The Hog Hunt That Wasn’t: Part 4

The three of us got on the road early and arrived in Texas the next day. We were told by the ranch owner before we left home that the easiest place to get the requisite hunting licenses for our group was at Wal-Mart of course. He directed us to the closest one to the ranch, also the only one for hours in any direction. We got to the Wal-Mart in the afternoon, tired and road weary, only to find that the license machine in the sporting goods section was broken and that we could not get our licenses there. We were at a loss for words. Where could we get them?! None of the Wal-Mart employees knew, or probably cared. It seemed to be a dead end for us. Luckily, a customer heard our woes and piped up. “I think you can get them at the local state park, they have a ranger station there and sell hunting licenses sometimes.” We perked up and asked for more details. I was able to Google the station and found that it was only a few miles from where we stood. We rushed to the truck and sped off to the station. We arrived at the park and found a British expat working the counter of the station. She sold us the licenses and sent us off with a “Cheerio!”

With all of the necessary stuff we had to do done, we were able to get to the ranch, go through “Orientation”, and get set up in the tiny cabin/bunkhouse by mid afternoon. The guide for our hunt explained that each hunter would set up in a tree stand blind overlooking a feeder that would dump bait at certain times during the day. All of the shooting ranges were less than 75 yards, and were clear of brush. All a person had to do was sit and wait for a pig to come along at supper time. Too easy!

I should mention that at this point in our trip, we were salivating with blood lust for hogs. We had bets going for who would shoot the most pigs, the biggest pig, etc. The guide gave us a map, walkie-talkies, spotlights for night time, answered all of our questions, showed us the stands and where the most activity was, and the most recent kills were, and then said to call him when we shoot a hog. He then asked us if we were ready to go hunting. We didn’t need any prompting. We were ready.

And then it began to rain.

We didn’t mind the rain at first; we soldiered through it. But then it wouldn’t quit raining. It rained a steady drizzle everyday we were in Texas. We would walk to our blinds, set up, and wait for all the hogs to come running out of the forest for us to shoot. The only problem was they didn’t come in droves. They didn’t come in pairs. They never came. So now we were wet and hog-less. The peculiar thing was the feeders that went off at certain times during the day did their jobs fantastically. When they would dump their bait, all sorts of critters would come scampering out of the forest to have some lunch. We saw tons of different game birds, squirrels, coyotes, tiny Texas deer, I even saw a bobcat one day. No pigs.

At the end of the hunting day, we would trudge back to the bunkhouse, sopping wet, covered in red mud, cold, frustrated, and hungry. We would strip out of our wet clothes, put some logs in the fireplace, and pull out classic deer camp fare: MREs, Vienna Sausages, PopTarts, and soda pop. We would huddle around the tiny television in the cabin that was (surprisingly) hooked up to cable, and watch a weekend marathon of this television show on Comedy Central called “Impractical Jokers”. The little cabin rocked with our laughter for hours into the night. Then we would all pass out from exhaustion,(or starchy, sugary, carbohydrates, I’m not sure which) wake up early in the morning, and go out and do it all over again the next day.

When the day came to leave, we quietly packed up our gear, tipped our guide, and left for home. We hadn’t seen a single pig, but that was okay. As I reflected on the trip during the long drive home I found myself wanting it to not end. I knew that after today it was over and we’d all slip back into our normal lives again. Our family was very close, but once all of us kids moved out, got jobs, and married, it got harder and harder to stay in touch, and coordinate schedules where we all could be together. So to be able to spend a weekend with my dad and my brother where we stunk, slept, ate, shared in frustrations, and laughed together was way better than finding “adventure”.

 

We found family.

 

And Larry…I found Larry.

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The Hog Hunt That Wasn’t: Part 3

It was way too late in the day to drive straight to Texas, so we decided to stop in Fort Wayne, Arkansas for the night. I got us a room at this fleabag motel that was dirt cheap and right off the interstate, and as such, shared a parking lot with a liquor store, a pawn shop, and a McDonalds. The room had all the latest styling and accouterments you could hope to find: dull semi stained carpet, a tv bolted to the wall, Wi-Fi was 5 bucks a night extra, towels that smelled of smoke. And most importantly two twin beds with three grown men abiding in them. You do the math. We decided that Dad would get his own bed, and that my brother and I would share the other one.

My brother and I were hungry so we walked to the McDonalds across the way to grab some dinner to go, carrying concealed of course. My brother had a very conventional CCW rig, a .380 ACP single stack pocket pistol in an inside the waistband holster. I, on the other hand, was trying to pull double duty with mine. My weapon of choice was an N-Frame Smith and Wesson .357 Magnum with a 6 ½ inch barrel in an original Smith and Wesson shoulder holster. It laid comfortably under my armpit and against my rib cage, and was much easier to conceal that I had imagined, with a coat on of course. I figured that it would work equally well on pigs as other critters. Plus, I felt a little like Det. Harry Callahan. Luckily, we encountered no mischief and we got back to our room unscathed with a big box of chicken nuggets and soft drinks in tow.

