high desert sketches
The history and politics of feral hogs
By GEORGE A. COVINGTON
Russia has recently been blamed for a myriad of malevolent misdeeds. Some blame them for President Tweet’s victory, others blame them for under the table business deals with the prez, while the French blame them for interfering in their presidential elections.
I will now expose Russia’s dire deeds among the cactus and mesquite trees of West Texas. My story begins in the 1960s, when two sharp businessmen of the High Desert decided to add another animal to their game list. They decided the koala bear was too cute, the kangaroo looked too much like some of the girls they picked up in dark Marfa bars, and Smokey the Bear closed that avenue of exploration. In the 1960s, all good Americans hated the Russian communists, atheists, perverts, so they imported wild Russian boars. Their thinking was that being dark-furred pigs they would make easy targets for would-be hunters stoked on booze. They were very wrong. Russian boars are fast, clever, and ferocious if cornered, and the businessmen never seemed to realize that West Texas has few corners. The boars turned out to be smarter than the hunters and in the last 50 years have proliferated.
As my avid readers know, every few years I find it necessary to warn West Texas about the impending danger from the onslaught of feral hogs. I know not to expect any support from a Secretary of the Agriculture in Washington, D.C., or the Agriculture Commissioner in Austin because their limited grasp of all things agriculture would make them believe that the term feral hog was probably a nephew of Boss Hogg from the Dukes of Hazard.
Experts estimate there are more than six million feral hogs across the U.S.A. and more than three and a half million in Texas. These philandering porkers breed at the prodigious rate of two litters a year with up to a dozen piglets per litter. A knowledgeable feral “hogologist” (you can get a Ph.D for almost anything these days) tell us that we would have to eradicate 70 percent to 80 percent of the critters every year just to keep in check the present population.
Alpine residents have been lulled into a false sense of security because of the few sightings within city limits. I discovered recently that one rancher only a few miles south of Alpine took to the skies in a helicopter and shot 168 plundering porkers. A nature-cam placed just north of Alpine’s Carpenter residential addition captured more than a dozen feral hogs in one frame.
Like the Comanche Raiders of Old, I fear these pachyderm size pigs have designs on Alpine and the surrounding villages. These bothersome bundles of bacon have been seen on numerous ranches and in the pecan groves between Marfa and Alpine and in the bucolic suburban of Sunny Glenn.
These horrible hogs are clever, devious, and are interested only in their own survival. These traits are an obvious path toward politics or law school. As I have stated in the past, I don’t think New Jersey Governor Chris Christie would have gotten elected to public office if people had noticed he did not have opposable thumbs.
The pigs maybe crafty enough to forgo a direct invasion in favor on infiltration. It is a well-known fact that they have become nocturnal hunters and feeders. Readers beware! I predict their first attempts on our security will be Alpine’s bars. The next time you visit Harry’s Tinaja, the Old Crystal Bar, or the Railroad Blues, check out those guys at the next table: do they have opposable thumbs? Don’t let looks deceive you. Back in my seeing days, I remember a number of Alpine residents who had a hoggish look and manners. They can sometimes be found in Alpine and Terlingua bars and later got elected to public offices. Beware of the hogs among us!!
George A. Covington has worked in the fields of law, education, journalism and disability rights. He considers himself retired from every one of them with the possible exception of journalism. He is a graduate of the University of Texas schools of journalism and law. He moved to West Texas – Alpine – in 1997 after a 20-year career in Washington, D.C. where he once served on the staff of the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives (Democrat) and shortly thereafter served as Special Assistant to the Vice President of the United States (Republican) 1989-93.