“Good Lord Dovie … are you still up?! Do you know what time it is?!”
I told Jude, “I’m sorry, did I wake you?”
“Actually no … heard something outside. Stay inside while I check it out.”
With a disgusted sigh I said, “I heard. I think it’s something getting into the compost pile I started. I only threw the rotten stuff in there but I should have figured it would have been too much for the coons to resist.”
“That’s no coon,” Jude said shaking his head. “Coons will take the falls off the ground before they’ll root around for the same thing in the mulch of a compost pile. Too much like work when …” He was interrupted by a large crash. “Stay here,” he ordered seriously before taking his shotgun out of the wall rack and quietly stepping outside, stopping only long enough to let his eyes adjust to the dark.
I quickly turned the camp lamp off but then wound it a few times in case we needed light again.
“Dovie?” Paulie said gliding quietly down the back stairs.
“It’s ok … Jude has …”
Urgently he shook his head. “It’s hogs Dovie. I saw them in the moonlight. I counted five big ones and a bunch of little ones. I was watching when the piglets fell into this hole in the ground and now the mother hogs are all upset. And they’re big and ugly.”
“Oh my Lord!” I had an instantaneous flashback to Jack and Jay putting me and Paulie in a tree then Jack getting knocked around by a small hog when we were all little kids. Jay had gone screaming for help and Butch and Clewis had been the first ones to get there and had scared it with their four-wheelers making it run away. I vividly remembered the lecture we all got afterwards from Dad and Uncle Roe about how dangerous wild hogs could be. I grabbed the Glock out of the kitchen drawer. “Paulie, watch the kids.”
“Tiff is up there with them.”
“Then watch the door in case I have to come in quick. I …” A boom from the shotgun told me Jude had already found the hogs.
I ran out onto the back porch and realized just how bright the night was. That’s when I saw Jude making a limping run for safety. He wasn’t going to out run what was after him without help so I leapt over the stair rail to get a different angle and took two shot as the lead hog who then went tail over snout when the front end stopped too quick to send a message to the reverse end.
Jude fell on the bottom stair and then rolled and brought the shotgun up right before the other hog was on top of him, and made a mess of its face, blowing it nearly clean off.
“Jude! Paulie said he counted five of the big ones and a bunch of little ones.”
I didn’t have to explain what I was talking about as I was trying to drag him up the stairs. With pain in his voice he said, “I got the tusker then got surprised by a sow. They were all worked up because their piglets fell into that open drainage pipe that goes into the shed and can’t get out.”
I was only half way listening having gotten a glimpse of why he was limping. I said in a stricken whisper, “Oh Lord Jude … your leg.”
“Yeah, she caught me good trying to take a plug out. But if we got three and he saw five that means there are still two on the loose,” he said reloading his gun. “Where’d you get that cannon?” he asked when he saw I was rubbing my wrist.
Paulie called through the screen door, “Jude … Tiff said she can see one of the hogs at the front of the house and the other one marching back and forth behind the shed but that the one at the front of the house is acting crazy like crashing into trees and shaking its head and stuff.”
Jude groaned. “Sow at the shed can probably hear the piglets but not see them and its confusing her. She’ll rip into the shed door if I don’t stop her. Don’t know why the one in the front ...”
The hog in the front decided right at that moment to hit the porch. “Crap! That’s gonna take out a support.”
“Not if we stop it first!” He let me haul him up and then he held onto me as we made our way cautiously to the front on the wrap around porch just in time to see the hog charge up the stairs. Jude shoved me back and brought the shotgun into position and fired almost before I could get surprised that there was a hog on the porch. The sow ran several more steps before realizing she was dead and then fell over, bleeding … well … like a stuck pig; all over the place.
Jude muttered, “Must have hit an artery.” Then there was a huge crash out back and he swore before saying, “Help me get down the stairs.”
“I’ll come with you.”
“No you won’t. You’ll stay up here with the kids. No sense in both of us getting hurt.”
I wanted to stop him but he was already limping away and by the set of his shoulders I knew he meant every word he said. Out on the road I might have played at being an amazon warrior or something along those lines, but here it was really hard to stray from the role I’d been assigned since birth. I was “a girl” and I was “younger” therefore Jude was head of me in authority because he was “a guy” and he was “older” and therefore the one that took care of bad stuff because it was his place in the scheme of things to do so. Stereotypes maybe, but ones we were raised to fill and trained for so well they were hard to break out of.
Several times I nearly ran after him and did call out when the shotgun blasted not once but twice. “Jude!!”
He answered weakly, “I’m ok. Gotta be the mother of all momma hogs back here. I don’t think I’ve ever … *gasp* … seen a wild female sow this big before. Can you come …” He didn’t even finish before I was off the porch running in his direction, just barely remembering not to trip on the other two still lying in the yard.
I skittered to a stop. “Oh my Lord! That thing is freaking huge!” I said after finally getting a glimpse of what had been trying to destroy the small concrete block shed that the boys had built Dad to build a few summers before they went off to basic training. “Jude let me look at your leg.”
“No, I’ll clean it. I … I hate to ask Dovie but I … I need you to run to the house and get Dad. We need to get these hogs hung and drained while it is still cool and then get them down in the spring house until we can finish butchering them. I think he’ll agree that this comes before getting another twenty mowed.”
“At least let me get you up to the porch and into the kitchen,” I said.
“Just to the porch. I don’t want to make a mess in the house and I’ll need to keep watch to make sure the carcasses don’t draw other animals. You just need to hurry … and take your cannon in case … in case …” He shook his head. “I better go.”
“You better stay where I put you,” I snapped, my nerves on edge. “I swear you are such a … a … a he-man. I’m not made of spun sugar; I can run to the house. With all the shooting I’m surprised someone hasn’t heard already if they are sleeping with the windows open. But I swear, if you are really hurt and … and …”
“I’m fine Dovie, just go get Dad,” he told me, patting my shoulder. “The meat is more important than my leg right this second.”
I told Paulie to tell Tiff to keep the kids upstairs and that he needed to fetch whatever Jude needed. I grabbed a handful of bullets out of the drawer I’d had had the gun in and put them in my pocket before I lit off the porch like the hounds of Beelzebub were after me.