Posted 07-22-2003 at 21:37:38
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I don't know what it is that's so attractive about getting in the truck and driving around in the dark half the night, but my kids love to do it. I have to admit, I'm a little partial to the activity myself, but kind of got out of the habit over the years.
There's something about driving around in the dark on back country roads, about twenty miles an hour, that gets my blood going. You never know what you're going to see. The city zoo doesn't have anything on a dark, quiet, dirt road, if you don't mind the late hours.
Now, just as a side note, you wonít catch me out there by myself. I am incurably scared of the dark. Alone. In groups Iím okay, the old íthereís safety in numbersí thing. But alone, Iím a lot more likely to do something stupid, like run headlong into a tree, than I ever would be in broad daylight.
My daughter Jill had a friend spend the night Saturday night. Karliís a city girl, born and raised, and proud of it. We don't see much of her as she says it's 'boring' out here. About midnight, we decided to go for a ride. Karli didnít get real excited, but she didnít refuse to go, either.
I was driving, the girls were in the back with Elvis, our rickety old mutt. Typically we drive down all the dirt roads until we get to the cemetery, and then we park. This graveyard is smack in the middle of a dozen orange groves and once you turn out the headlights and shut off the engine, the only sounds are that of the night creatures and your own breathing.
Once we got there I turned off the truck and got out and walked around to the back and shushed the girls. They had been giggling. Now all I could hear was Elvis's toenails ticking around on the floor of the truck bed.
"Elvis. Sit!" I whispered, and he did.
Then we heard it.
From the sounds of it, there was a bunch of them, and they did not appear to know that we were nearby. The road is made of hard pan, I guess you call it, so it was bright white in the moonlight. I squinted and finally made out about six or eight dark spots standing out in contrast to the road material.
"Hogs." I whispered. "See 'em?"
Karli, our visitor, sucked in her breath sharply. She's scared to death of domestic hogs, much less wild ones. Jillís been hog hunting, and knew not to look for 'hogs proper' but to use her ears and her instincts, and she found them almost immediately.
"Let's get 'em." She whispered, the whites of her eyes shining in the darkness.
"What the...what do you mean 'get 'em'? We don't have any hog dogs, no dog box, nothing, and I wouldnít know the first thing about tryiní to íget íemí What would we do with them if we DID get 'em?Ē
"I...I don't want to get them." This from Karli.
"Don't worry." I said. "We're not going to get 'em but we are going to try and get a little closer to them."
"Oh crap." This again from Karli.
Naturally by the time I got the truck started and moving, the hogs had begun to scatter and by the time we got to the point where they had been standing, the last one disappeared into some orange trees at the side of the road.
That's when Elvis surprised me. All of a sudden he went....
"Wooo----woooooof!!" and over the tailgate he went. He was gone so fast that I didn't even see which way he went.
"Oh CRAP!" Karli yelled. "What do we do now?"
"Well... we get him back."
"How long will THAT take?"
She was clearly nervous in the dark, in the middle of nowhere, in the middle of hogs.
"Well, we'll have to see."
Jill got out of the truck yelling..
"Elivs GIT your butt back in this truck, NOW!"
That usually works.
Nothing. No sound. No hogs, no Elvis, just the motor running. I turned it off and we sat quietly, listening.
He was gone about five minutes I guess. Five very long minutes for Karli. When he burst out of the grove and sailed up into the front seat of the truck she was positively giddy with relief.
"Oh thank GOD! Can we go now?"
I climbed in beside Elvis. He was panting so hard and so fast that I didn't think he'd ever catch his breath. I eased the truck up to about thirty miles an hour, mindful of Karli's need to get back to a well lighted area.
"Are you DUMB? What were you thinking chasing those hogs? " I hissed at him, and he hung his head, trying to look ashamed of himself. He knew he was in trouble but wasnít sure why and probably didnít really care anyway.
"Well, did you catch up with em"?" I asked. He swung his head around, tongue bobbing wildly in and out as he tried to get some air, and pasted these huge excited eyes on me. I would swear he was grinning.
"Was it scary?" I asked. I leaned in close and looked him in the eye. He was a lot braver than I was. He just whined. Then my final question.
"Did you have fun?"
I knew the answer to that, but had to ask. Now I was grinning. I hadnít planned his little impromptu excursion, but I really didnít begrudge him it, either. He gave me a big wet slobbery kiss on my chin and whined some more.
"I don't know what you were thinking, you never chased a hog in your life." Now I was back to fussing at him.
He just stared straight ahead and had no comment.
How could I get mad at him. I don't think he had any control over his sudden need to get up close and personal with those wild hogs. But I made a mental note to keep him at home next time we go out on our ride, or at the very least tied up in the truck so he can't take off. Regardless of what he might think, he is old, and he is rickety, and if he came up against a big boar he would lose, and I'm not prepared to risk it.
Aside from the fact that he has never been on a hog hunt, and wouldn't know what to do with a hog if he caught one, he rattles when he walks and can't run for longer than about sixty seconds before he starts to sound like he's breathing water. I have to hand it to him though, he does have the heart for it, even if he doesn't have any sense.