Thursday, February 01, 2007

Pork (7)

Previous Chapter

In 2005 David Paton, good friend, mentor, example, and inspiration died after experiencing an aggressive cancer. I flew to New Zealand to attend his funeral. On the flight back I started writing some notes that were intended to capture something of what David meant to me. Taking a deep breath I thought I would share them more widely here on this blog. They are less coherent than I would like but they tell a story of what a difference one life, honestly lived, can make to those around them. These notes are offered up in 15 chapters which I will post out over the next few weeks. And in order that you can put a face to a name, here he is, on the Stewart Island ferry, catching some "zeds". Or "zees" depending on what part of the world you hail from.

I digressed onto weapons. But I wanted to also note that many memories of being at David’s relate to pigs. Indeed, when visiting David and his family in 2001 we pulled into his yard and I could only laugh out loud for there was a freshly slaughtered wild pig lying on the back of his truck. I was delighted that things had not changed in the intervening years. In 1981 good friend Steven, his brother Ken and I spent three days looking for pigs. Not one did us the courtesy of letting us sight them, despite plenty of spoor. David would drop anything to hunt pigs but after three days he had had enough and insisted we help him fix a fence in compensation for the three days “fun” he had provided. We were on holidays and were happy to oblige. We loaded up a dangerously precarious load of posts on the back of the Landcruiser, perched Ken and half a dozen dogs on top and proceeded to head up the property. After a short drive we were easing the vehicle into a creek bed, being careful not to dislodge Ken or the posts. The cry “pig” was made by Ken at about the same moment we in the cab saw a large sow and plenty of piglets heading into the tussock. Instantly the truck was slammed into the creek, ploughed out the other side and across the bank onto a track where we caught a glimpse of the sow vanishing up another bank into more tussock. She had been separated from her piglets and was squealing in rage. Steve and I tumbled out of the cab and I loosed of a quick shot which kicked up sand between her legs and then she was gone. David bellowed out “don’t shoot” as he took off after the piglets and Steve and I hurried after the dogs that were chasing the sow. I shouldered the .303 and caught up with sow and dogs, one each of the latter hanging off each of her ears. She had backed herself into a bank and was doing her best to dislodge the dogs. After a quick consult about why David might not want her shot I walked behind her and picked up her back legs, the very random and ill-conceived plan being to “wheelbarrow” her back to the truck. But her kicking quickly tired me out and I had only enraged her some more. So Steve stepped in, stood beside me and took one of the legs. At which point her left ear detached. Without the counterbalancing effect of a dog attached to each side of her head she set of after us, turning tightly to the left and trying to bite us. So we pirouetted out of her way as best we could, turning in seeming ever decreasing circles. The dogs got even more excited, she screamed blue murder and we rapidly tired – and wondered how on earth we were going to extract ourselves out of this one.

After what seemed like an eternity of madness and with her jaws snapped at us from only inches away David crested the ridge, paused and demanded to know what on earth we were doing. We were too breathless to explain and in any event were not going to take our eye off this sow from hell. He wanted to know why I did not just shoot her?!! Striding over he pulled a skinning knife from somewhere (he was good at that) and asked us to roll her onto her back. We flipped her quite easily and in a flash he had her jugular cut and she bled out in a few minutes. Once she had whimpered and gurgled to a stop David explained that his instruction to “not shoot” was made only out of concern that I might have hit one of his dogs. Our mute staring reply was born out of the dangerous pointlessness of the madness we had just put ourselves through. He just laughed and suggested we get back to the truck to see how Ken was.

As it turned out we had completely forgotten about Ken. Somehow he had survived the launch through the creek and along the track but all posts except for those immediately lying on the deck of the truck had been thrown out such was the violence of the traverse. After using a couple of the posts to float the sow in a nearby dam (it was a hot day and this was one way to keep her cool while we worked on the fence) we spent the next thirty minutes backtracking and recovering the scattered posts. I never did figure out how Ken had managed to stay on the back of that bucking tray.


Saia said...

Just passing through, hope you dont mind, wanting to make new aquaintances... I'll have to stop back by...

Bhalla saab said...

I would like to exchange links with your blog.
I am already linking to you and if agreeable pls add a link to my blog and let me know.


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