“I do not like Indiana. I do not like the weather or the politics or the terrain. Listen, Bubbles, when your Mom comes home we’re going to have a family council. All three of us and the only item on the agenda is, should we get the hell out of Indiana ASAP. Are you with me? Can I count on your vote? Alright! I knew you had my back.”
Our eight-month-old daughter’s on her stomach in her playpen blowing spit bubbles which I translate into, “Damn straight. Time to boogie on down the lane. You got my vote, Dad.”
We both turn in the direction of the horn honking and the sound of a robust diesel engine. I step outside our screened-in porch and wave the truck over.
Strapped across the hood of the black Ford is the biggest dam wild pig I have ever seen.
Philip Burns stops the truck right in front of me and hops out grinning like he just won the lottery. “About three-hundred-fifty pounds, I think, give or take a pound or two.”
“Holy shit! That’s a lot of bacon. Look at the tusk. They must be three inches long. Philip, is this the biggest you ever shot?”
“You got that right. A mean monster too. He charged me, came right at me full tilt. Five shots to stop him. I couldn’t get an angle on him until the last shot.”
“Hey, you got to take a picture of me and Bubbles with him.” I dash back on the porch, scoop up my daughter and grab my cell phone.
After the picture we sit on the porch, drinking beer and admiring the porcine behemoth.
“So, developers pay you a one-hundred dollar bounty a pig even for the trophy one’s like this?”
“Yeah, but this one will get me new business. I’ll ride to Danville and get a picture in the local paper, and it’ll probably get picked up by the Indianapolis Star. Todd, this is big for me.”
“To the big time.” I raise my bottle in a toast.
“Hear, hear and if it weren’t for you and the future land barons out here with their three-acre lots, I would not be hunting out here at all. Here’s to upscale housing developments.”
Long, brown Simone steps out of the house onto the porch, kicks off her heels, scoops up Bubbles, waves to Philip, and points at me. “Todd, you lazy bum. I bet you didn’t write ten words today. Right Bubbles? You got one lazy dad. I’m sorry about that, baby.”
“Simone, go look at the hood ornament on Philip’s truck.”
There’s more picture taking and celebrating. Philip gets on the road to Danville. Bubbles and Simone give me high marks on dinner, especially, my lasagna.
Later, in bed, I turn to my spouse. “Baby, you look tired. You’ve been looking stressed for the last few days. What’s up?”
My wife puts her notebook computer on the nightstand. “You may be right. We may not fit in here in Indiana. Oh, please, don’t look so happy. We’re stuck here.”
“Simone, we’re not stuck here in the only home in this slow developing development. I can do my research anywhere there’s internet access, and you know Biologic would love to have you back.”
“Everything, everything’s coming undone. United Chemical has had nothing but problems here. The new plant’s still not fully online. We’re six months behind schedule.”
“So, that’s not your problem. Your Biotech Research unit is OK, right?”
Simone rolls her eyes and shakes her head. “Nothing is going as I planned. Everything’s going to shit. To pig shit.”
“I thought your research was going great guns—“
“Me too until many of our cultures started going bad, contaminated. And last night wild hogs got into our test garden—“
“Wait, wait, you have a ten-foot electrified fence around your garden, and the garden is inside the six-foot, razor wire-topped facility fence. How did—“
“They tunneled under the fences. Destroyed everything, just ripped it all apart. Baby, they urinated and defecated on our crops.”
“What? Why didn’t you bring that up to Philip? He might have been able to help.”
She grabs my hand and moves closer to me. “Because we’re keeping this confidential. You can’t tell Philip or anyone about this.”
“Why? Wild pigs are keeping the developer from building. Everyone knows about the pig problems.”
“Yes, but not our particular pig problem. These gourmet swine destroyed everything, but as far as we can tell they didn’t eat any of our crops. None at all.”
“No way. Philip says those feral pigs are voracious and always eating or looking for food.”
“Yes, he and all the so called experts say that. None of them can explain this atypical pig behavior. You see our problem?”
“No. I don’t.”
“Look, Professor, our test garden contains crops grown with our latest fertilizers. We have put tens of millions of dollars into developing these products.” Simone lowers her voice to a harsh whisper. “What does it say about our product if wild pigs, nature’s gluttons, won’t eat crops grown with them?”
I scratch my chin and nod. “Maybe the hogs were providing you better fertilizer.”
“Don’t you go there! You see what the papers and our competitors would make of this, this fiasco. I don’t need you—“
“OK, so what’re you going to do? Are you going to replant?”
“I don’t know. Todd, I’m… This job is wearing me down.”
I take her in my arms and hold her close.
“Honey, can we just cuddle? I’m exhausted.”
“Of course.” I always say that, and I always hope for more than cuddling and most of the time my hopes are rewarded, but not this night.
“Bubbles, quit nagging. I’m just looking at this video on wild hogs. They’re some smart ass critters. Oh, don’t look so nervous they avoid people most of the time, almost all of the time unless you come between a sow and her piglets.” I show Bubbles the picture of the baby pigs on my laptop. “Kind of cute, huh?”
We are both startled by a long horn blast from Philip’s truck as it barrels toward our porch way too fast. Philip breaks at the last minute, and the big truck slides to a stop inches from our porch steps.
I fly down the steps to the driver’s door as Philip fumbles with the door latch. As the door opens, Philip tumbles out. I catch him, and I see the blood on his left leg and pooling on the seat and floorboard.
“Jesus Christ, man, what happened?”
“Pig… pig… ambush.”
