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By J. Cullen Browning
I was fishing one day with a couple of city fellows at an old ferry landing on the Sabine River and we started hearing off in the distance the sound of a loud-mouthed hawg squealing at irregular intervals.
This went on for several minutes and each outcry of the troubled animal was louder than the last. It was moving toward us and the knowledge of this made my companions a little nervous.
Finally, one of them spoke up to ask, "What the dickens do you suppose is wrong with that pig?"
"It ain't no pig," I replied, "It's a genuwine, full-growed East Texas piney woods rooter. And as you will observe momentarily, it is sometimes quite properly referred to as a razorback."
"I would guess," I added, "that the problem causing the commotion is the hawg's stubborn refusal to stick to the straight and narrow path."
Both of my companions looked at me as though they suspected I was beginning to be a little teched by the heat. Then one of them said, "Go ahead and tell us about it. We're aware that you know these woods well enough to give some kind of a reason for any particular woodpecker gnawing at any particular tree."
I ignored the sarcasm and went right into an educated guess as to the reason that hawg was making such a fuss. "It's being taken point-to-point along the old ferry road by a couple of hawg dawg," I explained.
"Hog dogs!" exclaimed on the city fellows. "Now I've heard of hound dogs, sheep dogs, coon dogs, bird dogs, lap dogs, and a lot of other kinds. But I've never heard of hog dogs and I've got a feeling you're pulling our legs for sure this time."
"Well," I said, I aint pullin' your leg and in about two shakes of a puppy's tail you're going to see a pair of East Texas hawg dawgs bring that old razorback down that bluff, take it across the river, and herd it on down the ferry road on the other side."
Sure enough, they did. Down the incline to the river came a battle-scarred boar with a snout suitable for extracting bugs from the bottom of a discarded beer bottle. It had a backbone that could have been used to saw firewood and a two-foot tail with a ball of cockleburrs knotted up in the hair on the end.
On each side of the boar was a dawg, both males. One appeared to be a mixture of all 14 varieties of hound with a few slices of bulldog thrown in for good measure. The other showed evidence that at one time or another an Airedale had trifled around in that vicinity.
As the three animals neared the water's edge, the dawgs gave a fast moving demonstration of the manner in which they earned their keep.
The hawg made a lunge downstream. As it did, the dawg on that flank hit the hawg broadside with his body just as the other dawg clamped a toothy half-nelson on the razorback's nearest ear.
The hawg, squealing at the top of its lungs, tried to reverse the field. When it did, the upstream dawg slammed into the bacon and the other one sat back with a firm grip on the ear closest to him. The hawg went back to the river, and started swimming across with a dawg paddling along on either side.
About that time, a barefooted citizen of around middle age, with an old squirrel rifle on his shoulder, came ambling down the bluff.
"Mornin'," he greeted us as he walked up to where we were fishing, sat down on the sand, pulled off a floppy straw hat, and started fanning himself with it.
"Mornin'," I responded. Then I asked, "Them your dawgs?"
"Yep," he answered, "Good'uns, too. But I shore wish that chicken-eatin' boar of mine would get over the notion the acorns is any thicker and the sows any purtier on this side of the river than on his. I don't like to work them dawgs in this hot weather."
My two companions just sat there open-mouthed like they were having
|trouble believing what they were seeing.
Neither said a word before the hawg dawgs started
adversary. As they did, the owner of the three animals,
still seated near us, yelled, "Take 'im home, boys.
I'll be along in a minute."
The four-footed entourage disappeared from view.
Our visitor put his hat back on. Then he extracted a small can of snuff from a pocket of his sweaty shirt, pulled down his lower lip, and took a generous helping of rest powder. While returning the can to the pocket, and with his mouth tightly closed, he made some sounds that I translated as, "Ketchin' anything?
I said no, and after vigorously disposing of the first returns from his dip of snuff with disastrous results to a top-water minnow swimming about six feet away, the hawg dawg man spoke again.
"I don't see how you 'spect to," he said, "They's a full moon these nights. Anybody knows you can't ketch no catfish or gou when they's a full moon.
There was a grunt from one of my companions and a snort from the other. I changed the subject by saying to the visitor, "These characters never heard of a hawg dawg before. How about enlightening them a little on the subject?"
He scored a near miss on the bobber of my fishing line before responding to the inquiry. Then he said, "Y'see, this here's open range. They's lotsa timber and the bresh is thick as a coon's hair.
"Some of the canebrakes would be tough goin' for a swamp rabbit. Y'gotta have a dawg or two as knows how to handle 'em if you're gonna do any good raisin' hawgs in this neck of the woods."
One of the city fellows interrupted with the thought that it appeared to him one would need a special breed of dawg for that kind of work. "And that pair of yours are about as mismatched as two dogs can be," he said.
The dawg man saturated a butterfly which had made the mistake of landing at the water's edge nearby for a drink. Then he continued, "They is a special breed. But they don't hafta look alike. They got to be mostly hound to have the nose of huntin' hawgs. They also got to be mixed up to have the guts to handle them razorbacks."
He paused and turned an ear for a moment in the direction in which the dawgs and their charge had been traveling. There was a faint noise of a whole herd of hawgs in a chorus of their several vocal sounds. "They's got 'im there," reported our visitor, then continued with his commentary:
"Come markin' time," he said, "a fellow would be a dern fool to try and fix up a bunch of pigs, if he could fine 'em in the first place, 'thout no dawgs to ketch 'em and to keep the sows fought off while the pigs is being' took care of.
"The dawgs is gotta have a soft mouth for the pigs to keep from killing 'em and a hard mouth for the old hawgs to keep from gettin' killed theirselves."
Then he continued," Come killin' time, you'd walk yore legs off 'thout finding a hawg if you didn't have a dawg to track 'em down."
"Yessir," he went on, "anybody as runs hawgs on this here range had better have 'im a good hawg dawg or two. Better two."
At that, he pulled up the leg of his faded overalls and bared a long. ugly scar below the knee. "See this?" he asked. "I got it when I was markin' pigs one time with one dawg. He was holdin' off the sow that had the litter and another old sow come outta the bushes and grabbled holda me. Had to cut 'er throat with my knife to get 'er loose from me."
With this he arose, announced that he'd better be moseyin' along, and waded off into the river without bothering to remove any of his clothes. When he reached a point where he had to swim, he propelled himself with one arm and held the rifle above water with the other.
The two city fellows sat there staring out over the river as though they had just seen a good-looking woman swim across without any clothes on.
Finally, one of them broke the silence. "Well I'll be darned," he exclaimed, "Hot dogs! Now I've seen everything.
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