at peace


Mary Jo said...

So exciting. So scary. So chaotic. But you and the dogs prevailed. That chihuahua blood must be potent to illicit such a response in you KCC spaniel mix. I need to see a photo of Little Bit. Maybe those hunters need to take him/her along on the hunt to flush out the boar. Great story. Glad no one was hurt. Love the illustrations.

Katiebird said...

What a mind blowing fantastic read, frightening , but but it could only happen in our quiet small village in happy you were all safe.

Lynn McBride said...

Oh my Lord what a story! Those things are very dangerous, too. You were quite lucky to escape. From the sangliers and from the hunters! Loved your illustrations, Tom, , especially the Saint Bernard inside the sanglier. And thanks so much for the kind mention last week. Y’all have a very merry Christmas in spite of this catastrophe of a year.

Jeanie said...

This is absolutely harrowing. (And so well written!) I can only imagine how frightened I would be if this happened. I'm so glad all humans and dogs escaped safely. And I love the illustrations. What a tale!

Kathie K said...

Zowie, what a story. It was an exciting read. Thanks for sharing.