I lay him on the ground and examine his bleeding leg. He has a five-inch long wound on the back of his thigh. It appears to be over an inch deep.
I improvise with sanitary napkins and duct tape for bandages and bindings. The nearest clinic is thirty minutes away, but United Chemical is ten minutes away, and they have a fully staffed, ten-bed hospital on their campus.
“He’s going to be fine. I stitched him up and gave him a mild sedative. I topped off his blood with a transfusion and started him on antibiotics.” Dr. Kuchar guides me away from Philips bed. “Professor Hall, he kept mumbling about pigs ambushing him. Do you know what that’s all about?”
“No, I don’t. He killed a huge boar yesterday—“
“Ah, here comes your wife. There has been a lot of pig-oriented activity today. I’ll let her fill you in. I’ll escort Mr. Burns wife here when she arrives.”
Dr. Kuchar chats briefly with Simone as she enters and he exits the room.
Simone gives me a quick, fierce hug. “How is Philip? Where’s Bubbles?”
“Dr. Kuchar said Philip would be OK. Bubbles is in the infant care room. I just checked on her. She’s having a ball bossing the nurses around. But, you look like shit. What happened?”
Simone kisses my cheek and pulls me to a corner of the room. “The CEO, that bastard, called in air strikes on the pigs. Three helicopters, six hunters in those copters and thermal imaging equipment. It was a slaughter, fifty-five pigs so far.” Simone dries her eyes on the back of her hands. I hold her tight.
“Honey, let’s go home as soon as Philip’s wife—“
“I can’t. I can’t. They’re flying in the carcasses. They want Kuchar’s and my team to run test—“
“Simone Lively Hall, do you really want to work for these people? Do you?”
“Baby, my career—“
“Go talk to Bubbles. She gives some good advice sometimes, OK?”
Simone laughs a little, gives me a salty kiss on the lips. “OK, but don’t you two leave without me, OK?”
The three of us drag in our front door about two hours later with an unusually cranky Bubbles.
Simone and I are having a glass or two or three of wine on our back porch and watching the sun drop below the horizon.
“I’m glad I stayed to talk to Philip.”
“And, I’m glad I never have to go back to that, that place. What was Philip saying while I was resigning?”
“He believes the pigs ambushed him when he went to check on a trail camera. He thinks it was in retaliation for killing the boar. You know, I almost believe him. I mean, the experts’ consensus is that pigs are as smart as the great apes. Maybe smarter.”
We eventually go up to bed and more than snuggling, lots more.
[The next day.]
“This is Ginger Texirea reporting for WDIT Eye Witness News with this breaking story. The Hendrick’s County Sherriff’s Office reports that a family of three in the new development just north of North Salem, Indiana was found slain in their home by what’s being reported as animal attacks.
We’re going to take you live to that scene right now.”
[Six months later.]
“This is Daniel Essex with WDIT Business Updates. Progressive Land Developers is filing for Chapter 13 bankruptcy protection. PLD, the once, highly regarded, local firm, came under increasing financial pressures after wild pigs stalled the growth of their North Salem housing development. And the tragic death of the Hall family in PLD’s first North Salem development home spelled the end for the troubled endeavor.
A PLD press release states, ‘The Company’s redirecting its efforts to infill construction projects and other urban projects.’
In more disappointing business news, United Chemical, located minutes away from PLD’s North Salem development, is shuttering its one-year-old plant due to unspecified ‘operational challenges.’ The earlier optimistic projections were for United Chemical to employ at least 300 locals.
Local government officials hope to lure new businesses to the Twenty-eight-acre business campus.”
[Five years later]
“Hello, I’m Wallace Amos, reporting for WDIT Eye Witness News at the Todd, Simone, and Nina Hall Wildlife Preserve dedication. This one-hundred-fifty-acre Preserve is named for the family that tragically lost their lives five years ago to a savage attack by wild hogs.
The Mayor of North Salem and other state and local officials and representatives of several environmental groups are present. It’s a festive occasion with food trucks, balloons, and families picnicking.
This is a far cry from the horrific events that inspired the creation and naming of this Preserve.
The attack on the Halls was the first documented home invasion attack of its kind in North America. However, these attacks by wild animals on humans are increasing in frequency and ferocity. There were sixty-four confirmed attacks and eighty-four deaths in Indiana during the first half of the year, alone.
We have with us Philip Burns, a professional hunter turned conservationist and the driving force behind the creation and naming of this Preserve.
“Philip, why— What the hell—”
“Get in the truck!”
“Holy shit! Pigs are attacking… keep the camera rolling—”
“Keep filming, keep—”
“Get in the goddam—”
“There’re so many of them… surrounding—”
“Oh, my God!”
“Fuck! They’re everywhere—”
“The Mayor, help the—”
“Open the damn door. Open—”
[There are sounds of screams, hog grunts, and squeals, breaking glass, slamming automobile doors, and other assorted noises recorded on the end of this broadcast.]
[Ten years later.]
“This is, Yule Harrell, Station Manager, for WDIT bringing you our final broadcast. We’re broadcasting live from the Hall Wildlife Preserve that’s now part of the New Wilderness Flow extending from south of Lafayette to near Terre Haute.
As parts of our great nation are being reclaimed by nature by claw and fang, rapacious plant life and animal and insect-borne diseases, we acknowledge the turning of the tide. We hope that this emerging new balance of nature will preserve a haven for imperiled humankind.
We broadcast in memory of the victims of the Hall Preserve Massacre five-years-ago and the most recent victims of this, this insurrection.
Goodnight and we pray for a better tomorrow.”
Banner Image: By Rjcastillo (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons