Quarry treed

Pearl’s blond hair disguises the grey, but I know it’s there and the scar across her right eye is more befitting a pirate than a lady. The boys couldn’t care less, they’re not interested in her hair nor her face. They don’t care her wasp-waist is no more and her nipples are scarred and uneven. They only care about what’s under her tail.

She knows she’s hot property and she’s not too proud to advertise the fact. She urinates more often than usual, leaving love notes for all who follow. She acknowledges the boy’s songs of adoration and lust. Their howls are spontaneous and mournful, and, apparently, contagious too, inciting vocalisation from neighbouring males near and far.

Mint has been sharing quarters with Pearl to keep her company, and this morning I’m hunting them together too. Teenager and grandmother – both fat and unfit – as is their human.

I wasn’t expecting fresh pig sign at Spot X. I was hoping for an ‘exercise only’ kinda pig hunt but the freshly turned soil on the flats is only lightly silvered with frost and the prints in the soil indicate a porker of some size. My initial goal is altered – exercise now becomes a distant second to a prime goal of pork for the fork.

So now we pig hunt with real enthusiasm. Grandmother dog and grandmother human hurriedly following every lead till it ends dead. Excitement wanes but logic comes hot on its heels with an inspection of every different sun-struck knoll on this frosty winter morning.

There’s nought to reward our effort, enthusiasm and logic have both failed us. Years of experience and memory are all we have left to guide us.

High above the flats on a boney ridge where a chilly wind always blows and the sun never shines, there is a pig camp. It is well hidden amongst a matrix of fallen timbers and snow-stunted scrub. The surroundings are almost impenetrable, no approach goes undetected.

So, we three venturers there. We tread quietly. There is no fresh pig sign to encourage us, just black baubles of turds long dry and deteriorating. There are deer beds, the tang of hind urine and moulted tufts of hair of much intrigue to Mint. Why do they camp here? There is no food, no warmth, just isolation and ice.

I mentally note a place where I shall quit this nonsense of careful clambering and crawling. A place where a well-worn game trail through a low saddle will make extricating ourselves from this shite just a little easier but, just before I get there, Pearl strikes up a bail.

Mint arrives at the scene and she and her grandmother decide they’re up for a rumble in the jungle. The scrub shakes and the crisscrossed timbers break. There is growling and grunting and panting. The pig is big, a boar I presume, and drags the girls towards a steep downhill escape route.

Two keen dogs, both holding tight and braking hard are initially a match for the big blue grunter, but eventually the scales tip and it gains some momentum. Down they go, hooves and claws carving signatures into the soil, descending much faster than I can slip and slide.

In a water-scoured gutter with a ‘Trump-like sweepover’ of blackberry and lawyer vines the trio come to a halt. I wish they’d give up holding and bail, it would make life much easier for us all. Alas the girls are being staunch today, an ear each and growling ferociously. Buggar.

The downhill slide has come to a complete halt, time to put the rifle down and get under the blackberry and amongst the action.

That’s when all is revealed. Down here, on a sheer dirt bank overgrown with native ferns and shrubs, the pig has become lodged between two strong stems – quarry treed!

The pig is held fast, no going forwards and no going back – it cannot move – I cannot move it. I cannot stick it in the heart either as there is a tree against either side of its chest and there’s no hope of a brisket stick and the pointy end of the pig is very agitated. What to do?

That’s when I recall Mama’s way. When she was clutched in a loving embrace with some big hairy Boris that didn’t want to play dead, Mum would sometimes slip her knife blade into the soft spot between ear and jawbone, piercing the jugular. Voila – the solution – and it works as effectively today as it did back then.

The now-dead pig, not a boar but a very large and fat sow, then had me grunting and gasping as I heaved and pulled to get it down from its roost. What a battle it was and that was just the start of it. From here to anywhere open and kind was a mission and one that I’d have to undertake alone, with many pauses and much loud inhalation of oxygen.

Eventually we all literally tumbled out the bottom of the catchment – dirt, debris, gear and grey hair – grandmother dog and grandmother human well and truly exercised – a spectacular eating pig to reward our efforts and a fond memory revisited of a woman who broke the mould in so many respects. Thanks Mum.

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