We ate dinner by the soft glow of the neon lights at the liquor store while watching a very strange Japanese language sci-fi film. After the film ended we went to sleep. Correction. My brother and my dad went to sleep. I spent a good portion of the night elbowing my brother to stay on his side, stop snoring, and to prevent him from spooning with me. The combination of the late night junk food dinner, strange dreams in Japanese, and my brother’s attempt to try and score with me did not lend itself to a good nights rest.

The Hog Hunt That Wasn’t: Part 2

The night of the 18th of December it was a balmy 48 degrees and dry; lovely tanning weather here in the Midwest during wintertime. The local news station warned that a winter storm warning was issued for Northern Kansas and Missouri. I thought little of it as my mind was pre-occupied with things of a more important matter. When I went to sleep that night I was ready for 4:00 AM, I had all my gear packed and laid out neatly so that there would be no waste of time in the morning.

When my alarm went off that morning, I was awake and out of the bedroom before the second beep. I quickly showered and dressed. I hurried outside to start my diesel pickup truck, and when I opened the door I looked out into a sea of white. During the night while we slept, the temperature dropped to about 32 degrees and it began to snow gently. The temperature then climbed to about 33 or 34 degrees and it quit snowing and melted all that had settled on the ground. The temperature then dropped to about 18 degrees, turning all of the water on the ground into a thin sheen of ice, and then dumped almost ten inches of snow in about six hours on top of it. All of this became very apparent as I began to drive.

As soon as I was packed, I kissed my wife goodbye and told her it had snowed a little during the night. She smiled sleepily and went back to dreamland. I went back outside, locked my hubs in four-wheel drive, and let the old turbo-diesel crawl out of the driveway. As soon as I got to the junction of the county road and the highway, I shifted the transfer case out of 4×4 and attempted to get onto the highway, which hadn’t been bladed. The resulting donuts prompted me to put it back in 4×4. Luckily, there was no one to see me perform my tricks. As soon as I got up to about 40-45 mph on the slick highway, I could feel the truck start to skid and slip, so I ensured that I stayed under 40. At about this time, the heavens proceeded to dump more snow on top of the already Arctic-like conditions.

I should point out the drive to my parents house is about an hour and a half from my place when you are driving the speed limit of 65mph. As I was driving at about 38-40 mph, I knew we weren’t going to be able to leave at the scheduled time. First wrench thrown. I simply gritted my teeth, turned up the heat and the radio, and drove on through the snow.

As I drove by some of the bigger towns, traffic, and accidents, increased. There were cars driving way too fast, and some way too slow, both of which are equally dangerous when the roads are as badly iced and snow covered as they were. There were dozens of emergency vehicles and snow plow trucks along the highway responding as fast as they could to the amount of motorists in the ditches and snow on the road. I particularly remember seeing a red Audi, a very rare car in these parts, blaze past me at what was probably too fast for good road conditions let alone these conditions. About ten minutes later down the road, I could see headlights pointing up towards the sky where a car had run off the road into a very deep creek bed. I looked to see if it was really bad. My headlights caught a glimpse of red, European styling, and a figure in a long coat with their hand to their ear, presumably calling for help on a cellphone. It was too dangerous for me to pull over, and I was somewhat satisfied with that outcome anyways, so I drove on.

As I got past the towns and into the country, the number of accidents decreased, but the danger of driving did not. After I had driven about an hour, I saw a figure walking on the shoulder. It was still dark out, so I slowed down a bit and positively identified a person trudging through the snow on the shoulder. At this point, I couldn’t take it much more. I pulled over as safely as I could manage and turned my hazards on. I could see the figure begin to trot over to my truck. I had never picked up a hitchhiker before. All the stories one hears about picking up hitchhikers flashed in my head. Well, I reasoned, this person was more likely a stranded motorist and not a murderous hitchhiker, considering the circumstances. Plus, I was well heeled at the time, so if this person wanted to play dirty, I was up for a game anyways. My thoughts were interrupted when the cab door opened and a red faced, thin man in a snow covered windbreaker jacket, blue jeans, and tennis shoes hopped up and sat in the passenger seat. He stuttered out the words “Thanks, man” and shook hands with me. Ice cold hands. I got back on the highway and began my 40mph trudge again. After “Larry” had warmed up and stopped shivering, I asked him where he was going. He said he lived in a town that I was going to be driving through, so that was pretty lucky. The only catch was that town was twenty miles away. I asked him where he came from, and he said he had gotten off of work at midnight in the previous town, but couldn’t get his car unstuck, so he just started walking. Larry had been out in this dangerous weather for more than five hours and had walked almost twenty miles when I had picked him up and still had twenty to go! Larry could have very well died from exposure if I had not put aside my personal qualms and pulled over to pick him up. We didn’t really talk after that. We just drove and listened to the radio. After we got to the town where Larry lived, I dropped him off at his house, shook his now warm hand and drove away.

It was almost 9 in the morning before I got to my parents house, and the weather showed no sign of stopping. The roads were even worse now, as it was warming up and the snow was melting again. It was 1pm before we deemed it safe to load up in my dad’s truck and hit the road again for Texas. Ironically enough, once we had drove for thirty minutes south, there had been very little snowfall at all and the roads were completely clear.